NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Republican leader in the Tennessee House vowed retribution Tuesday for companies that spoke out against a transgender bathroom bill, suggesting that lawmakers should consider limiting tax incentives and grants to them.
"All these companies who tried to blackmail us for this thing, when they come for their corporate welfare checks next year, we need to have a list out and keep an eye on them," Rep. Gerald McCormick said to applause.
The bill would have required students in public schools and universities to use bathrooms and locker rooms that matched the gender listed on their birth certificates. Supporters said it would have protected the privacy of students.
Tennessee's proposal is part of a wave of legislation across the country that opponents say is discriminatory toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
Rep. Susan Lynn, a Republican who sponsored the bill in the state House, said Monday that she was withdrawing the bill while waiting to see how legal challenges play out in other states. On Tuesday, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a Virginia high school's policy barring a transgender student from using the boys' restrooms is discriminatory.
In Tennessee, the leaders of 60 businesses, including the chief executives of Williams-Sonoma, Hilton Worldwide and T-Mobile signed a letter urging lawmakers to reject the bathroom bill.
McCormick's comments came in response to an email he received from the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce. The group opposed the bill because it said it would make it more difficult to attract and retain business and tourism.
"Simply put, the legislation is bad for business, bad for Chattanooga and Hamilton County, and bad for Tennessee," according to the email from David Steele, the chamber's vice president for policy and education.
McCormick said the backlash from the business community didn't help lawmakers seeking to derail the legislation.
"They did nothing to help, and they added nothing to the conversation," McCormick said after the floor session. "They got their hand out for corporate welfare on the one hand, and then they're trying to give us orders on the other hand.
"It does not go over well, and makes the job more difficult," he said.