Megan Barry, Metro Council Member-at-Large

Within weeks of Shelby County enacting similar legislation to protect county employees, the Metro Nashville Council has taken up a non-discrimination ordinance that includes sexual orientation and gender identity.

The ordinance was filed by freshman council member Megan Barry, and thus far has 10 cosponsors. It had its first reading on July 21 and could move out of council and onto the mayor’s desk for signing this month, should it remain intact through a three-reading process.

That’s the goal of many organizations in the Nashville GLBT community, including the Tennessee Equality Project (TEP) and the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition (TTPC), whose members recall the fate of similar legislation in 2003. That year, forces opposed to extending Metro’s existing discrimination coverage carried the day, and the broader measure was defeated on its second reading.

This time around, supporters vow to get behind the ordinance and to make sure that a broad spectrum of the community is heard from to counter charges that this is only a “gay” or “special rights” issue.

“It's encouraging to have 10 sponsors of the legislation and the public support of Mayor Karl Dean,” said Chris Sanders, TEP chair. “Those factors bode well for the ordinance's chances.”

 “We are pleased that Megan Barry and 10 council members have introduced a fully inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance,” said Marisa Richmond, president of the TTPC. “This will allow Nashville to continue being competitive for the best workers when the value and contributions of all of its citizens are recognized. We are working with TEP and others to build support for the ordinance so that it will pass.”

TEP has enlisted its members and those of other organizations to compose teams for each Metro Council district, and those people will now be tasked with getting the word out in each part of the city and county, thus mobilizing as many components of the community as quickly as possible.

"After the first reading, we'll see where we are and make any needed adjustments to our work,” Sanders said. “The district captains have done a good job of getting people to contact their council members. In some cases, they've gathered information we didn't know before such as how some officials are leaning on the issue. That's a big part of what it comes down to — the volume of citizens strategically contacting their representatives. We believe we're way ahead of any opposition on that score." 

If enacted, the ordinance would emulate a policy that already exists for teachers and employees of the Metro Nashville Public Schools, and it would have more teeth than the Shelby County measure, which in its final form was a resolution prohibiting discrimination based on non-merit factors but nonetheless is legally enforceable.

For more information on the ordinance, or to contact TEP and other organizations working to secure its passage, visit tnep.org/nashville.
 

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