35 Corporations and 107 Small Businesses Sign Letter Opposing Discrimination in Tennessee
Following the signing of HB 836 in Tennessee, top businesses sign a letter opposing the bill and further attempts to discriminate against LGBTQ Tennesseans
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – February 5, 2020 – Today, 35 corporations and 107 small businesses, released an open letter opposing discrimination against LGBTQ Tennesseans and calling upon lawmakers to not pursue any further harmful bills this legislative session. This letter was organized by the Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce with support from Freedom for All Americans, GLAAD and HRC.
“Our state wins financially when we encourage the most people to participate in our economy,” said Joe Woolley, Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Officer. “We know that regular Tennesseans and business leaders alike are ready to move beyond division, beyond policies that would encourage Tennesseans to refuse to work together, serve each other, and care for each other just because we each have a different walk in life. Only a forward-looking Tennessee will continue to attract the world’s best talent, and the vibrant tourism and entertainment industries that help make this state so special, and that help sustain big and small communities alike.”
Earlier this year, Governor Bill Lee signed into law HB 836, a bill that would allow child welfare organizations — including taxpayer-funded adoption and foster care agencies — to turn away qualified Tennesseans seeking to care for a child in need, including LGBTQ couples, interfaith couples, single parents, married couples in which one prospective parent has previously been divorced, or other parents to whom the agency has a religious objection.
In the letter, the businesses write: “Policies that signal that the state is not welcoming to everyone put our collective economic success at risk… We ask that lawmakers not pursue any further legislation that would target or exclude LGBTQ people, which would do harm to Tennesseans and create unnecessary hurdles to economic competitiveness.”
Corporate signers of the letter include AllianceBernstein, Amalgamated Bank, Amazon, American Airlines, Bridgestone Americas, Camelot, Care Services, CMT, Concord, Cummins, Inc., Curb Records, Dell Technologies, Discovery, Inc., Dow, Genesco, Hilton, IKEA North America Services, LLC, Lyft, Inc., Marriott International, Inc., Mars, Inc., Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp, Nashville International Airport, Nashville Predators, Nashville Soccer Club, Nike, Inc., Nissan North America, Postmates, Salesforce, ServiceSource; Sustainable Food Policy Alliance, including member companies Danone North America; Mars, Incorporated; Nestlé USA; and Unilever United States; Tennessee Titans, Trillium Asset Management, Unilever, Vanderbilt University, Warby Parker, Warner Music Group.
“Tennesseans and businesses agree – bills that target LGBTQ people are bad for Tennessee and its economy,” said HRC President Alphonso David. “When anti-LGBTQ bills pass, it harms real people, but also affects businesses’ ability to recruit and maintain talent. We are grateful that businesses have spoken out so strongly against anti-LGBTQ legislation, and we join them in urging elected officials to stop attacking LGBTQ people living in Tennessee.”
“The onslaught of anti-LGBTQ bills proposed by Tennessee lawmakers stands in sharp opposition to a majority of the state’s fair-minded residents as well as to business leaders who seek to work in a place that is competitive and economically viable,” said Kasey Suffredini, CEO and national campaign director of Freedom for All Americans. “We thank these businesses for affirming fairness and equal treatment for all Tennesseans. When everyone is treated with dignity and respect, we all win.”
The full text of the letter and an up to date list of corporations and small businesses who have signed it can be found here.
Live coverage from the press conference can be found here.
Concord: “The creative community in TN, and especially in Nashville, is essential to the state’s culture and economy. It is a community that was built on inclusiveness and continues to thrive because of it. The signing of HB 0836 / SB 1304 into law does not reflect the type of inclusiveness that Concord believes makes better communities, creative works, and culture. Concord will continue to speak out against any laws that threaten its stakeholders and have therefore added our name to an ever-expanding list of TN businesses that oppose such legislated discrimination.”
Mars, Inc.: “At Mars, we believe our business and our community are at their best when we embrace and celebrate all people. We firmly believe that everyone is equal and that every person deserves to be treated with respect, dignity, and fairness. We value our presence across the state of Tennessee and continue to invest here as it has been a great place to do business. Discrimination has no place in our business or our laws. We strongly oppose any bill that would negatively impact our entire community and the thriving business environment that we currently have.”
Postmates: “Postmates continues to be alarmed by the Lee Administration’s anti-LGBTQ agenda, particularly as we consider expanding our presence in the Volunteer State. It is impossible for Tennessee to be a great place to do business while its government imposes policies of exclusion and discrimination. State leaders cannot and will not be able to expect companies like ours to power its economic engines while supporting legislation that undermines our ability to feel welcome in this state unless they commit to a new pathway to include all families & all workers. HB 836 undermines businesses’ ability to recruit top talent and grow in the state by policies that say not all are welcome — and it’s just plain wrong. To our Postmates fleet, our customers, our small business owners, our entire community: we stand with you no matter who you love or who you are, and we will not accept this kind of flagrant hatred.”
Additional comments that were given at press conference:
Joe Woolley, CEO, Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce – Opening Statement:
Good morning. I’m Joe Woolley, CEO of the Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce. We have more than 500 members who are Tennessee employers, we are committed to making the economic case for this state to be welcoming to LGBTQ people. We’re joined today by business leaders who are committed to a 21st-century Tennessee that is welcoming to everyone.
We are releasing a letter today, signed by 35 major Tennessee employers and 107 Tennessee small businesses, asking lawmakers to focus on the work of building an economically competitive, prosperous Tennessee that we can all contribute to and share in.
2019 brought the business community out in droves here in Tennessee, speaking up for an inclusive, welcoming state – one that does not divide by needlessly targeting LGBT people for discrimination. Our message is simple: As employers, we welcome everyone in our workplaces and places of business. We expect everyone to respect each other’s differences, and we want everyone to have the freedom to work, earn a living, raise a family, and contribute to the community. We want Tennessee to do the same.
The recent passage of HB 836 stands in sharp contrast to this culture of welcome and of opportunity for everyone. This bill – now law after being signed by the governor – was intended as a mean-spirited swipe at LGBT people and our families and would allow providers to use a religious test to decide which loving parents can foster and adopt, taking away opportunities from vulnerable children to find forever homes.
This is shameful and we are here today to strongly urge the Tennessee legislature to reject further discrimination.
Recent polling shows that a large majority of Tennesseans do not want to see their LGBTQ neighbors, friends, co-workers and family members discriminated against.
We know that regular Tennesseans and business leaders alike are ready to move beyond division, beyond policies that would encourage Tennesseans to refuse to work together, serve each other, and care for each other just because we each have a different walk in life. Only a welcoming, forward-looking Tennessee will continue to attract the world’s best talent to want to live and work here, and the vibrant tourism and entertainment industries that help make this state so special, and that help sustain big and small communities alike.
We have empirical evidence from Texas, North Carolina, Indiana, Georgia, and other states that state-sponsored discrimination has documented economic consequences – on talent, on tourism, on investment, on growth, and on small businesses.
Faced with these risks, we must oppose any legislation that legitimizes or empowers discrimination in Tennesse. We ask our legislators to hear the united voices of the business community.
Diversity and innovation go hand-in-hand. Any effort that suggests Tennessee is not open to being a diverse and inclusive state raises major concerns for our ability to attract world-class innovators to this state.
Tourism is an integral and hugely important part of the Tennessee economy. In 2018, visitors to our state spent more than $22 billion. We know that these dollars will be at risk if we further pursue discrimination this year. Convention and meetings executives have already stated that since the 2016 bathroom bill in North Carolina that cost that state $3.75 billion, they are including cancellation clauses in their contracts to allow them to cancel major events if a host state passes discriminatory legislation. That means that we face serious risk should we continue down this path. And that risk impacts not just big businesses but small business owners and workers in the industry. That risk impacts caterers and florists, waiters and drivers, real people and real paychecks and livelihoods.
When Tennessee tourism suffers, as we know it will, the loss is not just a number on paper. It’s the local audio-visual technicians and musicians hired to put on the event. It’s the caterers and florists that rely on tourism to stay afloat. It’s our hotels and restaurants and bars, and all the people who work for them, who need good hours to make ends meet. These are real livelihoods at stake, and they will affect real working families. And beyond individual workers, the tax revenues generated by Tennessee tourism support public schools, roads, and essential agencies such as child protective services.
We ask that lawmakers not pursue any further legislation that would target or exclude LGBTQ people, which would do harm to Tennesseans and create unnecessary hurdles to economic competitiveness. We urge policymakers to remain committed to the values of innovation and growth that we all share.
We will continue to oppose any discriminatory measures that would damage our state reputation or create operational difficulties for Tennessee employers — and distract the legislature from key priorities this session.
The Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce is the premier advocate of the Greater Nashville Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender business community, representing over 500+ businesses, community groups, and individuals in Nashville and the surrounding area. We advocate and educate on behalf of our individual, small business, corporate, and nonprofit members who share the values of promoting equity and diversity in business and society.
For more information and for additional businesses wishing to sign the open letter, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.