Saturday, April 16, 2011

Local Government Is Good...As Long As We Like What Local Government Is Doing

     Tennessee preoccupies my mind these days. Not only because it is the place where I call home, but also because of the many gains that the LGBT community has made in the past few years in this ultra-conservative state. We have seen Belmont University - a formerly Southern Baptist school - make great strides in enacting non-discrimination policies, as well as allowing a gay-straight alliance on campus. Additionally, we just saw the Metro Nashville City Council enact a bill requiring that any business that contracts with the city has a non-discrimination policy regarding sexual orientation and gender identity.

    That being said, we are seeing an insidious plot by the Republicans in the Tennessee Legislature to pass a bill that would undo such policies that the elected city body of Nashville implemented. House Bill 600, sponsored by Representative Casada, would annul any non-discrimination policy that a municipality enacts if it does not line up with the States non-discrimination policy.

     So we have the Republicans, the bastions of local government and libertarian philosophy, wanting to exert state control over a municipality whose elected officials have decided to do something for their city. Casada's justification for this obvious hypocrisy, is that business are harmed when there is changing policy across municipalities regarding non-discrimination practices. I for one don't buy this argument, as most of the large corporations that cities deal with already have such non-discrimination policies in their corporate ethos. Yes, there are the outliers, but these are rare - as is this day and age companies know that it makes economic sense to provide workplace protections. Even if this was the case, that business would be harmed by the implementation of this plan, would it not make sense that Metro Nashville would know what was best when it came to the economic impact of the policy on their city? I would think so, but instead it seems as though a representative from outside of the city knows what is economically best.

    Additionally, I am wondering - and if any of my readers have thoughts on this - whether this bill would fall afoul of the precedent established by the Supreme Court in Romer v. Evans. In that case, it was deemed that municipalities being unable to enact protections for LGBT people was a direct violation of the rights of LGBT individual's.  This is because the best way to enact change is at the local level, and when instead the LGBT community would have to go to an antagonistic state government, you are tying their hands to get anything effectively done. This makes it so that LGBT people cannot effectively petition their government for redress of their wrongs.  This, my gut reaction, would be that this bill would fly in the face of that precedent.

I would greatly be interested in hearing your thoughts.

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