U.S. Chamber Board Members Support Rolling Back Civil Rights Laws For LGBT Community

Following the approval of a Nashville ordinance extending civil rights protections to the LGBT community, the Tennessee state legislature approved of legislation that would prohibit local municipalities from extending civil rights protections to the LGBT community. With the help of at least six U.S. Chamber members, the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce teamed up with radical anti-gay organizations to lobby for the bills passage. While the U.S. Chamber might seek distance from this bigoted legislation, the reality is that the U.S. Chamber has a disturbing track record on civil rights issues.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Chamber released a report that analyzed the business climate for each state. Although U.S. Chamber Watch thoroughly debunked this report, it exposes a decidedly bigoted partiality. As we previously explained:

In the report, the Chamber asserts that states with stronger anti-discrimination policies, including protections for sexual orientation and gender identity, have worse business and employment climates. For example, the Chamber rated Washington State as a having a "poor" business climate that "imposes[s] burdens on employers." The Chamber explains, almost cautioning its readers:


"Seattle has long been known as one of the more socially liberal cities in the country… the Seattle Office for Civil Rights enforces the city’s prohibitions against employment discrimination based on race, color, sex, martial status, sexual orientation, gender identity, political ideology, age, creed, religion, ancestry, national origin, honorably discharged veteran or military status, or the presence of any sensory mental or physical handicap."

Can you hear that? The U.S. Chamber’s dog whistle is deafening. John Aravosis at AMERICAblog passionately and eloquently explains the sinister but real consequences of the legislation:

And don't for a minute buy the chamber's excuse that this is about business, not prejudice.  Every other minority is protected in the state under federal law.  Gays and trans are not.  The law was the idea of the religious right.  The lead lobbyist on the law was the religious right.  The only victim of the law was the LGBT community.  This law was specifically written and intended to repeal Nashville's new civil rights ordinance protecting gay and trans citizens, period.

Indeed, not only did sixU.S. Chamber members endorse this bigoted legislation, it was endorsed by the local affiliate of the Family Research Council, a group so radical and anti-gay that they were designated a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The U.S. Chamber’s complicity in these radical anti-gay social engineering policies was most apparent when they recently opposed a draft Executive Order that would require federal government contractors to disclose their financial contributions to trade associations. As part of the U.S. Chamber’s rationale was the public relations blowback that Target received after it was revealed that the retail giant contributed $150,000 to an independent expenditure campaign on behalf of a radical anti-gay gubernatorial candidate in Minnesota. According to the Star Tribune:

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has made a controversial campaign contribution in last year's Minnesota governor's race a centerpiece in a fight against tougher federal disclosure rules for government contractors. … The Chamber cited the Target case as a prime example of how government contractors could have their right to free speech stifled if President Obama issues an executive order forcing them to reveal their political donations.

The U.S. Chamber might publicly disavow discrimination but their actions enable it as are the seven corporations that belong to the U.S. Chamber and serve on the Tennessee Chamber’s board. On Friday, AMERICAblog reported that Alcoa announced their opposition to the bill. Alcoa is the only known U.S. Chamber member and TN Chamber member that has unequivoically declared their opposition to the bill. The remaining six corporations that are known U.S. Chamber members and belong to the TN Chamber are: 

Company U.S. Chamber Membership
AT&T U.S. Chamber, Board
Caterpillar U.S. Chamber, Board; Institute for Legal Reform, Board
DuPont Global Intellectual Property Center, Member
FedEx U.S. Chamber, Board; Business Civic Leadership Center, Board
KPMG National Chamber Foundation, Board; Business Civic Leadership Center, Board
Pfizer U.S. Chamber, Board; Institute for Legal Reform, Board

It is time for the U.S. Chamber and their members to lead by example.

**Update 1: The National Gay Lesbian Chamber of Commerce has posted statements from Alcoa, AT&T, FedEx and KPMG.**

**Update 2: According to the Huffington Post, shortly before TN Gov. Bill Haslam signed the legislation into law yesterday evening, the TN Chamber of Commerce publicy un-endorsed the bill.**

**Update 3: John Aravosis at AMERICAblog.com has a helpful summary of what the corporations said about the law (after receiving pressure from the LGBT community).**

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