Yesterday, Tenneessee Governor Bill Haslam signed into law a bill that prohibits TN municipalities from having stronger anti-discrimination laws than are in place statewide. This means Nashville's provisions including sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression as protected classes are invalid. No new laws can be passed unless on a statewide level.
Controversy has erupted in the corporate community as LGBTQ organizations respond to the TN Chamber of Commerce decision to support the legislation. Well, to be fair, when it was too late to actually stop the legislation, the Chamber changed its mind. Many of the coporations represented on the Chamber Board have been commended for their inclusive and anti-discriminination policies. Garden State Equality has rescinded planned honors for AT&T, Pfizer and KPMG which would have been awarded at their upcoming June 25 Legends dinner.
“AT&T, KPMG and Pfizer don’t have to remind us that their internal workplace policies are outstanding or that they have received several awards for corporate equality and diversity. That’s why we had voted to honor them, ” said Steven Goldstein, Chair of Garden State Equality. “And their LGBT employee groups are fantastic. But notwithstanding a company's internal policies, no company on a Board of Directors fighting against LGBT civil rights merits honors from Garden State Equality or any other pro-equality organization.
“Let our message resound everywhere,” Goldstein said. “You cannot separate workplace policies from greater social responsibility, for laws that cover workplace discrimination directly affect treatment in the company workplace. You cannot boast about being a great company for LGBT equality on 29 days a month, but then work against LGBT equality on the 30th day and expect our appreciation. Equality is an everyday value.”
This is serious stuff. Imagine if this where to take hold of some Pennsylvania minds? Rolling back hard fought anti-discrimination ordinances across Pennsylvania would be devastating. We have 20 municipalities that have addressed discrimination in their communities; Tennessee had one (Nashville). I'm not sure how viable it would be to undo the work of 20 municipalities. But it bears a moment's pause.
It has been intriuguing, though, how the LGBTQ community has been working within the corporate community to hold them accountable for walking the walk. You can still chime in on this issue. Americablog Gay has a list of Facebook and Twitter accounts of corporations involved in this decision where you can share your thoughts. It is interesting to see people diligently post comments in unrelated threads as the corporations try to tighten up controls on their FB walls.
Here's another post on how the companies responded after their complicity was exposed to the light of day (not necessarily when they were first made aware of the legislation, mind you). Blue Cross didn't do such a stellar job of responding. ALCOA stepped up.
When you think about a little story about Chick-Fil-A donating a few sandwiches and a few months later, corporate honors are being rescinded because of social advocacy failures … you might wonder where the future of corporate accountability might take us.