Tenn. Bill Would Allow Employers and Business Owners to 'Turn the Gays Away'

| by Allison Geller

A new Tennessee bill would allow business owners to turn away clients based on the status of their partnership—in other words, if the couple is hetero or homosexual.

Republican State Sen. Brian Kelsey brought the Bill 2566, which has earned the nickname “turn the gays away,” to the Senate. Another Republican, Rep. Bill Dunn, brought a similarly worded bill to the other house of the Tennessee legislature.

“As introduced, permits persons and religious or denominational organizations, based on sincere religious belief, to refuse to provide services or goods in furtherance of a civil union, domestic partnership, or marriage not recognized by the Tennessee Constitution,” the bill reads.

The proprietor of, for example, a bakery or wedding venue could turn away a couple simply by saying that it was against their religion to provide services.

Gay advocacy groups worry about how far the discrimination could go.

 “Does that mean refuse medical services to an individual in a same-sex couple? Does that mean refuse to sell food to a same-sex couple? How far are they willing to go?” the Tennessee Equality Project, the state's largest LGBT rights advocacy group, posted on its Facebook page.

Jonathan Cole, who works for the TEP, told FOX13 that the organization is trying different tactics to persuade businesses to oppose the bill, such as passing out stickers that read "Equality Means Business."

"It's bad for business," Cole said. "It's bad for attracting talent that would be offered a job to come and work for a corporation here in Tennessee. When they see bills like this capturing the headlines, it really reflects poorly on the state."

On Top Magazine reports that Tennessee’s constitutional gay marriage ban was approved by an overwhelming 81% in 2006.

The bill is similar to those that have advanced in Kansas and South Dakota. It awaits a vote by both houses of the Tennessee legislature.

Sources: Daily Helmsman, FOX13, On Top Magazine