25, September 2018
An Open Letter to the Tennessee Governor
Governor Bill Haslam,
I implore you to help change the current Tennessee laws pertaining to discrimination in the workplace, specifically to include protections for sexual orientation. The current discrimination laws don’t protect the hundreds of thousands of LGBT employees that reside in Tennessee, that needlessly suffers from the bigotry and religious fanaticism of others in the workplace. LGBT people have long since remained a target for discrimination. Much of this is derived from thousands of year-old religious teachings.
LGBT people have been refused service, harassed, beaten, tortured, and even killed because of these beliefs. There has been little recourse for LGBT people throughout history. The LGBT community finally lashed back in the early 1960s, in the well-known Stonewall Riots. The past decade has seen the largest increase in rights for LGBT people, including the ability to adopt children and get married in 2015. People in the LGBT community work, love, and play just like everyone else. It’s a shame that it required federal action by the Supreme Court to recognize us as people, since our local state government in Tennessee did not.
These days it is a struggle to be openly gay in the workplace. There are many tribulations that we must go through daily, like workplace bullying, and homophobic slurs. All the while we must keep our mouths shut and smile, because we are scared to death that we could be fired or persecuted for just being ourselves. If we report the incidents to human resources, it looks like the ideal scenario is they do nothing...and worst case we face retaliation. This causes many frustrations and a lack of motivation for LGBT employees, who may dread even going to work because fellow coworkers can terrorize and harass them without consequence discrimination is bad for employees, businesses and the state of Tennessee. Time spent bullying and harassing others is time not spent on running the business and helping customers. Numerous harassment complaints can be a drain on human resources and employee morale. Poor morale leads to mediocre work and eventually the migration of talented employees to other firms...or even out of the state entirely. Provided the hundreds of thousands of people at risk in Tennessee every day...The state needs to protect them, because it cannot afford to exhaust this valuable source of tax revenue.
I know from personal experience how difficult these kinds of working conditions can be for LGBT employees. I represent an openly homosexual male, who faces workplace harassment on almost a daily basis. I have reported it to human resources. Nothing has been done about it, either due to people’s personal religious beliefs or the fact that I am not in a protected class per the Tennessee state discrimination laws. I have even been verbally assaulted with words like “fag” and “homo” by an employee who was in another protected class! When I reported it, I was almost terminated even though I did not do anything to provoke that kind of behavior. A couple of months previously, another employee actively harassed me for a few weeks, which I reported every time the situation occurred. No surprise that nothing was done...and then he subsequently stole my car! When the police interrogated him, he admitted to it and said he stole my car to teach me a lesson because I represent an abomination to his religious beliefs! It's absolutely astonishing the lengths that people will go to put other people down or cause them pain, especially when the victims do nothing to incite these barbaric and horrendous actions...Other than merely existing.
We need to simultaneously work collectively to bring people of all walks of life together, and the only way to do that would be to treat everybody equally in the eyes of the law. The only way to do this would be for the state of Tennessee to pass an inclusive piece of legislation before history repeats itself by having the Supreme Court intervene and enact a federal discrimination law that includes the protection of sexual orientation. The time to act is right now! Governor Haslam please help end the needless suffering of your constituents by pushing forward a newly updated piece of legislation to include sexual orientation as a protected class. I know for a fact that it will be controversial proposal here in the heart of the Bible belt...But you owe it to the people, the state, and your own integrity to encourage the state of Tennessee to move onward into a world where personal beliefs do not infringe on the lives of people who just want to feel normal and be accepted.