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Lawyers Argue Over Making Public a Secret Lobbying Session

A Nashville judge is considering whether to order a conservative lobbying group to turn over records of a secret strategy session that preceded the Legislature’s vote to overturn a Nashville anti-discrimination ordinance, the Tennessean reports.
Attorney Abby Rubenfeld, who represents a coalition of council members, gay rights activists and others suing the state, said the lawsuit seeks to prove the law “was based on a desire to harm a politically unpopular group.”
Among other things, the plaintiffs are interested in records of a private strategy session in January attended by state representatives Glen Casada and Jim Gotto and a few dozen other conservatives, including Family Action Council of Tennessee leaders like businessmen Lee Beaman, Stan Hardaway and William Morgan.
Morgan wrote in an invitation to the strategy meeting that requiring all businesses in Davidson County to adopt similar nondiscrimination policies would be “the next item on the homosexual agenda if this (contractor ordinance) passes.”
“We want their communications with state legislators,” Rubenfeld said. “You can’t have government secrecy. That’s against everything this country stands for. We have transparency. We’re supposed to know what our legislators do.”
But Byron Babione, an attorney with the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Alliance Defense Fund, which is representing the Family Action Council, said the group’s communications are protected by the First Amendment.
“My clients make no apologies for being involved in the political process,” Babione said. “They have a right to petition their government. … The communications my clients had with fellow Tennesseans, with legislators, aren’t relevant to how the entire legislature voted. Our position is that our political opponents are not entitled to our playbook.”
The Family Action Council asked the court to quash the plaintiffs’ subpoenas of its officials. Davidson County Chancellor Carol McCoy said she would take the issue under advisement.

Lawsuit Filed Against Legislature’s Override of Nashville Anti-Discrimination Ordinance

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A lawsuit has been filed against a new state law that prohibits cities and counties from creating anti-discrimination regulations stricter than the state’s.
The law, signed into law by Gov. Bill Haslam in May, repealed a Nashville city ordinance barring companies that discriminate against gays and lesbians from doing business with the city.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed Monday in Davidson County Chancery Court include three Nashville council members who supported the ordinance and Lisa Howe, a former Belmont University coach who left the private university after revealing that she and her same-sex partner were having a baby.
Abby Rubenfeld, the plaintiffs’ attorney, said in a news conference that the statute unfairly targets gay and transgender Tennesseans.
A Haslam spokesman said it was inappropriate to comment on pending litigation.
Note: A news release distributed by the plaintiffs’ lawyer is below.

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