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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tennessee: The Stupidest State?

Remember last year when Bill Maher conducted a "stupidest state" contest on his HBO show, "Real Time"? If Maher were to rerun the contest, Tennessee would win hands-down. There wouldn't even be any close runners-up.

(tennessee gov. bill haslam)

Right on the heels of the Tennessee State Senate passing a "Don't Say Gay" bill, (click here), Gov. Bill Haslam signed new legislation into law last night which would prohibit cities in the state from passing anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBT individuals. The bill, HB 600/SB 632, would bar local governments from instituting anti-discrimination policies that are stricter than the ones in force at the state level. Under state law, it is not illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation. The city of Nashville already had a strong civil rights ordinance protecting LGBT's, but the new state law would immediately void it.

The new law has already caused a rift between the state and the major corporations which do business there. The Tennessee Chamber of Commerce lobbied for the bill, claiming that differing ordinances from city to city would create "a burden" on companies who wish to do business across the state, but unfortunately for them, many major corporations disagree. Whirlpool said that it "opposes this legislation, which runs counter to our core values of diversity and inclusion." Comcast issued a statement which said that the company "absolutely disagrees with the Tennessee bill: 'At Comcast, we believe it's simple: discrimination is wrong.'" Many other national corporations which have strong diversity policies, including protections and benefits for gays and lesbians, agreed with Whirlpool and Comcast.

We wonder how quickly this new law would disappear if suddenly many large national corporations left the state of Tennessee citing a little known corporate rule which forbades the corporations from doing business with a state mired in hopeless stupidity?

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam's biography sounds like he came straight out of central casting for the Republican Party. Haslam went to a private prep school, he went to an elite private college where he belonged to a young people's Christian organization, then he worked for his father, who owned an oil company. A multi-millionaire, Haslam spent over $8 million of his own money just to win the primary in his run for Governor. Wow. Sounds like if the people of Tennessee aren't happy with what's going on in their state, maybe they should start looking for politicians who are a little more in touch with what it's like for real people out there, and not just those at the country club. Ironically, (considering that Haslam just helped to create an anti-gay state law), Haslam once worked for Saks Fifth Avenue, a company which wouldn't exist without gay people. Please.

Tennessee's quick retreat to the 19th Century aside, politically, we have to say we told you so. Last fall, when it looked like the Republicans would take control of the U.S. House, we told you not to worry, that Republicans always find a way to quickly shoot themselves in the foot, and their majority wouldn't last long. And how true that prediction is turning out to be. While the Repubs ran on a simple promise of jobs, jobs, jobs!, on a national level they've so far spent all their time trying to destroy Medicare, and on local and state levels, they're pushing wacky and devisive stuff like this new Tennessee anti-gay law. Let's see, combine pissing off the majority of the country with the inability to pass any job bills, and voila! you've got the recipe for the biggest beatdown of the Republicans in 2012 we've seen in decades. Bring it on, bitches!

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