VOL. 131 | NO. 75 | Thursday, April 14, 2016
Business Leaders Sign Letter Opposing Bathroom Law
SHEILA BURKE, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – The chief executives of Williams-Sonoma, Hilton Worldwide, T-Mobile and dozens of other major corporations have signed a letter asking Tennessee lawmakers to reject a transgender bathroom bill, saying it is discriminatory.
On Wednesday, a group of advocates for lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender people dropped off the letter to the offices of House Speaker Beth Harwell and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, both Republicans. Airbnb, Alcoa and Dow Chemical were also among the 60 companies that said the proposal has no place in Tennessee.
Under the measure, students at public schools and universities would be required to use bathrooms and locker rooms assigned to their gender at birth. Supporters say it protects the privacy of students and the rights of everyone. Opponents say it discriminates.
Representatives from the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest LGBT organization, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, the Tennessee Equality Project and the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition were among members of the group calling on lawmakers to kill the bill.
The president of the Human Rights Campaign said politicians in other states have supported similar measures, aligning themselves on the dark side of history. And he said Ramsey and Harwell will be defined by how they act on the bill.
"What they do on this legislation will define them and define their legacy for the rest of time. They have a choice and I hope they make the right one," Chad Griffin said at a press conference.
Ramsey said he supports the legislation.
"It is unfortunate that this issue even exists – but it does, Ramsey said in a statement. "I support the bill. It is common sense. While I understand some in the business community have concerns, I do not share them. Tennessee has low taxes, little debt and one of the best regulatory environments in the nation. Whether this bill passes or doesn't, Tennessee will continue to be the best state in the union in which to own and operate a business."
A spokeswoman for Harwell did not immediately return messages seeking comment.
The bill may be in jeopardy after Tennessee's Attorney General issued a legal opinion earlier this week saying the state risked losing federal education funding if it becomes law. Gov. Bill Haslam has also expressed concerns about losing federal education money.
A Senate finance committee is expected to take up the bill Wednesday afternoon. A fiscal analysis of the bill said the state could lose more than $1.2 billion in federal money if the proposal becomes law. On Tuesday, the vice chairman of the finance committee warned that the projected cost of it will likely cause it to be placed among unfunded bills to be considered after the budget has passed. Those bills often don't become law unless sponsors find a way to eliminate the cost or find a source of funding.
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