Tennessee’s Lee sued over racial-based oversight board member requirement

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(The Center Square) – A Virginia-based nonprofit group called Do Not Harm filed a lawsuit Wednesday against Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, attempting to block a mandate that every government regulatory board has at least one member who is a racial minority.

The Pacific Legal Foundation filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Nashville after a Tennessee resident and Do Not Harm member has not been placed on the Board of Podiatric Medical Examiners because he was not a racial minority.

Two positions on the six-member board became open in June and one of the spots being vacated includes the only board member who is a racial minority.

The lawsuit says Lee has not made board appointments despite there being no shortage of qualified candidates. The 1988 law requires the governor to strive to have one member of each of his advisory boards be 60 years of age or older and one member that is a racial minority.

“Tennessee law forces governor after governor to engage in racial discrimination when making appointments to state boards and commissions,” Laura D’Agostino, an attorney with Pacific Legal Foundation, said in a statement. “Using race to make appointments to government boards is not only demeaning and unconstitutional, but it undermines the distinctive spirit of the Volunteer State by precluding opportunities for Tennesseans to serve their local communities.”

A report from the group Public Service Denied shows Tennessee is one of 25 states that have the racial board requirement.

“State medical boards are given important responsibilities to oversee the quality of care in their state and the safety of patients. It is crucial that they be the most qualified physicians available. Like all aspects of healthcare, patient safety and patient concerns should be primary, not the skin color or the racial makeup of any oversight committee,” Do Not Harm board chair Stanley Goldfarb, said in a statement.

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