TEPLogoTEP joins lawsuit to overturn the Special Access to Discriminate Act?

June 13, 2011

Nashville, TN, June 13, 2011. Tennessee Equality Project (TEP) is proud to join other plaintiffs in a court challenge of HB600/SB632 - also known as the "Special Access to Discriminate" Act. Nashville Attorney Abby Rubenfeld, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the law firm of Morrison and Foerster, LLP, will represent TEP.

MetroCourthouseWhen Governor Bill Haslam signed the SAD Act into law on May 23, he repealed Metro Nashville's Contract Accountability Non-Discrimination Ordinance which protected contract employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The new law prohibits every local government in Tennessee (cities, counties and school boards) from enacting laws that protect contract employees and other employees of private companies from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The SAD Act directly targets lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees for discrimination in the State of Tennessee. But the new law also removes other local protections that are not included in State law. The collateral damage of the SAD Act is only now becoming evident:

  1. Children in Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools are no longer protected from discrimination in education based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
  2. Children who attend Memphis City Schools are no longer protected from discrimination in education based on sexual orientation.
  3. Individuals living in the City of Memphis who depend on Section 8 vouchers or SSI disability income are no longer protected from housing discrimination based on source of income. Memphians are also no longer protected from housing discrimination based on age.
  4. Other protections from discrimination enacted by the local governments of cities, counties and school boards of Tennessee that are not already covered by state law may have also been overturned.
The SAD Act was initiated by a radical faith-based organization whose anti-LGBT bias is out of step with the views of 89% of Americans. Their hate-based legislation hurts LGBT people, poor people, the disabled, the elderly and other groups who may need local government intervention to prohibit unfair and unequal treatment in employment, housing and education.

People want to live and work in communities that value diversity, equality and inclusion.  The SAD act leaves a stain of bigotry and intolerance on our state that must be removed if Tennessee hopes to retain and attract the best workers, professionals, entrepreneurs and businesses to our state. TEP is committed to reclaiming Tennessee as a place where all people have a right to earn a living, provide for their families, and contribute to their communities without fear of unfair discrimination.

Tennessee Equality Project fought hard to defeat the SAD Act in the legislature before it became law in Tennessee, and we will do our part to ensure a successful challenge of the law in court.

For more information, contact TEP Board Chair Jonathan Cole at jonathan@tnequalityproject.com or 901.301.3306.

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