Companies, Nashville LGBT Chamber oppose anti-transgender laws

Joe Woolley of the Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce

Dozens of big corporations and well-known smaller businesses are emphasizing their stance against anti-transgender legislation by signing on to an open letter to the state of Tennessee authored by the Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce.

The letter comes in response to Tennessee being one of at least 11 states considering legislation believed by many to discriminate against the LGBT+ community. The letter was co-signed by Nissan North America, Ryman Hospitality Properties, Amazon, Dell, Mars Petcare, Warner Music Group, AllianceBernstein, Asurion, BMG, Vanderbilt University, the Nashville Symphony and Nashville SC, as well as more than 170 other organizations. (The full list, which includes Post owner FW Publishing, is being updated here.)

Lawmakers recently passed HB 1182, which — with its companion bill, SB 1224 — would require businesses to post controversial signage on all restroom entrances and at each general entrance available to the public related to transgender peoples. Per the legislation, if a Tennessee business allowed transgender peoples to use the restroom of their gender identity, it would have to post this message: "This facility maintains a policy of allowing the use of restrooms by either biological sex, regardless of the designation of the restroom." 

Per the Advocate, the Human Rights Campaign said the bill's designated signage would be "offensive and humiliating" to the transgender community.

The bill’s progress also comes on the heels of Gov. Bill Lee’s signing of the so-called anti-transgender sports bill the week prior. The Nashville LGBT Chamber claims that these bills are discriminatory, and the chamber organized a press conference with several businesses whose spokespeople joined to express their respective corporations’ disdain for such legislation.

Those businesses — including Amazon, Dell Technologies and TechNet — joined Nashville LGBT Chamber CEO Joe Woolley Monday in warning that laws like these may cost Tennessee a significant amount of commerce and related tax revenue if pro-LGBT+ corporations decide to no longer do business in the state.

Mars Petcare is not only one of the Tennessee companies to sign onto the open letter but also one of the five big corporations to contribute a spokesperson to deliver a public statement in said conference. However, Woolley explained after Amazon’s spokesperson delivered a statement that Mars’ spokesperson had become unavailable upon short notice.

A written version of Mars’ statement is included in the open letter: At Mars, we believe our business and our community are at their best when we embrace and celebrate all people. We firmly believe that everyone is equal and that every person deserves to be treated with respect, dignity, and fairness. We value our presence across the state of Tennessee and continue to invest here as it has been a great place to do business. Discrimination has no place in our business or our laws. We strongly oppose any bill that would negatively impact our entire community and the thriving business environment that we currently have. We respectfully urge the legislature to reject and Gov. Lee to veto any such bills.”

Mars Inc., the parent company, also contributed an op-ed to USA Today, published Wednesday of last week, headlined: “Corporate leaders: Companies should work against LGBTQ bills in Texas, other states.” They did so in collaboration with three of the other major food corporations in the U.S.: Nestlé USA, Danone North America and Unilever United States. The op-ed assumed an ethical responsibility for all businesses to do likewise and served as a call to arms for all businesses.

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