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Nissan Comes Out Of The Closet Against Anti-Gay Tennessee Law Page 2

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In a statement (issued following Nissan's release), the Chamber's executive committee said that while it supports "a standard regulatory environment at the state level, as opposed to potentially conflicting local regulations covering employment practices," that principle had been its only interest in supporting the bill.

Now, because the bill "has turned into a debate on diversity and inclusiveness principles, which we support," it said, the Chamber is "now officially opposing this legislation in its present form."

To be fair to Nissan, the company had issued a previous and more detailed statement on Friday that expanded on the same thought at more length, saying,

Nissan has a long-standing commitment to providing a diverse, inclusive work environment for all stakeholders, including those who are gay, lesbian, bi-sexual or transgender.

Nissan strives to develop, promote and recruit at all levels of the organization so that our workforce represents the diverse communities and customers we serve, and to create an internal environment where everyone's background and perspective are respected.

Nissan lithium-ion battery pack plant under construction, Smyrna, Tennessee, Jan 2011

Nissan lithium-ion battery pack plant under construction, Smyrna, Tennessee, Jan 2011

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In addition, all Nissan employees who are eligible for and enroll in company benefit programs may enroll a same-sex domestic partner for medical, dental and vision coverage, and same-sex domestic partners are eligible to participate in the company's employee lease-vehicle program.

We believe that consistent statewide employment standards, rather than a cumbersome array of local laws and ordinances, are essential to maintaining our state's economic competitiveness. However, HB600/SB632 has become more closely associated with eroding civil liberties than fostering a strong business climate and this we do not support.

This explicit policy of non-discrimination, on both sexual orientation and gender expression, has long been a part of Nissan's culture, said the company's vice president for corporate communications, David Reuter .

"And it's not only a policy," he said, "it's the way we operate,"

Over the last week, Nissan received increasing levels of feedback (for which read "e-mails and phone calls") that indicated many people believe Nissan supported the goal of the bill that was passed last week.

That, he said, was what led the company to issue its statement. The bill's passage "has not changed how we operate," and won't, Reuter said.

As for politics around such legislation in Tennessee in the future, Reuter declined comment.

Which is probably wise, because bills targeting the lesbian and gay community seem popular in Tennessee at the moment.

On Friday, the Tennessee Senate passed the "Don't Say 'Gay'" bill, which would make it illegal for public school teachers to discuss the existence of gay and lesbian people. The House will take it up next year.

Nissan, if it is lucky, will have no dog whatsoever in that fight.

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