published Thursday, September 8th, 2011

BlueCross' push for diversity incurs wrath of conservative group

Follow us on Twitter for the latest breaking news
  • photo
    The Cameron Hill headquarters of BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee in downtown Chattanooga.
    Staff File Photo by Dan Henry/Chattanooga Times Free Press

NASHVILLE — BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee's inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender business owners in a push for supplier diversity is generating fire and brimstone from a conservative Christian advocacy group headed by former state Sen. David Fowler.

In an email, the one-time Signal Mountain attorney who is now president of the Family Action Council of Tennessee accuses the Chattanooga-based insurer of having "officially joined the 'culture wars' with a quiet little move."

"Appears that the insurer is trading in its traditional blue for a rainbow of colors," jabbed Fowler, alluding to the color blue BlueCross uses in promotions and the multicolored gay-pride flag.

He cites an Aug. 24 letter BlueCross sent to company suppliers. In it, BlueCross states the company, through its Supplier Diversity Team, is "passionately adopting the spirit of diversity within its supplier business relationships," including lesbian-, gay-, bisexual- and transgender-owned businesses.

Fowler said that if BlueCross is "so passionate" about the issue, "where were the press releases? Maybe they didn't want to be too 'loud' about it because they didn't want all their conservative, pro-family premium payers to realize that their premium dollars were going to support the advancement and cultural acceptance of homosexual conduct."

The letter to suppliers also says BlueCross is devoting "considerable time and energy toward the creation of innovative outreach efforts designed to benefit all parties."

A "key initiative" in that, the letter says, is to "create and enhance procurement contracting opportunities with companies that classify as small, disadvantaged, minority, women, service-disabled veteran, veteran-owned, HUB-zone [low-income areas] and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender owned businesses."

BlueCross spokeswoman Mary Danielson said diversity outreach is nothing new for the nonprofit insurers, which has private pay customers but also extensive state and federal government contracts.

"BlueCross is committed to supplier diversity as a good business practice," Danielson said by email. "As part of that effort we regularly mail a supplier self certification form to our 3,000 vendors. We mail this form to update their business classification records in our system. Those classifications, provided by the federal government, cover a range of groups.

"Additionally," Danielson said, "maintaining accurate vendor record information is a federal requirement when serving as a government contractor."

In his email, Fowler says that "clearly the LGBT community is no longer disadvantaged nor unable to protect itself in the business world."

The former lawmaker speculated that BlueCross' move may stem from what he says was a backlash from national gay organizations this spring after the Republican-controlled General Assembly passed a Fowler-generated bill that banned cities from enacting ordinances banning anti-gay discrimination by local government-contractors.

The original bill declared local ordinances cannot go beyond state law in the dealing with discrimination, health insurance, minimum wages or family leave. After running into trouble, the bill, aimed at a Metro Nashville ordinance, was restricted to banning anti-gay discrimination by local government contractors.

The bill was supported by the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry. After it passed, gay organizations put pressure on national firms and other companies belonging to the state Chamber. The Chamber eventually reversed its position and at the last minute urged Republican Gov. Bill Haslam to veto it. Instead, Haslam signed it.

"Earlier this year," Fowler said, "Blue Cross was criticized by national homosexual rights groups because one of its employees was on the board of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce when its board voted to publicly support [the bill] that, among other things, prevented local governments from mandating that private businesses adopt pro-homosexual employment policies."

"So," Fowler added, "perhaps to further make up for its 'offense' in having an employee part of the Tennessee Chamber's scandalous support of House Bill 600, Blue Cross felt it needed to bring LGBT-owned companies onto its list of businesses they want to try to help along."

BlueCross spokeswoman Danielson said "there is no connection to our ongoing supplier diversity efforts and the recent legislation."

Chris Sanders of the Tennessee Equality Project, a statewide organization involved in promoting and protecting civil rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, was critical of Fowler.

"He's trying to claim the victim mantle," Sanders said. "He's trying to ... make an assertion that right-wing evangelicals are being beat up on in the culture and use that as a rallying cry."

Fowler started the Family Action Council of Tennessee after leaving the General Assembly following 12 years in the state Senate.

The group's stated mission is "to equip Tennesseans and their elected officials to effectively promote and defend a culture that values the traditional family, for the sake of the common good. Our belief is that healthy families and communities come about when basic values from the Bible are embraced."

Blue Cross serves 3 million Tennesseans and is the state's largest health insurer.

Connect with the Times Free Press on Facebook

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
nucanuck said...

It doesn't take much to set off the neo-Christians. I want the real Christians back.

September 8, 2011 at 2:01 a.m.
fftspam said...

He's just channeling his inner Dan Martino.

September 8, 2011 at 2:28 a.m.
sandyonsignal said...

Why are the right wingers obsessed with the gays? Their obsession tells more about them than what they are trying to accomplish.

Let's live and let live. Enough with the hatred.

September 8, 2011 at 6:42 a.m.
Soddynooga said...

As a business owner, I'd like you all to keep your bibles and sexual preference to yourself. This is business. What happened to merit? The most competitive?

I would sure hope Blue Cross is not working on a quota by supporting a gay supplier over the best qualified. I would hope they are just saying they won't back down from working with the best option if they are gay.

Fowler on the other hand is just ignorant.

September 8, 2011 at 6:43 a.m.
sandyonsignal said...

At first glance, I thought the photo of Fowler on the front page of the Times Free Press was a picture of Pee Wee Herman. Hmm.. perhaps Fowler is evolving into a PeeWee clone.

September 8, 2011 at 6:51 a.m.
LibDem said...

I think Mr. Fowler is in 'fund raising' mode.

September 8, 2011 at 6:53 a.m.
quietreader said...

I don't understand why business should be awarded to a company because of the owners gender. Why not give business to companies because they provide the best product for the best value? Same for hiring. Hire the person that is best qualified regardless of race or gender. This political correctness to appease special interest groups is just wrong.

September 8, 2011 at 7:19 a.m.
joepulitzer said...

You ignoramus dummies, can't you see the gays and lesbians want their lifestyle accepted by society and taught that it is as normal to be gay or lesbian as it is to be heterosexual. Why? Primarily, to broaden their playing field, which has been very limited under the "queer" label. And if they accomplish that goal, will they start on the animal kingdom: trying to make horses, cows, dogs, cats ... gay and lesbians? Which begs the question: Wonder why those animals are't already gay and lesbian? How will you like it when your son brings home his sweetheart, Jack, to meet his parents? nucanuck, the real Christians are here. They're the ones who really believe the Bible is the truth and that God made mankind distinctly male and female for a reason: To reproduce. How many gay and lesbian couples can do that?

September 8, 2011 at 7:20 a.m.
joepulitzer said...

BlueCross spokeswoman Danielson said "there is no connection to our ongoing supplier diversity efforts and the recent legislation."


September 8, 2011 at 7:35 a.m.
hcirehttae said...

"A pox on both your houses" -- BCBS and the Right Wing.

September 8, 2011 at 7:48 a.m.
adolphochs said...

The ultimate irony: Roy McDonald is spinning in his grave at the speed of light. He founded what became Blue Cross of Tennessee.

As a very large consumer of BCBS' product, I'm really curious how the logistics of this policy work. Is there a box on the application for services card that asks what the sexual preference of the owners are or can you just have one or two employees whose sexual proclivities meet BCBS' requirements? Or is the determination more subtle as in "Are you male, female, undecided?" How about, once you've identified your sex, "Do you prefer boys to girls?", "Whose clothes are you most comfortable in, your mother's or father's?" "Are you a caterer, hair dresser or florist?"

September 8, 2011 at 8:59 a.m.
LibDem said...

I'm not sure this says BCBS is giving preference to diverse vendors, only including them in its vendor data.

I agree with L4F that vendors should be selected on the basis of the ability to provide a product or service. This can't be done, of course, if some vendors have been excluded based on some criteria other than quality of product or service.

Certainly, we have to sympathize with joepulitzer. If there's anything we desperately need, it's more babies. Our teenagers aren't doing all they can.

September 8, 2011 at 9:46 a.m.
Onceuponatime said...

Mr. Joepulitzer, while I myself am straight but supportive of lgbt rights I would like you to know that not all animals are "straight". There are plenty of cases of gay animals or bi-sexual animals. Also if my son came home and said he was gay. I wouldn't care, God made him that way and he is still my son!

September 8, 2011 at 9:49 a.m.

Yaaaawn. Non-story.

This is the key phrase that should be noticed: ""Additionally," Danielson said, "maintaining accurate vendor record information is a federal requirement when serving as a government contractor.""

As a former state representative and a lawyer, Mr. Fowler should have known that BCBS is just complying with federal requirements. I agree. The federal government shouldn't call these groups out making their "status" into some big issue. Vendors should be chosen based upon value and quality of work.

Just more special interest political pandering by the feds. Mr. Fowler should have recognized that as well.

September 8, 2011 at 10:07 a.m.
sangaree said...

sandyonsignal said... Why are the right wingers obsessed with the gays?

Because most are closet gays themselves, and just too shy to admit it? wink

September 8, 2011 at 10:16 a.m.
Oz said...

Is a light skinned lesbian African-American female with green eyes more diverse than a short Hispanic gay male with blue eyes or would a transgendered tall White female with red hair be the most diverse? If they are equal would their BMI be the tie breaker or the diversity of their partner?

As a consumer, I want the best product available for the money. Do you want to fly on a plane built by the best vendors available or vendors chosen for their sexual orientation? Vendor selection should be based on quality and price with everyone competing. When my flight is ready to take off, I could care less about the sexual orientation of the pilot or vendors involved.

September 8, 2011 at 10:23 a.m.
ldurham said...

The Lord gave us people like David Fowler so we can appreciate how normal everyone else is.

September 8, 2011 at 10:50 a.m.
eastridge8 said...

The best/lowest bid vendors WILL be excluded because like African-American vendors the Gay/Lesbion vendors will SCREAM the same bias crap! and get away with it!! And once again majority rule FLIES out the window and we will be scratching our pinheads wondering what happened to America the beautiful!! America the Dream...

I agree with joepulitzer....100%!

September 8, 2011 at 11:16 a.m.
memphisexile said...

Instead of being constantly worried about what gay people are doing, why can't Mr. Fowler concentrate his money and time on something more useful like improving education, fighting poverty or finding a cure for some disease? I do however agree that no preference should be given any supplier no matter what their race, national origin, religion or sexual preference. This is not the 1950s where people will be frozen out because they are black. The only color these companies care about is is green.

Personally, I think anyone that is as rabidly anti-gay as many of these so called conservative christians is more than likely a self-hating closet homosexual.

September 8, 2011 at 11:35 a.m.
brokentoe said...

ldurham said... The Lord gave us people like David Fowler so we can appreciate how normal everyone else is

You mean like those normal heterosexual perverts that prey on children and underage teenagers? When comparing, how often has a homosexual verses a hetereosexual teacher, cop and other adult authority figure gotten busted for preying on our youth? It's usually those you call normals getting busted.

September 8, 2011 at 2:04 p.m.
Musicman375 said...

Am I the only one who noticed, according to the article above, that BCBS has 3000 supply vendors? Does this guy honestly think they are only contracting "LGBT-owned companies" for their supplies? Smoke and mirrors, people. There's no reason for anyone to care what this Fowler guy thinks regarding a portion (and probably a rather small portion if I had to guess) of their vendors. Use your noodles, readers. They didn't become the largest insurer in the state by choosing vendors based on anything other than what the vendor has to offer. The feds might require the "LSBT" owners to list their businesses as such, but I would bet the farm BCBS isn't specifically looking for those owners and contracting them without making sure they're the best vendor for the product being offered.

September 8, 2011 at 2:20 p.m.
adolphochs said...

Musicman375: What the "S" in "LSBT" stand for? I'm assuming it's not straight.

September 8, 2011 at 2:31 p.m.
Musicman375 said...

Sorry adolphochs, that should have been a "G."

September 8, 2011 at 2:36 p.m.
petuniadewitt said...

you have the BEST company BEST able do to the BEST job when not just rich, white, straight men call the shots; thus, diversity is about building the BEST company, positioned to take advantage of the FUTURE, not mired in the past; Bilble-thumping lives on in the slave states, but soon, whites will be a minority in the US (as they already are in the world), and no amount of Islamic/Christian/Ortho-Judiaism will keep women as property and homosexualists as criminals; it's good BUSINESS to recognize that NOW

September 8, 2011 at 2:37 p.m.
macropetala8 said...

eastridge8 said... we will be scratching our pinheads wondering what happened to America the beautiful!! America the Dream...

Heym east! You wouldn't be talking about that same "america the beautiful, america the dream".... that once hung individuals from trees, bridge rafters, and whatever else they could find, all because they didn't like the color of their skin, would you? Those same pinheads in that dreaming and beautiful america that denied individuals the right to vote, receive a fair education. Who burned down homes of individuals and ran them from their homes in the middle of the night all for the color of their skin? Awwwwwh! nostalgia....Those were the days wasn't it, eastridge8. Wonderful, beautiful, dreamlike days. {sarcasm}

September 8, 2011 at 4:04 p.m.
rikkibobby said...

All this BS about the Homosexial lifestyle as being normal and God ordained is akin to saying the Madoff SCANDAL was a real business. I mean afterall look at the # of people who bought in to it- "surely that makes it a legitamate business", doesn"t it?? No, No, No,it does not! The same deceptive laws are at work here. Until you choose to look at the foundation and realize it also is built on lies, many more "suckers" will fall victim to its wicked schemes.

September 8, 2011 at 4:23 p.m.

I don't believe that any group should be given any sort of preference. They want to whine and moan about how they are oppressed, but the more they get the more they want. Enough. I also want society to stop referring to homosexual males as "gay". The word should have no sexual meaning. Can someone explain why society has to constantly listen to a special interest group talk about their sexual preference? I don't spout off about my sex life and I damned sure don't want to listen to anybody else talk about theirs.

September 8, 2011 at 5:08 p.m.
ginagirl43 said...

Right ARYFROSTY. don't like it shoved in my face either.

September 8, 2011 at 5:59 p.m.
eastridge8 said...

No, macropetal...I'm NOT talking about the sorry past...only the here and now! The past of which YOU speak was WRONG, NO question! I totally agree slavery/hangings were awful/terrible/horrendous whatever word you want to use...I was speaking of now...the terrible things that are going on now...No jobs for middle Americans due to Political Correctness which has taken over sane peoples thinking! Middle Americans...the majority! And I'm talking about ALL AMERICANS!! ALL LEGAL CITIZENS!! Now does THAT make it clear for you???....PINHEAD!...(NO sarcasm)

September 8, 2011 at 6:12 p.m.
macropetala8 said...

eastridge8 said: I was speaking of now...the terrible things that are going on now...No jobs for middle Americans due to Political Correctness

No you aren't speaking of now, e8. You were glorifying olden days and ignoring the reality of those days. If there had not been politicial incorrectness then there would be no need for political correctness now. Political correctness has little to nothing to do with today's jobless situation. You're completely naive to believe it does. So when do you and your politicially INcorrect homies go back to blowing up churches with little children inside to drive home your point?

September 8, 2011 at 6:31 p.m.
harrystatel said...

David Fowler- He's Not Blind, but He Does Need Glasses!

David Fowler took $10,000.00 in Tennessee Taxpayer money to study pornography.

"Little" David Fowler. Think about him -- 'cause he's thinking about you (in a creepy way).

Watch for Ayatollah David at a window near you--God's own Peeping Tom.

September 8, 2011 at 7 p.m.
Humphrey said...

I think that Mr. Fowler is worried about that funny tingly feeling he gets under his pink shirt every time he has to think about what those naughty gays are doing.

September 8, 2011 at 7:51 p.m.
NoMyth said...

BCBS needs to have a single focus...reduce it's operating costs and reduce costs for consumers while providing world-class service. Most BCBS employees are overpaid and underperform...a tax borne by many employers and employees throughout the country.

September 8, 2011 at 7:52 p.m.
tifosi said...

A farmer went out one day and bought a brand new stud rooster for his chicken coop. The new rooster struts over to the old rooster and says, 'OK old fart, Time for you to retire.'

The old rooster replies, 'Come on, surely you cannot handle ALL of these chickens.

Look what it has done to me. Can't you just let me have the two old hens over in the corner?'

The young rooster says, 'Beat it: You are washed up and I am taking over.'

The old rooster says, 'I tell you what, young stud. I will race you around the farmhouse. Whoever wins gets the exclusive domain over the entire chicken coop.'

The young rooster laughs. 'You know you don't stand a chance, old man. So, just to be fair, I will give you a head start.'

The old rooster takes off running. About 15 seconds later the young rooster takes off running after him. They round the front porch of the farmhouse and the young rooster has closed the gap. He is only about 5 feet behind the old rooster and gaining fast!

The farmer, meanwhile, is sitting in his usual spot on the front porch when he sees the roosters running by. The Old Rooster is squawking and running as hard as he can. The Farmer grabs his shotgun and

  • BOOM -

He blows the young rooster to bits. The farmer sadly shakes his head and says, 'Dammit.....Third gay rooster I bought this month.'

Moral of this Story? ..... Don't mess with the OLD FARTS -

Age, skill, wisdom, and a little treachery Always overcome youth and arrogance! OLD DUDES RULE!

September 8, 2011 at 8:39 p.m.
rolando said...

I had a bumper sticker like that on the trailer for my old Coronado 16 sailboat, tfosi; "Old age and treachery will overcome youth and skill".

Got lots of smiles from the other old farts...but they all agreed with it.

September 8, 2011 at 9:53 p.m.
mountainlaurel said...

Family Action Council's Mission statement says: "Our belief is that healthy families and communities come about when basic values from the Bible are embraced."

Somebody should point out to this Mr. Fowler and the Family Action Council that those who truly embrace the Christian Bible do not judge others - and the Bible says so.

September 8, 2011 at 10:17 p.m.
rolando said...

Here is what happens when a company adopts a so-called "spirit of diversity". It becomes anything but diverse...intolerant would be a better word-choice.

The attached excerpt is from a letter written by Dr. Mike Adams and sent on June 16, 2011 to Mr. John Chambers, Office of the President, Cisco Systems, Inc, in San Josee, California.


. . . .

In 2008, Dr. Turek was hired by Cisco to design and conduct a leadership and teambuilding program for about fifty managers with your Remote Operations Services team. The program took about a year to conduct, during which he also conducted similar sessions for another business unit within Cisco. That training earned such high marks that in 2010 he was asked to design a similar program for about 200 managers within Global Technical Services. Ten separate eight-hour sessions were scheduled.

The morning after completing the seventh session earlier this year, a manager in that session —who was one of the better students in that class—phoned in a complaint. It had nothing to do with content of the course or how it was conducted. In fact, the manager commented that the course was “excellent” as did most who participated. His complaint regarded Dr. Turek’s political and religious views that were never mentioned during class, but that the manager learned by “googling” Dr. Turek after class.

The manager identified himself as gay and was upset that Dr. Turek had written this book providing evidence that maintaining our current marriage laws would be best for the country. Although the manager didn’t read the book, he said that the author’s view was inconsistent with “Cisco values” and could not be tolerated. (Dr. Turek is aware of this because he was in the room when his call came in.) The manager then contacted an experienced HR professional at Cisco who had Dr. Turek fired that day without ever speaking to him. The HR professional also commended the manager for “outing” Dr. Turek.

This firing had nothing to do with course content—the program earned very high marks from participants. It had nothing to do with budget constraints—the original contract was paid in full recently. A man was fired simply because of his personal political and religious beliefs—beliefs that are undoubtedly shared by thousands of your very large and diverse workforce.

. . .


Read all three columns/letters on the topic. It is an eye-opener for those not familiar with how diversity works in the real world.

September 8, 2011 at 10:22 p.m.
rolando said...

As Cisco Systems so eloquently pointed out through their actions, mtlural, it is they who did the judging... And that is exactly who will be doing the judging at BlueCross/BlueShield.

Best to nip this BS in the bud.

September 8, 2011 at 10:32 p.m.
rolando said...

Oh yes. Bank of America quite recently fired Dr Turek because of his book...not because of anything to do with his work, but simply because he wrote a book.

It appears BofA is intolerant of Christians, even those still "in the closet".

Hm./ Time to consider changing banks after 55 years...they are not the bank they were.

September 8, 2011 at 10:41 p.m.
eastridge8 said...

So, macropetal, you think you can speak FOR me now? You think YOU KNOW what I'm thinking? think YOU can interpret my feelings/opinions and words? arrogant can you be?

Well, interpret this, pal... * ! ** * * **! * * *!

September 9, 2011 at 9:15 a.m.
please login to post a comment

Other National Articles

videos »         

photos »         

e-edition »

400 East 11th St., Chattanooga, TN 37403
General Information (423) 756-6900
Copyright, Permissions, Terms & Conditions, Privacy Policy, Ethics policy - Copyright ©2014, Chattanooga Publishing Company, Inc. All rights reserved.
This document may not be reprinted without the express written permission of Chattanooga Publishing Company, Inc.