Today, three dozen corporations and 107 small businesses released an open letter oppposing discrimination against LGBTQ Tennesseans and demanded that lawmakers do not pursue any harmful bills within this legislative session. This letter was organized by the Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce with support from GLAAD, Freedom for All Americans, and HRC.
The full text of the letter and an up to date list of corporations and small businesses who have signed it can be found here.
“Our state wins financially when we encourage the most people to participate in our economy,” said Joe Woolley, Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Officer. “We know that regular Tennesseans and business leaders alike are ready to move beyond division, beyond policies that would encourage Tennesseans to refuse to work together, serve each other, and care for each other just because we each have a different walk in life. Only a forward-looking Tennessee will continue to attract the world’s best talent, and the vibrant tourism and entertainment industries that help make this state so special, and that help sustain big and small communities alike.”
Earlier this year, Governor Bill Lee signed into law HB 836, a bill that would allow child welfare organizations — including taxpayer-funded adoption and foster care agencies — to turn away qualified Tennesseans seeking to care for a child in need, including LGBTQ couples, interfaith couples, single parents, married couples in which one prospective parent has previously been divorced, or other parents to whom the agency has a religious objection.
The open letter opposes LGBTQ discrimination and asks lawmakers to understand the harm these policies have on LGBTQ Tennesseans: “Policies that signal that the state is not welcoming to everyone put our collective economic success at risk… We ask that lawmakers not pursue any further legislation that would target or exclude LGBTQ people, which would do harm to Tennesseans and create unnecessary hurdles to economic competitiveness.”
Corporate signers of the letter include AllianceBernstein, Amalgamated Bank, Amazon, American Airlines, Bridgestone Americas, Camelot, Care Services, CMT, Concord, Cummins, Inc., Curb Records, Dell Technologies, Discovery, Inc., Dow, Genesco, Hilton, IKEA North America Services, LLC, Lyft, Inc., Marriott International, Inc., Mars, Inc., Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp, Nashville International Airport, Nashville Predators, Nashville Soccer Club, Nielsen, Nike, Inc., Nissan North America, Postmates, Salesforce, ServiceSource; Sustainable Food Policy Alliance, including member companies Danone North America; Mars, Incorporated; Nestlé USA; and Unilever United States; Tennessee Titans, Trillium Asset Management, Unilever, Vanderbilt University, Warby Parker, Warner Music Group.
“LGBTQ consumers and allies support companies that support us, and vocal corporate support and action can truly change the game as LGBTQ Tennesseans are placed in harm’s way,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD President and CEO. “These bills legitimize discriminatory practices against LGBTQ people and will define Tennessee as a state where LGBTQ citizens are second-class citizens. Companies that do business in the state should not sit idly by.”
“Tennesseans and businesses agree – bills that target LGBTQ people are bad for Tennessee and its economy,” said HRC President Alphonso David. “When anti-LGBTQ bills pass, it harms real people, but also affects businesses’ ability to recruit and maintain talent. We are grateful that businesses have spoken out so strongly against anti-LGBTQ legislation, and we join them in urging elected officials to stop attacking LGBTQ people living in Tennessee.”
“The onslaught of anti-LGBTQ bills proposed by Tennessee lawmakers stands in sharp opposition to a majority of the state’s fair-minded residents as well as to business leaders who seek to work in a place that is competitive and economically viable,” said Kasey Suffredini, CEO and national campaign director of Freedom for All Americans. “We thank these businesses for affirming fairness and equal treatment for all Tennesseans. When everyone is treated with dignity and respect, we all win.”
There are at least 5 additional anti-LGBTQ bills moving forward in Tennessee. A description of the current anti-LGBTQ bills in TN is below:
- HB 1572: Bill against transgender students playing sports: would prevent transgender schoolchildren from participating in sports consistent with their gender identity. Schools in violation would lose all public funding, and school administrators would be personally fined up to $10,000 and fired from their jobs.
- SB 1736 / HB 1689: A second anti-transgender student sports bill
- SB 0364 / HB 0563: “License to discriminate” for businesses: Would prevent government entities from offering incentives based on a company’s nondiscrimination policies.
- SB 1499 / HB 1274: ‘Bathroom bill’ against transgender students: This ‘bathroom bill’ would ban transgender students from using facilities which correspond to gender identity. Imagine a young transgender woman forced to use the men’s room. The bill would require the state Attorney General to defend any school that enacts an anti-trans bathroom policy – encouraging anti-trans school policies.
- SB 1282 / HB 1369: “Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act”: States the policy of Tennessee to defend natural marriage between one man and one woman regardless of any court decision to the contrary.
Corporations including Concord, Mars Inc., and Postmates have also released public statements about the anti-LGBTQ legislation in Tennessee:
Concord: “The creative community in TN, and especially in Nashville, is essential to the state’s culture and economy. It is a community that was built on inclusiveness and continues to thrive because of it. The signing of HB 0836 / SB 1304 into law does not reflect the type of inclusiveness that Concord believes makes better communities, creative works, and culture. Concord will continue to speak out against any laws that threaten its stakeholders and have therefore added our name to an ever-expanding list of TN businesses that oppose such legislated discrimination.”
Mars, Inc.: “At Mars, we believe our business and our community are at their best when we embrace and celebrate all people. We firmly believe that everyone is equal and that every person deserves to be treated with respect, dignity, and fairness. We value our presence across the state of Tennessee and continue to invest here as it has been a great place to do business. Discrimination has no place in our business or our laws. We strongly oppose any bill that would negatively impact our entire community and the thriving business environment that we currently have.”
Postmates: “Postmates continues to be alarmed by the Lee Administration’s anti-LGBTQ agenda, particularly as we consider expanding our presence in the Volunteer State. It is impossible for Tennessee to be a great place to do business while its government imposes policies of exclusion and discrimination. State leaders cannot and will not be able to expect companies like ours to power its economic engines while supporting legislation that undermines our ability to feel welcome in this state unless they commit to a new pathway to include all families & all workers. HB 386 undermines businesses’ ability to recruit top talent and grow in the state by policies that say not all are welcome — and it’s just plain wrong. To our Postmates fleet, our customers, our small business owners, our entire community: we stand with you no matter who you love or who you are, and we will not accept this kind of flagrant hatred.”