Unbridled discrimination

Unbridled discrimination

September 14th, 2011 in Opinion Times

It is disappointing, but hardly surprising, that David Fowler, president of the biased Family Action Council of Tennessee, issued scathingly critical comments last week against BlueCross BlueShield for including gay, lesbian and transgender business owners among a list of minority businesses that it recently notified of opportunities to compete for the insurance giant's wide-ranging vendor contracts. The former state senator, after all, has made a point of attacking the constitutional due process rights of people with different sexual orientation. Earlier this year, for example, he persuaded the Legislature and governor to adopt a law prohibiting local governments from enacting ordinances to ban anti-gay discrimination by local employers.

What is surprising is Fowler's smugly sanctimonious criticism of Blue Cross for simply doing what federal law requires of the insurer -- and what humane consideration of other Americans automatically should compel -- in the way of non-discriminatory business conduct. Without such non-discriminatory policies, moreover, BlueCross could not compete for the broad scope of federal contracts it has long pursued for the administration of regional Medicare and Medicaid districts across the county. Such contracts have produced innumerable jobs and substantial business for the state's largest insurer, a non-profit whose health-insurance policies are vital to millions of citizens.

Would Fowler really want BlueCross to thumb its nose at constitutionally protected and federally mandated non-discrimination policies, and degrade its ability to provide broad health insurance benefits, simply to satisfy his organization's mean-spirited and purposefully discriminatory agenda against citizens and business owners who don't meet his narrow criteria for "family values"?

Well, yes. He makes no bones about his wish to exclude fair opportunity and humane consideration for other Americans. His agenda, which also promotes re-establishment of old and presently banned restrictions on women's reproductive rights, proves that.

Fowler's tirade against BlueCross is clearly disingenuous. He initiated his Family Action Council's discriminatory crusade his year to push a broader bill in the Legislature to prevent local governments not just from banning discrimination against gays, but also to prevent them from setting local standards higher than those of the state for health insurance, minimum wages and family leave.

Talk about family values. Many families merit, and would benefit significantly, from higher standards in all those areas. Yet Fowler's misnamed Family Action Council would follow the Darwinian national Republican agenda of restricting access to such constructive and humane efforts. This is not a true "family action" agenda; it is a business-backed agenda that is currently playing out in newly minted Republican-controlled state legislatures across the country.

It apparently has escaped Fowler's notice that average working families in Tennessee have seen their inflation-adjusted income decline, their health insurance whittled or abolished, their job opportunities diminish, and their family-oriented benefits stuck in the cellar for most of the past decade, thanks to regressive Republican opposition to equitable wages, education aid, tax reform and health care reform.

Fowler is mainly miffed that the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which initially supported his anti-family values bill, backed away from opposition to the bill in Nashville. That led to the bill being stripped to a mostly anti-gay bill, proving that gays are still easy to pick on.

Ironically, Fowler's Family Action Council's mission statement claims to promote and defend a culture that values "healthy families" and "communities (that) come about when basic values from the Bible are embraced." If Fowler and his organization judged different people less harshly and more deeply valued health care, reasonable job benefits for working families, and a caring, non-discriminatory approach to all citizens, they might learn how to live up to the group's name and appropriately pursue the council's mission.