Below is an open letter I have sent to Tennessee’s AT&T President Joelle Phillips regarding Sen. Mike Bell’s (R-Riceville) discriminatory legislation SB2566.
My hope is we will see an effort that was promised us in 2011 and like we are now seeing by AT&T and the Chamber of Commerce in the state of Kansas regarding a similar discriminatory bill.
I would like to know where AT&T Tennessee stands on SB2566, a bill sponsored by Sen. Mike Bell that would protect the choice of businesses to discriminate against legally married same-sex couples.
AT&T Kansas as well as the Kansas Chamber of Commerce are publicly working against a mirror of this bill in Kansas. You can read about their effort here.
In May 2011, the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce expressed regret for pushing discriminatory HB600 after AT&T President Gregg F. Morton and nine other prominent job-creating members stood up and issued public statements of opposition to the Chamber’s bill. AT&T in particular made a promise:
While the timing of the announced change by the Chamber was not ideal, I believe their public statement sent a positive message to show that the business community stands against discrimination. AT&T does not support any laws, or legislative efforts, that discriminate against populations based on race, creed, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity, and I know businesses across our state similarly oppose any form of discrimination.
That opposition should be clearly reflected by those who represent us in Nashville, and I am confident that this will be the case going forward. I know AT&T will work with NGLCC and other advocacy groups to oppose measures that we believe to be discriminatory against these populations, not only in the state of Tennessee, but also across the nation, and we will encourage the Chamber to adopt similar positions in the future.
You can read Gregg’s statement here. Tennessee Chamber President Deb Woolley’s contract was not renewed following what many viewed as her misuse of prominent national brands in support of discrimination. Will you issue a public statement regarding SB2566 and work against it as promised and as the President of AT&T Kansas and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce are now doing against a similar bill in Kansas?
UPDATE 2-18-14 11:45am: AT&T Tennessee President Joelle Phillips has responded saying that AT&T will stand up for their values and join the effort to stop SB2566. AT&T is the first of several major American brands and prominent members of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce to take a stand for equality.
Dear Mr. Grantham,
Thank you for contacting me about this bill. I appreciate you bringing it to my attention, and I appreciate your recognition of AT&T’s past work to speak out on discrimination.
As you noted, AT&T opposes discrimination against people based on race, creed, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
AT&T’s position on discrimination is simple; we oppose it, and we don’t do it. AT&T is contacting members of the general assembly to communicate our concern that the bill conflicts with that position.
Joelle Phillips President – AT&T Tennessee
333 Commerce Street, Suite 2104
Nashville, TN 37201
UPDATE 2-18-14 2:18pm: I’ve reached out to the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and other prominent members (Nissan, Blue Cross Blue Shield, KPMG, Embraer, Comcast, FedEx, and Pfizer) asking them to join AT&T and other Tennessee businesses in standing up for equality and fairness and stopping SB2566.
UPDATE 2-18-14 5:46pm: The bill’s Senate Sponsor, Sen. Mike Bell, has withdrawn his bill!
Read more from 2011: