So Who’s the Bully?

Saying that some proposed public policy is not a good public policy is not bullying. Intimidating a business for its views on a public policy is.

Some in America want you and me to believe that if you oppose their political agenda, you are a bully. I originally thought that such people just didn’t know what bullying really meant. But now I know they don’t know what it means because they are for sure doing it to their political opponents. To do even worse than what they accuse their opponents of surely means they don’t know the meaning of bullying. Or maybe they are just hypocrites who want to make bullying a one-way street.

According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “bullying” means to “treat abusively or to affect by means of force or coercion.” Saying something that offends a person’s sensibilities may be mean, unkind, or even uncivil, but it is not bullying unless perhaps it spills over into verbal abuse. Setting forth policy arguments related to legislation to legislators is not bullying. To say otherwise is to condemn in the very same breath our entire political system. So, saying that some proposed public policy is not a good public policy is not bullying.

But if you happen to say, no matter how kindly, that you think it is not a good idea for government to mandate that businesses include “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” activities in their employment policies, then somehow you are being a bully. Not to enact such policies simply leaves these fellow citizens with the same civil rights I have, no more, no less.

Specifically, by advocating for Senate Bill 632, I’m somehow bullying people. SB 632 would prohibit every local government in Tennessee from imposing on a private business a definition of a “discriminatory practice” that goes beyond the law and public policy of the state. It’s a broadly worded law as it applies to any definition that goes beyond state law. And clearly one such definition is one that includes homosexuality and gender identity/expression.

So those who are for expanding the definition in that one specific way don’t like the bill. Fair enough. Neither I nor any legislator I know has a problem debating the various policies issues raised by the bill. And really, quite apart from the specific question of homosexual behavior is the true, broader question: What kind of authority and control should every city have over the internal operations of businesses, particularly as those businesses expand (hopefully) to other cities? That’s a fair question for debate.

But those opposed to the bill aren’t content with that. Last week the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry wrote a letter to certain Metro Council members who had heard to their chagrin that the Chamber supported SB 632 and wanted to make sure they had heard correctly. So the Chamber wrote a short, polite reply explaining why it supported the bill.

Rather than debate the reasons the Chamber provided, the organization in the state that advocates for sex-related legal mandates began a campaign to email all the businesses that employed members of the Chamber’s board, intimating that surely they didn’t know that one of their employees was for discrimination and surely their company wasn’t for discrimination. It’s the political equivalent of asking if you still beat your wife.

Now what could be the purpose of that campaign and that question to that person’s employer but to intimidate that employee, to create fear that he or she will get in trouble with his or her employer? And why might there be such a fear? Because the emailers is really suggesting to the employer, “We don’t like businesses that employ such people.” And, of course, if an employer sees a threat to his or her business or income, particularly in these economic times, then the employee causing the “problem” just might need to be “let go” to “solve” the problem. It’s for sure an attempt at intimidation and coercion that just happens to be what bullying is.

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) just ran a similar campaign against the law firm of King and Spaulding when it agreed to allow one of its attorneys to represent the U.S. House of Representatives in the lawsuit challenging the federal Defense of Marriage Act. So HRC’s campaign of intimidation succeeded, and the law firm withdrew from its representation. But, finally, some conservatives had the guts to say, essentially, “If you can be bullied by the left, we don’t want you representing us.” For example, the state of Virginia’s Attorney General said his office would no longer use the firm, and the National Rifle Association did the same.

At a time when every job is important to the person holding it and finding new employment is tough, it is particularly troubling that an organization would go after a person’s job. If you have to threaten, threaten the politician with not voting for him or her again or supporting an opponent. The politician signed up for that job.

But don’t bully your fellow citizen by trying to threaten his or her employment. So who’s the bully?