Well, that was quick.
After mounting statewide and national outrage over SB 2566, the stupid bill that would have "legally" allowed people to discriminate against gay people because God told them to (or whatever), the sponsor of the bill, state Sen. Mike Bell, decided to hold the bill for a year, effectively killing it. Although the House hypothetically could take action on its version of the bill, it won't matter, since next January brings an entirely new session of the legislature, meaning the bill will have to be refiled.
There wasn't much discussion before Bell pulled the legislation, but the comments that were made were laughable. Sen. Brian Kelsey, the bill's original sponsor -- who withdrew his sponsorship after local pressure (because Memphis is way more liberal than East Tennessee) -- asked that the bill be withdrawn because it was never his intent to discriminate against anyone, just to protect priests and rabbis. (Did we laugh out loud at that? You're damn straight, we did.)
Then Bell blathered on about poor Mennonites in Iowa and how the ACLU never stood up for poor discriminated-against state Sen. Stacey Campfield when Martha Boggs kicked him out of the Bistro that time and then finally admitted that "people smarter than [him]" -- which we imagine weren't at all hard to find -- told him that Tennessee state law already allows vendors to turn away the gays if they so please and so this bill is probably unnecessary -- IMAGINE! -- and we should probably just wait until those "liberal court judges" upend what everyone in Tennessee already voted for, which is the right to totally discriminate against people based on things they do or don't do with their genitals, and then maybe take another look at things.
And that, my friends, was that. We did not get to hear from the esteemed Campfield (who's on the Judiciary Committee, which was to vote on the bill today), although we're sure he'll blog some misspelled nonsense about it later. The Tennessee Equality Project, which actively worked to defeat the legislation, tweeted, "Victory, we have victory!" And the Tennessee ACLU's executive director, Hedy Weinberg, issued the following statement:
"ACLU-TN is gratified that this dangerous bill will not be moving forward. Religious freedom is not a free pass to discriminate. Tennesseans value treating people fairly and with respect, and ACLU-TN will remain vigilant to ensure that all Tennesseans are protected from discrimination no matter whom they love."
So celebrate, kids. (It's National "Drink Wine Day" anyway.) In this state, we've got to take our victories where we can get get them. And today was a very good day.
UPDATE: Per a press release from his office, here's the full text of what Kelsey said, which we are only posting here so you can have a hearty chuckle:
"The text of the Religious Freedom Act never allowed a restaurant or hospital to refuse service to anyone. I would never introduce legislation that attempts to limit the civil rights of any Tennessean, whether straight or gay. The bill was designed to protect a pastor, rabbi, or singer from being sued and forced to participate in a same-sex ceremony against their will."