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VOL. 35 | NO. 36 | Friday, September 9, 2011




Conservative group leader blasts BlueCross diversity

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NASHVILLE (AP) — The head of a conservative group berated BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee for showing a "cultural acceptance of homosexual conduct" in dealing with suppliers. A spokeswoman for the state's largest insurer said its commitment to diversity was nothing new.

An email sent by former state Sen. David Fowler, who heads of the Family Action Council of Tennessee, accused the Chattanooga-based insurer of revealing in an Aug. 24 letter to suppliers that it has quietly joined the "culture wars."

The BlueCross BlueShield letter said its diversity commitment includes small, disadvantaged, minority, women, service-disabled veteran, veteran-owned, HUB-zone or low-income areas and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender owned businesses.

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

BlueCross spokeswoman Mary Danielson told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that they have been doing outreach for nonprofit insurers that have extensive state and federal government contracts (http://bit.ly/osoU8X ).

"BlueCross is committed to supplier diversity as a good business practice," Danielson said in an 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."

Chris Sanders of the Tennessee Equality Project, a statewide advocacy group for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, said Fowler was "trying to claim the victim mantle." He said Fowler was 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 said BlueCross, with about 3 million customers, may be reacting to a backlash from national gay organizations this spring after Tennessee lawmakers approved a measure that does not allow cities to approve ordinances that ban anti-gay discrimination by local government contractors.

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

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