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Despite business opposition, Tenn. Gov. signs anti-discrimination law

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Despite last-minute oppostition from businesses, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam signed a bill prohibiting local governments from creating stricter anti-discrimination laws than the state government.

The law, signed Monday, is meant to cut down on paperwork for businesses by making antidiscrimination policies uniform across the state, Mr. Haslam, a Republican, said in Chattanooga Tuesday. “We just don’t think local governments should set HR [human resources] policies for businesses,” he said.

“The one thing that business must have is consistency to survive and thrive,” said Glen Casada, a Republican state representative who sponsored the House version of the bill.

Jim Brown, state director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, told Forbes that the group supported the law because:

“Our view was there are states like California, Michigan and others that have really gone off on the deep end and they have all these patchwork regulations from different cities,” Brown said. “I think the principle of the bill is to protect private employers from … regulations that they don’t want to operate under.”

Tennessee doesn’t include sexual orientation in its antidiscrimination provisions, so the new law nullifies an ordinance passed by the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County in April that prohibits institutions doing business with local government from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.

Metro Nashville officials said they adopted it after an incident late last year in which a lesbian soccer coach at a private Nashville university that rents fields from the local government left her job after she told her players she and her partner planned to have a baby. The circumstances of her departure are unclear but it caused an uproar among students and gay-rights activists in the Nashville area. Mike Jameson, a councilman who co-sponsored the ordinance, said it was in response to the coach leaving her job.

He disputed the notion that the new state law would address business concerns, calling it “simply a ruse to cover up homophobia.”


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May 25, 2011 at 1:26 am

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