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Tenn. enacts law banning civil rights for LGBT citizens

Republican Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (pictured) signed a bill on May 23 that prohibits local governments from enacting anti-discrimination laws that differ from state law. The goal of the measure, pushed by anti-gay religious leaders and their right-wing corporate allies, was to overturn a Nashville ordinance banning city contractors from anti-LGBT discrimination.

On April 5, the Nashville Metro Council added “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to its protected classes, prohibiting firms doing business with the city from discriminating against its LGBT citizens. But the state of Tennessee does not ban anti-gay discrimination, so Nashville’s law was overturned with a stroke of Haslam’s pen.

In addition to overturning the Nashville ordinance, the new law prohibits all Tennessee municipalities from banning discrimination against LGBT people.

The Tennessee Chamber of Commerce, which is chaired by Nissan and includes board members from Nissan, FedEx, AT&T, Comcast, DuPont, Pfizer, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Caterpillar, KPMG, Whirlpool, Embraer, Alcoa, and United HealthCare, was a major backer of the anti-gay law. None of the companies, some of which have strong records on workplace equality, tried to stop the bill, which cleared the Tennessee Senate on May 12.

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