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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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Pride House for gay athletes and their companions at the 2010 Winter Olympics

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For the first time in Olympic history, gay and lesbian athletes will have a place to call their own.

Pride House, which promises to be an inclusive hangout and social space for gay and lesbian athletes, will be located in the Pan Pacific Hotel in Whistler Village, site of the skiing and sliding events, about a two-hour drive from Vancouver. It is the idea of Dean Nelson, chief executive of the promotional company GayWhistler, which organizes the annual Winter Pride festival.

“It is really important to have a safe space for out athletes, coaches, fans and allies to come and hang out, share their stories, trade pins and have fun,” Dean Nelson said.

Nelson says Canadians often forget the hardships faced by gay people in other parts of the world where homosexuality remains illegal. “This could be the first time they could go to a space in a secure environment and be themselves,” he said.

He stresses it is not going to be like a gay bar. “It’s a gay-positive space where people can hang out,” Nelson said. “It’s an intimate space.”

Pride House will help break down gender discrimination barriers that have long existed in the Olympics, according to Kevin Wamsley, an Olympic historian. “The IOC has been skirting around the issue of sexuality since it began,” said Wamsley, a professor at the University of Western Ontario.

Wamsley said the Olympics, built around the traditional societal model of strong men and feminine women, has not been a friendly place for homosexuals in the past.

“It has been an uncomfortable issue for the IOC since the 1920s. That’s because sport is one of those forms of culture that has produced a gender binary for western and eastern civilizations. When you start to blur the lines of sexuality, people in the past have gotten the hair on their neck up.”

Nelson said he and several others started working on Pride House about three years ago as an extension of efforts GayWhistler and others made to hold the North American Gay Games.

“There is a huge contingent of athletes out there, some of them are Olympic calibre. The Olympics is generally a pretty homophobic structure where being out is not really encouraged,” he said. “We’re hoping we can be a catalyst and change that perception, that you can be your authentic self.”

Still, the current field of out-of-the-closet homosexual athletes is relatively sparse. It’s easier to name former Olympic athletes such as Mark Tewksbury, the Canadian swimmer who won an Olympic gold medal in 1992 and went on to be named Canada’s Male Athlete of the Year all before announcing in 1998 that he was gay.

Nelson says some Olympic sponsors have expressed an interest in supporting the initiative, which he describes as another way of showcasing the inclusiveness that is being touted as part of the 2010 Games.

“We’re reaching out and bringing the queer element to the Games,” Nelson said. “The final frontier of homophobia is in the sports field. It’s there but nobody talks about it.”

Of the 10,708 athletes who marched into Beijing’s Bird’s Nest Olympic stadium last summer, Outsports website was aware of only 10 who are publicly gay, on par with the 2004 Games. There was also a bisexual American softball player.

Outsports says the reasons athletes stay in the closet are varied, but revolve primarily around fear of the consequences of being out.

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July 21, 2009 at 2:56 pm

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Summer of pride at Kimpton hotels

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In support of the LGBT community, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants will offer a special “PRIDE” rate code for guests to receive a complimentary weekend night when they book two nights at the best available rate. Available for travel through Sept. 27, Kimpton is spicing up the offer with the addition of a $50 dining credit for use at participating restaurants, adjacent to Kimpton hotels. All new Kimpton InTouch loyalty members can also receive a complimentary, signature rainbow rubber duck, the theme for the 2009 Summer of Pride campaign.

Kimpton’s special Summer of Pride rate is available in 20 cities including: Alexandria, Arlington, Boston, Cambridge, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Portland, San Diego, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Seattle, Scottsdale, Vancouver, Vero Beach and Washington DC .

“Kimpton is proud to be supportive of the LGBT community,” said Alan Baer, senior vice president of human resources and co-chair of the Kimpton Gay & Lesbian Employee Network. “As a company we are very involved in the communities we live in and contribute to dozens of LGBT organizations.”

Kimpton’s Summer of Pride offer encourages LGBT community members to spend long weekend getaways celebrating LGBT events across North America. In three nights, guests will be able to relax, rejuvenate, have fun and get their pride on while exploring a new city or returning to their favorite Kimpton destination.

Kimpton was the first hospitality company to score a 100 percent on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index in 2004, and has maintained that perfect score every year since. In 2008, Kimpton became the only company in which all hotels were members of the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association. All hotels are TAG approved and Kimpton was recently named as one of the 10 best companies by LGBT employees by The Advocate magazine and named to Fortune’s 2009 “100 Best Companies to Work For” list.

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June 14, 2009 at 4:59 pm

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Chewing gum makers Wrigley suspends Chris Brown

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Chewing gum makers Wrigley on Monday suspended a commercial featuring Chris Brown after the popular R&B singer was arrested on suspicion of attacking a woman widely reported to be his singer girlfriend Rihanna.

Singer Chris Brown was arrested and charged with making criminal threats on Sunday. Los Angeles police officer Karen Smith says Brown walked into a station around 7 p.m. and was being interviewed by detectives. He released on $50,000 bail, according to a Los Angeles Police Department statement.

Both the Brown and Rihanna camps were silent on Monday. Police sources told the Los Angeles Times and celebrity Web site TMZ.com that the woman who reported she had been attacked by Brown in the early hours of Sunday was 20-year-old Rihanna, singer of hits “Umbrella” and “Disturbia.”

Brown, who was competing against Rihanna in a Grammy category, was a spokesman for Doublemint gum and his hit song “Forever” was part of that advertising campaign.

Wrigley said in a statement it was “concerned by the serious allegations” made against Brown, who was booked by police on suspicion of making a felony criminal threat. The company said that while Brown should be afforded due legal process “we have made the decision to suspend the current advertising featuring Brown…until the matter is resolved.”

Brown is also a pitchman for the long-running Got Milk? campaign, in which celebrities are photographed with a milk mustache. The Milk Processor Education Program said his participation was scheduled to end this week, as planned.

“The Milk Mustache campaign is taking the allegations against Chris Brown very seriously,” the Washington, D.C.-based trade group said in a statement. “We are very proud and protective of the image of the Milk Mustache campaign and the responsible message it sends to teens.”

Law enforcement sources tell TMZ Rihanna’s injuries were severe — two “huge contusions” which swelled up on both sides of her forehead. We’re told she also suffered “a bloody lip and nose.” Celebrity Web site Radaronline quoted an unidentified eyewitness who said she had seen Rihanna being treated at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on Saturday.

The incident appeared to be out of character for Brown, who has been dating Barbados-born Rihanna for about a year and helped produce her album. Los Angeles prosecutors are considering whether to formally charge Brown, who could face up to three years in prison if convicted, legal sources said.

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February 10, 2009 at 12:26 pm