With Some Praise Of MLK, Tennessee Lawmakers Aim To Distance Themselves From White Nationalists | Nashville Public Radio

With Some Praise Of MLK, Tennessee Lawmakers Aim To Distance Themselves From White Nationalists

Jan 23, 2019

The Tennessee House of Representatives approved Wednesday a resolution that honors the legacy of Martin Luther King and denounces racism — a unanimous decision that the chamber's Republican leader hopes unanimously will set the tone for this year’s legislative session.

It comes after House lawmakers killed a measure last year denouncing white nationalism, a failure that some saw as an embarrassment for the Republican-led body.

“We are going to work for the benefit of all Tennesseans, regardless of what they look like, where they come from or even whether they are Republican, Democrat or in between," Majority Leader William Lamberth, who introduced the resolution, told WPLN. "We are going to work for the benefit of all Tennesseans, and we are going to do it together.”

The Sumner County Republican said the resolution, which was co-sponsored by House Minority Leader Karen Camper, calls out all racist groups.

But for Nashville Rep. John Ray Clemmons, the legislation doesn’t do enough. The Democrat filed a different resolution that denounces neo-Nazis and white nationalists explicitly. Clemmons' resolution also calls for law enforcement to classify these groups as domestic terrorist organizations.

He filed a similar measure in 2018 that died in a House subcommittee.

“I wanted to give our state and our body another chance to denounce these groups," Clemmons told reporters.

He said that he doesn’t plan to push for a vote immediately. But he hinted he could change his mind if the legislature doesn’t pursue proposals such as equal pay for women.