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Tennessee plaintiffs to appeal dismissal of anti-discrimination suit

A lawyer for a group of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) plaintiffs in Tennessee said Wednesday that she will appeal the decision of a Tennessee County judge dismissing a lawsuit challenging a controversial law. The suit challenges Tennessee's Equal Access to Intrastate Commerce Act (EAIC) text] which bars local governments from creating anti-discrimination laws that are stricter than those of the state. When the act was passed in April of last year, it nullified a Nashville city ordinance that prohibited businesses which discriminated based on sexual orientation from operating in the state. The plaintiffs filed suit [complaint, PDF] in June 2011 challenging the constitutionality of the EAIC. They argued the law effectively took away the rights of plaintiffs who were protected under the Nashville ordinance and that the EAIC was discriminatory in nature. In January Chancellor Carol McCoy of the Davidson County Chancery Court in Nashville dismissed the lawsuit, saying the plaintiffs did not have standing to sue. Attorney Abby Rubenfeld said the judge ignored arguments [AP report] made by the plaintiffs in reaching her decision, and that she will continue to appeal the decision.

Discrimination based on sexual orientation is a hotly debated topic around the world. The US Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP) held a hearing last week on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), focusing on discrimination faced by LGBT employees across the country. Earlier this month, JURIST guest columnist Brynne Madway argued [JURIST op-ed] that the LGBT community must shift some of its focus to promoting anti-discrimination laws, noting that "only 16 states have nondiscrimination laws that include gender identity and sexual orientation." In December, he UN Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released its first ever report [JURIST report]on the global human rights of LGBT people. The report details LGBT people around the world being killed or enduring hate-motivated violence, torture, detention, criminalization and discrimination in jobs, health care and education because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

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