The Tennessee state legislature passed HB 8369 bill that allows child adoption agencies to refuse service to LGBTQ people based on religious or moral beliefs.
With bills like HB 836, it presents a possibly damaging image for Tennessee. It potentially leaves the door open for boycotts and other businesses refusing to work within the state. It may also affect recruitment. It might cause difficulty for schools, businesses and organizations to create a welcoming atmosphere for all people.
“No Gay? No Way!” manager Conor Gaughan has recently issued a statement about the ensuing controversy. Gaughan is calling for Amazon to use their influence to speak out against HB 836 and other anti-LGBTQ laws.
Gaughan said Amazon needs to “get off the sidelines” and speak for employees, customers and families, many of whom will be impacted by these laws.
The Seattle-based company has been a vocal supporter of the LGBTQ community. They formed Glamazon, the company’s internal affinity group aimed at addressing LGBTQ issues in the workplace. CEO Jeff Bezos and his then-wife MacKenzie Tuttle donated $2.5 million to Washington United for Marriage, a same-sex marriage advocacy coalition, in 2012.
The Nashville LGBT Chamber is an organization that focuses on business, economics and workplace equality for the community. Chamber CEO Joe Woolley said HB 836 is “ridiculous” and affects many folks in different walks of life.
“For our organization, we see it is blatant discrimination,” Woolley said. “It directly targets LGBTQ people, but also members of faith. A Jewish child adoption agency could refuse service to a Muslim couple.”
Be that as it may, Woolley said his organization is disappointed in “No Gay? No Way!” because of their approach to these issues.
“They did not consult with any groups,” Woolley said. “They just muddied the conversation and hijacked the message. We are very protective of our members and they decided to take it into their hands.”
AllianceBernstein is a money management firm that has opened a headquarters in Nashville and that has been in contact with the LGBTQ Chamber regarding their opposition to the anti-LGBTQ legislation. The organization said they want to keep business in Tennessee open for those affected by said legislation.
Iasia Peoples, a member of the University of Memphis campus LGBTQ organization Stonewall Tigers, said companies need to show genuine interest and action regarding these types of issues.
“Saying, ‘Hey, we support you,’ just isn’t enough,” Peoples said. “They need to say, ‘We are not going to work with anti-gay organizations in states that have anti-gay laws.’ They need to put their money where their mouths are.”
Large businesses, organizations and even celebrities have fanbases who may follow and when money is at risk. These organizations may be more inclined to take action.
North Carolina had a law in place that did not allow transgender individuals to use the bathrooms that aligned with their gender identity, instead forcing them to use the bathroom that aligns with the sex they were assigned at birth. As a result in 2017, the NCAA pulled out several championship games for men’s basketball. The NBA pulled it’s All-Star Game. Several businesses were adamantly against the law.
Peoples said it tends to be midwestern and southern states to pass these bills.
“A lot of it has to do with religious freedom,” Peoples added. “It depends on culture. You don’t see it in California or New York.”
Andrew Phifer, another member of Stonewall Tigers, said while these bills are disheartening, they will not hurt the LGBTQ movement.
“It is not going to set us back, but it is definitely disheartening,” Phifer said. “The only way to move forward is to vote these people out of office so the next legislative section can put forth a bill that repeals or changes the law entirely.”
Phifer said in the end, the money makes the difference.
“When you affect the pocketbooks of these states, that is when they start to care,” Phifer said.