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Tennessee businesses sign open letter opposing state’s anti-trans athlete bill

With Tennessee’s legislature considering a transgender athlete ban, several corporations that do business there hope to stop the bill in its tracks.

Mike Pence And CDC Roundtable Discussion On Vaccination Distribution
In this file photo, Tennessee Governor and trans athlete ban supporter Bill Lee walked with Mike Pence, presumably discussing the Spiderman pointing meme.

There are many tactics to employ when trying to stop discriminatory legislation like the anti-trans athlete bills being proposed in two dozen states. Some try to appeal to our common humanity. Others call for authorities to demonstrate courage and take a stand.

And sometimes over 100 state and local businesses band together to say, “Hey, maybe don’t do that. P.S.: As a reminder, we’re rich.” And because this is America, suddenly, the job gets done.

Such a scenario is currently playing out in Tennessee where a proposed transgender athlete ban recently passed the state Senate and is on its way to the House. In response, 137 Volunteer State corporations and small businesses signed on to an open letter asking “that lawmakers not pursue legislation that would target or exclude LGBT people of all ages.”

Specifically, the businesses urged that, “We need our workers and their families — including any transgender members and their families — to feel welcome. We urge policymakers to remain committed to the values of growth and innovation that we all share.”

A number of popular brands, all of them titans of business, added their names to the letter, including Amazon, Nissan, Dell, Warner Music Group, and Pfizer. From the sports world, the 137 business names also included Vanderbilt University and the Nashville Soccer Club.

SOCCER: NOV 20 MLS Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Play-In - Inter Miami CF at Nashville SC
When the pandemic lifts, we want to hug Nashville SC too.
Photo by Matthew Maxey/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

If corporations attempting to stop anti-LGBTQ legislation sounds familiar, it should. Back in 2015, former Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a bill designed to enable the state’s businesses to cite religious reasons to discriminate against LGBTQ patrons.

In practice, the law mostly succeeded in enabling one pizza joint to declare that they would refuse to serve a gay wedding, presumably because the Bible says only straights are allowed to get honeymoon arteriosclerosis. Religious freedom restored!

Shortly after the bill became law, a number of corporate giants doing business there criticized Indiana’s legalized discrimination including Apple, Subaru, and the NCAA. In that same timeframe, Angie’s List canceled a planned expansion of the company’s Indianapolis headquarters, citing the passage of the RFRA as the reason.

In the wake of the furor, Pence signed an amendment to the bill that forbade businesses from refusing service to customers based on their sexuality or gender identity. While the law was never repealed, it was essentially defanged.

Seeing what happened in the Hoosier state six years ago, Tennessee businesses are hoping to nip a similarly discriminatory bill in the bud. It’s a reminder that money talks — and there’s a whole lot of money telling Tennessee politicians to stop the hate.