Legal representation for local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists argued in the Tennessee Court of Appeals on Monday for their right to a trial after a case was dismissed from Davidson County Chancery Court last year.
The lead plaintiff on the case is former Belmont University women’s soccer coach Lisa Howe, whose exit from the Christian school in 2010 prompted national media coverage and local action. The Metro Council passed a law demanding that companies working with Metro must have nondiscrimination policies that include protections for sexual orientation.
The state legislature responded by passing House Bill 600, a measure that overrode the council’s law by disallowing cities to extend protections against discrimination to groups not mentioned in the Tennessee Human Rights Act. Howe, along with the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition and several council members, filed suit against the state claiming constitutional violations.
Shannon Minter, legal director at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, claimed that the law created a barrier for the LGBT community by denying them equal protection.
Tennessee Assistant Attorney General Adam Futrell argued that none of the plaintiffs was actually harmed by the creation of the law. Instead, an individual would have to work for a company that contracted with a local government and be discriminated against in order to have a legitimate claim.
He also said that the individuals were challenging a law that they saw as “unreasonable” and that if they wanted to, they could petition the General Assembly to change it.
After the arguments, Minter said he was encouraged by the hearing.
“I’m hopeful that they will give our plaintiffs their day in court,” he said.