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Tennessee Anti-Gay Law: Alcoa Only National Company To Say “No!”

by Scott Wooledge on May 23, 2011

in News

Post image for Tennessee Anti-Gay Law: Alcoa Only National Company To Say “No!”

Alcoa can’t wait… to distance themselves from the part an Alcoa representative on the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce played in helping an awful anti-gay bill pass in that state.

In response to AmericaBlog initiated Netroots action, Alcoa has released a statement condemning the law and calling on Governor Bill Haslam of Tennessee to veto it.

“Alcoa provides equal employment opportunity without discrimination and supports state and local legislation protecting the rights of all community members. We do not agree with the chamber on this issue and would ask that the governor veto the bill.”

Alcoa responded 100% to the ask of the petition action, ask the Governor to veto it. The text of the petition:

We demand that you issue an immediate statement withdrawing your support for HB 600/SB 632, and that you tell Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam to veto this bill.

So we can be very grateful to Alcoa for this unequivocal show of support and penance. Alcoa is a publicly traded corporation with nearly 60,000 employees and reported over $21B in revenues in 2010. They produce aluminum. Other companies that control board seats include FedExAT&TComcastDuPontPfizerBlue Cross, Blue ShieldCaterpillarKPMG,WhirlpoolEmbraer and United HealthCare.Three others have responded to the petition action, although, less impressively.

The Netroots call to action has put corporate America swiftly on the run to distance their involvement in lobbying for Tennessee’s anti-gay bill, HB600/SB 632, which would strip away local LGBT non-discrimination protection, such as was recently enacted in Nashville, and prohibit it anywhere else in the state of Tennessee. Last week I wrote about the Equal Access to Intrastate Commerce Act. The state law purports to assert the State’s ultimate sovereignty to define anti-discrimination protection only at the state level and enforce uniformity. But, it is really a naked attempt to strip away local and city level ordinances that protect LGBT residents of Tennessee from discrimination. It has passed both houses and awaits the Governor’s signature.

The Tennessee Chamber of Commerce lobbied hard on behalf of the bill and as such, LGBT activists have called their board members and parent companies to do some explaining. Please tell us how stripping LGBT Americans from discrimination protection is good for business?

In just a few short days, this movement is already having a big impact. The petition has gained almost 10,000 signatures, it is here. It must be getting someone’s attention. No less than four of the 13 companies targeted have issued statements of response.

The other companies releasing statements are Nissan hereFedEx here and AT&T here. They are not nearly as forthright as Alcoa’s and contain a fair amount of spin.

The other statements seem more aimed at damage control than, you know, actually helping the LGBT citizens of Tennessee whose civil rights their companies representatives have thrown their weight behind stripping away.

None of the other three call on the Governor to Veto the bill.

FedEx’s statement says:

FedEx did not lobby for SB632/HB600 – it is our policy not to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. While FedEx is a member of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce, we do not support every position proposed by the Chamber.

This is disingenuous, and bordering on a lie.In fact, FedEx is more than a member, they’re on the board of directors. Which would place them in the position to, ahem, direct the Chamber’s actions. As such they cannot so easily wash their hands of this and say, “We didn’t know what the Chamber was up to!”

Nissan’s statement says:

HB600/SB632 has become more closely associated with eroding civil liberties than fostering a strong business climate and this we do not support.

And AT&T says:

However, the bill has become implicated in efforts to erode the rights of the gay community, which we do not support.

Actually, that was the whole point of the bill, to erode a hard-fought victory in Nashville. And a little due diligence on the parts of these companies before endorsing would have made that quite clear to them.Nissan, AT&T and FedEx seem more concerned about the bill being “perceived” as an attack on gays than making any actual penance or reparations for their company’s role in helping it pass.

And it isn’t just a perception, this bill is very clearly an outright attack on LGBT Americans, designed specifically to strip them of protection from discrimination. It is a direct response to the LGBT community’s hard-fought victory in getting LGBT non-discrimination protection in Nashville, Tennessee. Stripping those discrimination protections away was the impetus and the purpose of the law. And a cursory research before these companies’ proxies endorsed and worked for it would made that very clear.

It was made quite clear by main bill backer Family Action Council’s support for the bill, from their web site:

How will new legislation in Nashville affect family values across Tennessee?

Yes, “family values” because anything that is good for the LGBT is a threat to families. That’s always a given isn’t it? If a McDonald’s manager can’t fire the fry cook for being gay, you’re going to have to let Elton John babysit your son.The primary backer of the bill was the Family Action Council, a group with a very clear Christian right agenda:

Our Mission: To equip Tennesseans and their public officials to effectively promote and defend a culture that values the traditional family, for the sake of the common good.Our Goals: Engaged Citizens … Godly Officials … Strong Families

If Nissan and AT&T are now genuinely surprised this bill became “associated” or “implicated” to be anti-gay, they just weren’t paying attention. And just look at this TV advertisement Family Action Council produced in support of HB600/SB632. You’d have to be blind to miss the anti-gay animus and hateful demagoguery they were inciting to sell this bill to the public:

This is the most outrageously homophobic commercial I have ever had the misfortune of viewing. The message is simple: only passing HB600/SB632 can prevent your children from being molested in a public park by the gays. It’s also a tried and true tactic of these hate groups. The soundtrack of blood-curdling screams of the little ones was a particularly classy touch.One thing AT&T and Nissan might consider adding to their vetting process of deciding whether to endorse a piece of legislation, is seeing if it’s a pet project of known Hate Group, identified by The Southern Poverty Law Center. Among the groups sending out Action Alerts of support is The Family Research Council. Family Research Council has been named a Hate Group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, adding them to the ranks of the KKK and Neo-Nazis, and with good reason.

One quote that earned them that spot was in criticizing American Airlines for providing LGBT partner benefits a spokesman, “What are you going to develop next? A pedophilia market?” Equating homosexuality with pedophilia is a constant refrain for these groups, as we see by the advertisement above. There is no scientific basis to suggest gays and lesbians are more or less inclined to molest children than heterosexuals, but the keep banging that drum because it works.

In the future, any group considering endorsing legislation might do well to cross-reference if a Hate Group is also strongly endorsing it (like the Klan or neo-Nazis, who also make SPLC’s lists). If they are, the chances are pretty good it’s not going end up being a bill you’d want your name associated with. And you can save yourself the trouble of walking back your support by issuing statements like this one from Nissan:

However, HB600/SB632 has become more closely associated with eroding civil liberties than fostering a strong business climate and this we do not support.

Nissan, AT&T and FedEx still need to step it up and do as Alcoa has done: Call on the Governor to veto this bill. That is, if they are sincere in their support of LGBT Rights.

Right click to Enlarge.

Here is the original target list of companies, all are Board Members of the Chamber of Commerce, (not mere members as FedEx tried to say they were). Numbers are their Human Rights Campaign score on the Corporate Equality Index rating their gay-friendliness out of 100. Cross-outs indication companies that have tried to explain their company’s involvement thus far.

AT&T: 100
DuPont: 100
Pfizer: 100
KPMG: 100
Whirlpool: 100
Alcoa: 100
Comcast: 95
Blue Cross Blue Shield : 90
Caterpillar: 75
FedEx: 70
Nissan: 50

Interestingly, Pfizer’s Diversity and Inclusion page includes the following quote:

“Pfizer is committed to sustaining and expanding a culture of Diversity and Inclusion in everything we do.”

“Everything” Pfizer? Including having your representatives lobby for a bill that strips LGBTs in Tennessee of discrimination protection? How does that track?When we’re experiencing impact this substantial it means it’s time to double down. That a company the size of Alcoa, with major operations in the state of Tennessee, has called on the Governor to veto the bill is major news. I am optimistic we’ll be seeing this story get national media coverage in the coming days. That four targets have felt the need to respond will provide pressure for the others to explain their representative’s support for this awful and regressive piece of legislation, which the business community cannot have any reasonable explanation to have a stake in.

Please help us send a message to corporate America: “Keep your hands off of LGBT Americans’ Civil Rights.” Please sign the open letter calling on all of these companies to tell the governor to veto the bill. If you have already please, post it on on your Facebook wall, tweet it or email it to a few friends.

Lt Dan Choi helped out last week, tweeting the link and added a timely and humorous aside:

Photobucket

Yes, time is running out! The Governor may sign this bill this week. Thanks to everyone who signed yesterday. Keep up the pressure.

 

Scott Wooledge also writes at Daily Kos under the handle Clarknt67.
Read Scott’s previous post at The New Civil Rights Movement, “142 Gay Veterans Not Worth $2.1 Million To Obama Administration.”

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{ 1 comment }

Baldur_Odensen May 29, 2011 at 12:30 am

Mostly a fine article, but it has two flaws:

First, it unnecessarily bashes pedophiles. Pedophilia is a sexual orientation, and does not imply anything about molestation. In fact, the vast majority of sexual abuse of children is committed by heterosexual teleiophiles – not because they are more likely to abuse children, but simply because there are so many of them. If we go to objectively worse forms of abuse, such as physical abuse, emotional abuse or neglect, a child is most likely to be abused by their mother – simply because they spend more time with their mother than with anybody else. On the other hand, the vast majority of pedophiles never molest children.

Second, relying on the SPLC is unwise. The SPLC is primarily a money-making organization, and frequently mislabels organizations as "hate groups".

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