In a lunch interview a couple of years ago, he told me, “Gay rights is a broad topic,” and proceeded to tap-dance his way around just about every question I asked.
Now he’s telling the Chattanooga Times Free Press there’s “no huge demand” for it. That’s why he’s not even thinking about extending health benefits to the same-sex spouses of state employees.
“First of all, I don’t sense a huge demand from most Tennesseans,” Haslam said. “If you went across Tennessee and looked at it, to me, it’s just, A: not something where there’s a lot of demand [for], or B: in terms of folks who would favor that.”
Seriously? Is that why Knoxville and Chattanooga are about to extend benefits to their employees, and Collegedale — a community dominated by evangelical Christians — already did it? Haslam’s real reason? A social moderate, he’d probably like to do the right thing — but he knows the legislature would revolt if he tried it.
Tennessee faces the same conundrum on another health issue: whether to expand Medicaid under Obamacare. We elected a governor who we thought would have the common sense to jump at the opportunity for universal health care when the feds are offering to pick up nearly all the cost. Instead, we wound up with a governor who’s so timid he’ll watch hospitals close rather than fight with extremists dominating the legislature.