Around 300 local business have signed up to a new initiative, Tennessee Thrives. They want to make it clear that they do not support further anti-LGBTI legislation coming to the state.
The initiative is coordinated by the Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce.
In 2016, Tennessee saw the introduction of HB 1840. The bill allows counselors to refuse services to clients based on their principles.
It was criticized by LGBTI advocates for allowing psychologists to refuse treatment to gay and transgender clients if it conflicted with their religious beliefs.
‘Denying anyone vital mental health services simply because they’re LGBT isn’t just outrageous, it’s outright dangerous,’ GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement last April.
The businesses that have signed up to Tennessee Thrives do not support HB 1840. They also worry that further any anti-LGBTI legislation – including anything similar to North Carolina’s HB 2 – would have a detrimental effect on business and investment in the state.
Tennessee Thrives launched in December. It follows similar business-led initiatives in other states, including Texas (Texas Competes) and Georgia (Georgia Prospers).
Lisa Howe, Executive Director of the Nashville LGBT Chamber, told Out and About Nashville : ‘I had been researching Georgia Prospers during the 2016 legislative session.
‘I brought the idea to our members in May.
‘It was clear that if we were to take this project on, alone, that the LGBT Chamber programs and events would suffer. We were happy when strategic partners stepped up and put forward the resources to make Tennessee Thrives become a reality.’
Names to sign up to Tennessee Thrives include: Jack Daniels, Dell, Vanderbilt University; Microsoft; Ryman Hospitality Properties, Nashville Predators, Asurion, AT&T, CMT, Bridgestone Americas Inc., Uber, Louisiana-Pacific Corp. and HCA Holdings Inc
Sean Henry, CEO of the Nashville Predators and Bridgestone Arena told Nashville Business Journal why his company had signed. ‘It’s a rights thing. Obviously, any opportunity to support any anti-discriminatory legislation, we want to be a part of that. … But when you overlay the business aspect, it becomes even more of a no brainer.’
Forbes reports that North Carolina has lost around $630million (€607million) in business because of its controversial bathroom bill (HB 2). The Williams Institute of Los Angeles puts the figure nearer $4billion (€3.85billion).
Tennessee Thrives’ pledge states: ‘The Tennessee economy thrives when leading corporations and small businesses across the state unite behind the core belief that our state is stronger when we are inclusive of all hardworking people.’
It is asking business to join the coalition and directly lobby lawmakers should legislation arise that could deny equal treatment to any employees or customers.