In Quick Turnaround, Kyle Files Bill to Repeal Anti-Discrimination Ban


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Jim Kyle during debate last Saturday
  • Jim Kyle during debate last Saturday
As the metaphor has it, the fat lady has sung — which is to say, the 2011 session of the Tennessee General Assembly came to an end on Saturday — but she may have a few unexpected extra verses to warble.

In addition to several bills that were shelved or left hanging — the “innovative school districts” bill that had troubled the Shelby County Commission, the Don’t Say Gay bill of state Senator Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville), among others — some bills that did get through are already being revisited.

There is, for example, the very real probability that a bill intended to cut Planned Parenthood out of the loop for federal Title X family-planning funds was nullified by add-on language that is just now coming to light. A provision was added (or retained, against the wishes of sponsor Campfield) stating that the defunding provision “shall not be construed to supersede applicable provisions of federal and state law." Meaning, the status quo on Title X funding shall be observed.

And another controversial measure, HB600, banning anti-discrimination ordinances by local jurisdictions, is sure to be challenged early in the next legislative session. State Senator Jim Kyle (D-Memphis), the Senate’s Democratic leader, has already filed legislation designed to repeal that measure, which drew intense last-minute opposition from several major Tennessee industries, including FedEx of Memphis.

In signing HB600 into law, Governor Bill Haslam had said the business opposition had come too late to affect his judgment. Acknowledging that “the business community was late to the party,” Kyle said the new law was still “worth a second look.”

Gay and lesbian activists had lobbied extensively against HB600, and much of the business opposition was in the context of author Richard Florida’s thesis that economic innovation is largely dependent on the input of a “creative class,” which includes gays, high tech specialists, and other heterodox types.

Kyle said that reaction from constituents in Memphis Shelby County, where anti-discrimination ordinances were still being actively considered, had also prompted his filing the bill.

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