Group files lawsuit against Tennessee challenging anti-gay discrimination law


A group of individuals that includes three Nashville elected officials and two LGBT advocacy groups, on Monday filed a suit against the state of Tennessee challenging a new law that prohibits local governments from enacting anti-discrimination laws that are stricter than protections laid out by the state government.

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

The new law effectively prohibits municipalities from extending those protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and overturns a recently enacted Nashville law that did just that.

The lawsuit, filed in Davidson County Chancery Court, claims the law “embodies an animus toward gay and transgender people” and violates equal-protection standards.

“This law is contrary to core Tennessee values,” said Abby R. Rubenfeld, the suit’s lead attorney.

“Our legislators abused their power by preventing localities from assisting their own citizens. Rather than considering what is best for our state, they passed a law based on disapproval of gay and transgender people, which the Tennessee and U.S. Constitutions do not permit,” she said.

On April 5, the Nashville Metro Council adopted new rules that added “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to its protected classes.

The state legislature then approved legislation preventing municipalities from taking such action, arguing that it would hurt the business environment by creating different standards in different cities.

Gov. Bill Haslam (R) signed the bill into law on May 23.

The plaintiffs, represented by Rubenfeld, the law firm of Morrison & Foerster, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, include: Nashville Metro Council members Erik Cole, Erica Gilmore, and Mike Jameson; The Tennessee Equality Project; and The Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition.

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