Proposed non-discrimination ordinance passes first reading

Nashville's Metro Council has passed on first reading an ordinance filed by at-large Council member Megan Barry that would add gender identity and sexual orientation to Nashville's current non-discrimination clause for Metro employees. The vote was 24 to 9.

The ordinance must pass two additional readings before it becomes law. At-large Council members Barry, Tim Garrett, Ronnie Steine and Jerry Maynard are the ordinance’s primary sponsors. Barry has been a strong supporter of the legislation and promised to push for the ordinance last year.

The first reading of the bill passed with little discussion.

Councilman Robert Duvall asked for the bill to be pulled out from a group of bills set to be passed in unison on first reading, saying "we are all protected under the Constitution and do not need to be adding special exceptions for sexual orientation. We're wasting our time." His request failed to garner enough votes, and Councilwoman Barry asked that the bill be passed on first reading, which resulted in the 24 to 9 vote.

Councilman Erik Crafton asked the council staff to "find out the definition of what sexual orientation means" and wanted the Metro Human Relations Commission for their 2007 and 2008 statistics on complaints related to sexual orientation."

Barry asked for the bill to be moved to its second reading where the bill could be "deliberated and discussed by following our established processes."

Mayor Karl Dean has said he supports the ordinance.

I am against discrimination,” Dean said in a Nashville City Paper article. “Everyone should be treated fairly when it comes to employment with the Metropolitan Government. I support this ordinance.”

An effort to pass a similar ordinance failed in 2003.

Metro’s current nondiscrimination ordinance makes it unlawful to fail or refuse to hire, promote, fire or discriminate against an individual based on race, religion, creed, gender, national origin, color, age or disability.

TEP Chair Christopher Sanders was part of the audience watching the proceeding and said afterward that he was pleased.

"We're pleased with the results," Sanders said. "We have good working numbers to begin but we're going to have to build on those numbers, and work hard to hold them and increase the margin."

The Tennessee Eagle Forum and Family Action Council of Tennessee were present in the audience and were working on council votes to defeat the bill.

"We're in for a real fight," Sanders said.

A second reading of the ordinance could take place as soon as two weeks. The bill will now head to a council committee, with observers saying that it will probably land in the hands of the council personnel committee.

Barry is set to talk about the ordinance at the July 28 meeting of the Nashville GLBT Chamber of Commerce to be held at the Loew's Vanderbilt Plaza Hotel. She will be joined by Sanders, who will talk about TEP's efforts to pass the bill.

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