State House Speaker Beth Harwell said Thursday she supports legislation to overturn Nashville’s new anti-gay bias ordinance, calling it an unfair burden on businesses.
“I think it will garner the support to pass. I will vote for it,” said Harwell, who represents Green Hills in the legislature. “When a local government mandates to private businesses what their policy regarding employment should be, I do think it’s enough for the state to step in and say that’s not appropriate.”
The ordinance would extend protections against workplace discrimination to gays, lesbians and transgender people working at businesses contracting with the city government. The Metro Council approved it Tuesday night by a vote of 21-15.
The next day, the House Commerce Subcommittee voted for legislation to nullify the ordinance and bar all Tennessee cities from enacting their own policies against gay, lesbian and transgender discrimination.
“I don’t think it’s about sexual preference and those things,” said House Republican leader Gerald McCormick of Chattanooga. “I think it’s about providing a consistent economic development atmosphere in all 95 counties of the state. The state does have a legitimate role in what local governments do since we charter local governments. They are part of state government.
“We’re talking about companies that come into this state and they want to have an equal playing field all across the state and have some predictability so that they would come to our state rather than some
state that has a mishmash of different laws and business environment,” he added. “That’s what it’s about. It’s about economic development. It’s not about gay people.”