Lawmakers at both the state and federal level—mostly liberal Democrats—have been stymied for years in attempting to pass legislation they would consider “progressive.”
With both houses of Congress under Republican control and the Tennessee General Assembly in the thrall of rural conservatives of both parties, self-styled progressives haven’t had much luck moving their pet bills through.
But Sen. Steve Cohen of Memphis, one of the few progressives to consistently win re-election to the state Senate, says he may have come up with a solution to passing those bills: tack the phrase “anti-gay” on the titles.
“We keep trying to get a bottle bill passed that will curb littering, but the business interests stop us every year,” Cohen says. “So next year we’re going to call it the ‘Anti-gay bottle bill,’ and then dare anybody to vote against it.
“Nobody’s going to want to face re-election when an opponent can run ads saying that an incumbent voted against a bill with ‘anti-gay’ in its name. That phrase almost makes legislation bulletproof.”
Among the other bills contemplated are the “Anti-gay living wage bill,” “The anti-gay funding for urban mass transit act,” and, in an amazing display of chutzpah, “The anti-gay domestic partnership act,” which would actually approve domestic partner benefits for gay couples.
“If we can take away civil rights in something called the Patriot Act, we can certainly guarantee gay rights in something with ‘anti-gay’ in its name,” Cohen says. “It’s not what it’s called that’s important, it’s what it does.”
U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is said to be interested in Cohen’s approach.
“We may soon have the ‘anti-gay minimum wage hike’ bill in Congress,” says a spokesman in her office. “I’m already picturing the ads we can run if the Republicans vote against it.”