Just for fun, we pulled the file marked “Sen. Mae Beavers." Right off the bat, we were delighted to discover an email to her from David Fowler—the Ralph Reed of Tennessee’s Christian Right and the driving force behind the state law. In this email, Fowler shockingly treats Beavers like a puppet on a string (does the Christian fundamentalist lobby really hold such power in Nashville?) and instructs her precisely what to say about the Tennessee Family Action Council’s bill. He obviously views Beavers as not exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer, but useful just the same as his bill's sponsor.
“The bill itself is not that complicated,” Fowler writes. “We don’t need more regulation of business and business sure doesn’t need the 348 different cities coming up with their own ideas of what a discriminatory practice is. That’s the line and you just repeat it like Glen Casada did last night when the bill passed the House 73 to 24.”
“Will the homosexuals be upset?” Fowler then asks. “Sure. But to be honest, they seem to be rather resigned on this bill.”
Whoops! Fowler misread the temperature of gay activists there. Outraged by his law, they launched a campaign to embarrass just about every major corporation in Tennessee into renouncing it. When that was done, they filed their lawsuit painting the state legislature as a bunch of bigots.
Also in the Beavers’ file, there were a lot of emails from constituents thanking the senator for beating back the homosexuals at the gate.
“Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might!” one said succinctly. Another called homosexuality “an abomination to God.”
In another email, Nashville car salesman Lee Beaman, also a big advocate for Fowler’s law, hails Beavers as “a true Christian American patriot!”
The Southern Baptist Convention's Richard Land gives a bizarre little treatise on homosexuality in his letter to Beavers.
“Attempts to discover a genetic source of homosexuality have failed,” he writes. “There is no evidence to dictate equating homosexual behavior with immutable distinctiveness. To do so mitigates the value of inalienable rights and trivializes the effort of those who seek to protect them.”
It’s not clear whether any of this will help the plaintiffs in the gay rights lawsuit. They need to prove that lawmakers adopted their law, not for their stated purpose of preventing burdensome new business regulations, but because of bias against gay people. Fowler’s email can be read either way. The bill stops confusing business regulations—“that’s the line” he wants Beavers to recite. It’s certainly Fowler’s script. It may (or may not) be subterfuge.
The emails in Beavers’ file show a lot of people obsessed with gay bashing, but there’s no smoking gun.