Tennessee Legislature Strips Right to Self-Govern From Cities and Counties

by HRC Staff

Actions Taken Based on Animus Toward the LGBT Community

Washington - The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, rebukes the Tennessee Legislature for passing SB 632 / HB 600, a bill that prohibits cities and counties from banning discriminatory practices by any means. Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam has the opportunity to veto the legislation.

"Limiting the rights and protections cities and counties can provide their own citizens is fundamentally unjust," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. "We call on Governor Haslam to veto SB 632 / HB 600 and preserve the right of cities and counties to protect their residents from discrimination."

Billy Leslie, a member of HRC's Board of Governors from Nashville added, "We are extremely disappointed that the Tennessee Legislature is once again writing discrimination into our state laws. By removing local governments' ability to decide what is best for their communities, state lawmakers have acted arrogantly and gone against the principles of self governance upon which our country was founded. We strongly urge the governor to veto this legislation."

While the bill prohibits localities from adopting anti-discrimination laws on any basis, including race, religion, sex and age, it was motivated by an ordinance prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in Nashville. Because legislators took action based on their desire to limit the rights of a particular group - the LGBT community - the bill, if signed into law, will be vulnerable to legal challenges costing the state precious resources during tight economic times.

Currently, more than 135 cities and counties have passed ordinances prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, with more than one-sixth of those cities and counties located in southern states.

HRC applauds the efforts of the Tennessee Equality Project, the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition, and the City of Nashville to defend against this unwarranted state intrusion into local affairs. During the course of this campaign, HRC contributed $10,000 to support the Tennessee Equality Project and asked its members and supporters in the state to contact state lawmakers in opposition to the legislation.

The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

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