So there’s been a simmering dispute in Nashville about how the city’s non-discrimination ordinance should be applied — whether it applies to city contractors. Metro added non-discrimination protection for sexual orientation and gender identity a couple of years ago for its own employees, and a proposed ordinance [spurred in part by Belmont University's firing its women's soccer coach, who not coincidentally, had recently told her players she and her female partner were expecting a baby] would require city contractors to abide by the same non-discrimination policies that Metro does.
Now the newly minted, Republican-majority Tennessee General Assembly is trying to do an end run around the Metro Council, with Rep. Glen Casada’s filing a bill that would prohibit Tennessee municipalities from adopting anti-discrimination policies that differ from federal law.
Where to begin?
I love to point out dramatic inconsistencies in theory, so let’s start with the fact that frequently, conservatives like to wave the banner of local control in hopes of forestalling some liberal nanny-state agenda. And here, the “conservative” voice would like to remove local and even state control by requiring us to follow the federal statute.
Or how about, cities and states often step ahead of the federal government on social issues, and for many issues, you can watch the changes slowly sweep across the country until the federal government affirms the new sensibility of the country. [This works for both liberals and conservatives, depending on which way the tide is going, of course.] Casada’s bill would effectively prohibit Tennessee from giving the federal government any feedback.
More importantly, from a business perspective, just who is really helped here? I guess all the folks out there just waiting for a good excuse to fire their LBGT employees. [Quick, do it now while you can! Oh wait. Tennessee's a right-to-work state; you didn't need an excuse.] Well then, it must be all those tourist industry businesses that will appreciate the great publicity this will bring to the state: Tennessee! The last bastion of LBGT discrimination! Oh. Hmm. That’s not quite it.
Here’s my main point: Rep. Casada, don’t you dare wrap this legislation in the banner of protecting small business. I own a small business…three employees, including me. How dare you suggest that my business cannot succeed without the ability to treat others unfairly? How dare you suggest that morality indicates we need the freedom to treat others unfairly? And if you want to make it about religious freedom, well, I’m fine with that. Just show me the person Jesus would discriminate against, and we’ll start there.
Goodness knows I’m not perfect. I don’t pretend to have a full understanding of Christianity. But I cannot abide my own representative state government purporting to assist me by allowing businesses to discriminate.
If you’re seeing this on my blog, learn more about the photo taken by Flickr user mtsofan here.