Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam on
Monday signed a bill into law that bars cities and municipalities
from enacting gay protection laws.
The bill enjoyed wide support in both
chambers of the Republican-controlled Legislature.
The move came after the City of
Nashville approved a plan to extend the city's gay protections to
contractors, joining more than 100 communities across the nation.
The city's 2009 law bans employment discrimination based on sexual
orientation and gender identity (transgender protections).
Monday's action bars cities and
municipalities from enacting anti-discrimination ordinances that go
beyond state laws, which do not include gay protections.
Joe Solmonese, president of the Human
Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay rights group, called
Haslam's approval “an apparent attempt to score cheap political
“Since there are no state protections
for sexual orientation or gender identity, the Governor’s signature
of this bill becomes a green light for anti-LGBT discrimination
across the state,” Solmonese said in a statement.
Supporters of the measure argued that
equalizing state and local laws would make Tennessee an easier place
to conduct business.
But in a video ad promoting the bill's
passage released by the Christian conservative Family Action Council
of Tennessee, the group says the law is needed to keep women and
children safe from male sexual predators masquerading as women in
In the video, a gruff-looking man is
seen following a young girl into a playground restroom as a narrator
asks, “Do gender differences matter to you?” (The video is
embedded in the right panel of this page.)
“It's not any kind of statement that
those who are transgender or cross dress are sexual predators,” the
group's president, David Fowler, said in defending the ad. “It's
that sexual predators will know how to take advantage of those
opportunities afforded by law when the distinctions begin to get
blurred with respect [to] who's rightfully or not in a restroom.”