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Nashville attorney planning lawsuit to challenge Tennessee’s anti-gay law

Thursday, May 26, 2011
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A Nashville attorney said she is planning a lawsuit that challenging a new Tennessee law that prohibits local governments from creating anti-discrimination laws that are stricter than protections laid out by the state government.

Abby Rubenfeld

The law targets a recently enacted Nashville ordinance that banned city contractors from discriminating against gay, lesbian and transgender people.

But according to Attorney Abby Rubenfeld, a former legal director of Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, the new law may have unintended consequences. She said Tuesday that she is preparing to fight the legislation.

Sponsors and supporters said the bill is all about making it easier to do business in Tennessee.

But opponents believe it’s homophobic legislation aimed at derailing Nashville’s efforts to protect gays and lesbians in the workplace.

“It’s just silly, this is motivated by animosity towards the gay community, and the United States Supreme Court has made clear that this is not an acceptable basis for a statue,” said Rubenfeld.

Rubenfeld points out that while the bill was targeted at gays and lesbians, it would also impact other groups, including veterans, disabled persons, or any other group that does not fit within the state’s non-discrimination law.

Under Tennessee state law it is illegal to discriminate against a person because of race, creed, color, religion, sex, age or national origin.

“Various communities all over the state have protections from discrimination based on disability, those are gone now. Disabled people don’t have protections under local governments,” according to Rubenfeld.

On April 5, the Nashville Metro Council adopted new rules that added “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to its protected classes. The new law overturns the Nashville ordinance, and prohibits all Tennessee municipalities from enacting similar protections for LGBT people.

Gov. Bill Haslam signed the bill into law on Monday.

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