TLDEF Raises Concerns About Tennessee Bill to Ban Local LGBT Protections


TN Seal

Bill Headed to Vote in State Senate Would Gut Nashville’s Anti-LGBT Discrimination Ordinance

May 9, 2011 - In a letter to Tennessee state Senators, TLDEF and the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition (TTPC) raised concerns about the constitutionality of a proposed bill that would make it unlawful for any city or town in the state to pass a law protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender Tennesseans from discrimination.  If this sounds familiar, it should.  We recently faced a similar bill in Montana.

Senate Bill 632 – which today passed the Senate State and Local Government Committee by a vote of 6-3  – would strike down local legal protections from discrimination for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Tennesseans, and would make it impossible to pass such protections in the future.  It previously passed the House of Representatives (where it was known as House Bill 600) on April 25 by a vote of 73-24.  It is expected to be voted upon in the full Senate shortly. 

On April 5, 2011, the Nashville and Davidson County Metropolitan Council passed an anti-discrimination ordinance which bars the Nashville government from doing business with any entity that does not prohibit discrimination in employment against LGBT workers.  Mayor Karl Dean signed it into law three days later.  SB 632 was immediately rushed through the Tennessee House of Representatives by opponents of Nashville’s anti-discrimination ordinance.   Their goal was to strike down Nashville's ordinance and ensure that no city or town in Tennessee could ever enact a law protecting LGBT Tennesseans from discrimination again.

SB 632 is motivated by bias, which is a constitutionally impermissible basis for legislation.  It would deprive LGBT Tennesseans of their right to participate in the political process and seek help from their local governments.  It would turn lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Tennesseans into strangers to Tennessee’s government and would violate constitutional guarantees of equal protection under established United States Supreme Court precedent.

"Tennesseans have spoken through their local governments and have stated clearly that they want to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Tennesseans from discrimination," said TLDEF executive director Michael Silverman.  "Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Tennesseans want the same right to live and work free from discrimination that everyone else enjoys.  It is unconstitutional for Tennessee to target them by taking away their right to pass local laws that protect them from the discrimination that they face in the cities and towns where they live," he added.  "Tennessee must treat all Tennesseans equally.  It violates the Constitution when it closes its doors to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Tennesseans simply because some people do not like them."

"This bill is blatantly discriminatory,” said TTPC President Dr. Marisa Richmond.  “It is an attempt to deny basic rights to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Tennesseans and we hope that the Senate will defeat it when it comes up for a vote."

We will continue to keep you informed about developments relating to SB 632.  For the most up-to-date information, please follow us on Twitter: @TLDEF.