With minimal discussion, the state House calendar and rules committee voted by acclamation on Tuesday to schedule HB600 for a vote on the floor of the full House next Monday. This is the notorious bill sponsored by Glen Casada (R-Franklin) that would prevent any local government anywhere in Tennessee from enacting measures to prohibit workplace discrimination against gays.
Such resistance to the measure as there was came from Mike Turner (D-Nashville), chairman of the Democratic caucus, a virtually powerless component of the lopsidedly Republican House membership in this session. Turner, who had previously suggested the bill was "homophobic," asked sponsor Casada if the bill was aimed directly at a recently passed Nashville ordinance intended to prevent such discrimination. Blithely, Casada said the bill had no such purpose but was meant merely to ensure uniformity in state policy for the purposes of industrial recruitment. There was no other commentary from the committee, not even from Steve McManus, the Memphis Republican who had voted against an earlier version of Casada's bill but has since been the object of persistent lobbying by the bill's proponents and opponents alike.
No other comment, that is, except for an exchange between Casada and committee chairman Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville). Casada quipped, "Mr. Chairman, should that be on consent?" (meaning on a portion of Monday's calendar consisting of routine, non-controversial matters requiring no debate). Dunn responded with stage laughter: "Ha ha. It's on Monday. We'd better pack our suppers that day." Translation: Unlike the case with the calendar and rules committee, which normally just concerns itself with scheduling, the debate on the floor will be full-hearted and brisk.
We hope so. Casada's bill seems to us not only meretricious in both its stated and unstated purposes, it is also, like so much else that the General Assembly has so far approved in the current session — much of it relating to educational policy — utterly invasive of and contemptuous of local authority. Even if we suspend disbelief and assume for a moment that the bill really is aimed at issues relating to industrial recruitment and nothing else, it is still offensive on its very face. Nashville, as a developing metropolitan entity, has a right to set its own workplace priorities, complete with ethical guidelines. So does Memphis. And Knoxville. And Chattanooga. And so have the rest of Tennessee's chartered communities — large, medium, and small.
Turner was right in the first place. Casada's bill is homophobic, pure and simple. And we trust that he and others, in the course of debate on Monday, will make that fact unmistakably clear. It also transgresses unforgivably against the principle of local sovereignty and deserves to be defeated on that basis, as well.
The crowning absurdity is that this heavy-handed dictatorial nonsense is being pushed by the very same ideologues who are always muling and puking about the supposed excesses of Washington and Big Government. Orwell's Big Brother had nothing on these guys!