Over the next few weeks, I will be posting compelling reasons and examples of nondiscrimination policies that include sexual orientation and/or gender identity. I have asked the City of Clarksville, Tennessee to expand its own internal policy to include both sexual orientation and gender identity to its internal nondiscrimination policy. Such a change would not affect any business or organization that is not managed by the City’s human resources department.
Interestingly, local anti-equality activists have started a smear campaign against this common-sense policy, and as usual, their tactics include an astonishing amount of disinformation and known falsehoods.
For example, they invoked the Tennessee Equal Access to Interstate Commerce Act (HB600), saying that it prevents local governments from expanding their own internal nondiscrimination policies.
Since some of these anti-equality activists are the very people who pushed for this anti-gay bill in the first place, it’s interesting that they don’t know what is inside their own one-page law.
The Interstate Commerce act was the brainchild of David Fowler, a former State Senator who was the mastermind of Tennessee’s marriage amendment, which banned same-sex marriage in the Volunteer state. His group, the Family Action Council of Tennessee (laughably called “FACT”), “helped” State Representative Glen Casada to craft this law in response to a Nashville ordinance that required contractors with the City to adopt the same inclusive nondiscrimination policies as the City. Because of the anti-gay animus within the state’s Republican party, the bill passed easily, and Governor Bill Haslam quickly signed it into law.
Supporters touted the “support” of the business community for this bill via the right-leaning US Chamber of Commerce, but once its origins and clear intent became clear, major corporations based in Tennessee — including FedEx and Nissan — announced their outright opposition to it. Nissan’s statement was succinct:
Nissan opposes HB600/SB632. While we believe in a standard State regulatory environment, we share public concerns about this bill’s impact on diversity and inclusiveness. Nissan is committed to providing a diverse and inclusive environment for all stakeholders.
NPR posted a similar statement from FedEx
“FedEx values and promotes the unique contributions, perspectives, and differences of our team members worldwide. FedEx does not tolerate discrimination of any kind, and is committed to diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
“FedEx did not lobby for Tennessee SB632/HB600 – it is our policy not to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
“While FedEx is a member of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce, we do not support every position proposed by the Chamber.”
Even with all of this wrangling and posturing, the one element that the anti-gay crowd are hoping we won’t notice is the text of the bill itself. The law clearly states that it “shall not apply in respect to employees of local governments.”
This means that a local government is free to change their internal policies.
The City of Clarksville is well within its legal rights (and moral responsibility) to expand its nondiscrimination policy to include sexual orientation and gender identity. The fact that anti-equality activists are attempting to invoke this ill-conceived law reveals their outright bias against the LGBT community, and it shows how they are willing to distort the facts for their own benefit.
The City of Clarksville should not be bullied into rejecting basic fairness in the workplace for their employees.
It’s four words. It’s foresight, and it’s right for Clarksville. Let’s get it done.