Metro Weekly

11 major corporations oppose Tennessee’s “Slate of Hate” bills targeting LGBTQ people

Bills would allow anti-LGBTQ discrimination by businesses, adoption agencies, and school districts

Tennessee State Capitol, Credit – Wikimedia

Eleven major corporations have signed their names to a letter from the Human Rights Campaign urging Tennessee lawmakers to defeat a slew of anti-LGBTQ bills dubbed the “Slate of Hate,” arguing the legislation will harm Tennessee’s reputation as a good place to do business.

Hilton, IKEA North America Services, LLC, InterContinental Hotels Group, Lyft, Marriott International, MassMutual, Nike, Inc., Replacements, Ltd., tech giant Salesforce, nutrition and hygiene giant Unilever, and prescription glasses retailer Warby Parker have all signed onto the letter.

Addressed to Lt. Gov. Randy McNally (who leads the Senate) and House Speaker Glen Casada, both Republicans, the letter asks legislative leaders to put a halt to three bills that have either made it out of committee or passed one of the legislative chambers.

One bill would enshrine the right of businesses, organizations, or state contractors to continue receiving taxpayer funds while discriminating against LGBTQ people, and would prohibit cities or state agencies from attempting to penalize such businesses.

A second bill would allow child placement agencies to discriminate against prospective parents, including same-sex couples, based on an agency’s stated religious beliefs.

The third would require the Tennessee Attorney General to pay for legal costs or defend schools or school districts that adopt policies prohibiting transgender students from using facilities that match their gender identity.

“Put simply, these bills do not reflect the values of our companies,” the letter reads. “We are disappointed to see the legislature consider discriminatory legislation. The business community, by and large, has consistently communicated to lawmakers at every level that bills that target LGBTQ people are bad for our employees and their families, bad for our customers and bad for business. This is not a direction in which states move when they are seeking to provide successful, thriving hubs for business and economic development.

“We believe that anti-LGBTQ legislation will make it far more challenging for our businesses to recruit and retain the nation’s best and brightest workers and attract the most talented students from across the country,” the letter continues. “It will also diminish the state’s draw as a destination for tourism, new businesses, and economic activity…. As companies that pride ourselves on being inclusive and welcoming to all, we strongly urge you to not advance these bills.”

The Human Rights Campaign expressed its gratitude to the 11 corporations for speaking out against the bills.

“The anti-LGBTQ ‘Slate of Hate’ being considered in Tennessee is about as discriminatory as they come,” Beck Bailey, the acting director of HRC’s Workplace Equality Program, said in a statement. “These bills would harm LGBTQ Tennesseans and signal that Tennessee is closed for business. … The Volunteer State needs only look east toward North Carolina to see how anti-LGBTQ legislation can harm a state’s residents, economy and reputation. Tennessee should not repeat North Carolina’s mistake and lawmakers should not advance these bills any further.”

The “Slate of Hate” has previously been criticized by local activists on the ground, including the Tennessee Equality Project, as well as by actress and model Megan Fox, who spoke out against the bills in an Instagram post.

In the post, Fox urged her nearly 7 million followers to speak out against the bills using a texting tool provided by HRC.

“Thank you to actor Megan Fox for supporting the rights of LGBTQ Tennesseans. We need your voice! Join @HRC and @tnequality in telling your representatives that hate is not a Tennessee value. Text HRCTN to 472472 NOW to stop these anti-LGBTQ bills from becoming law.”

Fox’s Instagram post comes on the heels of singer Taylor Swift donating $113,000 to the Tennessee Equality Project to help its efforts fighting against bill like the “Slate of Hate.”

Taylor Swift’s note — Photo: Tennessee Equality Project

Swift sent the donation along with a handwritten note thanking the nonprofit for its work combating Republican lawmakers’ efforts to advance the “Slate of Hate.”

The singer addressed her letter, dated April 8, to Chris Sanders, Tennessee Equality Project’s executive director.

“Dear Chris, I’m writing you to say that I’m so inspired by the work you do, specifically in organizing the recent petition of Tennessee faith leaders standing up against the ‘Slate of Hate’ in our state legislature,” Swift wrote. “Please convey my heartfelt thanks to them and accept this donation to support the work you and those leaders are doing. I’m so grateful that they’re giving all people a place to worship. Sincerely, Taylor Swift.”

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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