Metro Council members Jamie Hollin and Mike Jameson said Thursday they plan to file a bill that would require third-party vendors that contract with Metro to have nondiscrimination employment policies covering sexual orientation and gender identity.
It’s the latest council proposal spurred on by Belmont University’s controversial dismissal of gay women’s soccer coach Lisa Howe, whose supporters say was fired after school officials discovered she plans to have a baby with her same-sex partner.
The same East Nashville council members earlier this week filed a bill that would rescind Metro’s agreement allowing Belmont to use nearby Rose Park unless the school adopts a nondiscrimination policy that reflects Metro’s.
A bill enacted last year made it unlawful for Metro to discriminate through its employment practices on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Two days ago, Mayor Karl Dean directed the city’s autonomous boards, commissions and authorities to adopt that same policy. The new Hollin and Jameson bill would essentially carry Metro’s nondiscrimination clause to companies that do business with the city.
The bill would go before the council on the first of three votes in January.
“This will provide a vehicle that any contracting parties with the Metropolitan Government of Nashville-Davidson County meet our government’s nondiscrimination policy,” Hollin said. “We will avoid the Belmont situation in the future.”
Hollin said he’s still waiting word from council attorney Jon Cooper on whether the bill would require companies currently under contract with Metro to change their policies.
“If this policy is to have any meaning, we’d look at all our existing contracts to see if those organizations have similar polices and, if not, ask them to enter into an amendment of their existing agreement demonstrating their company’s nondiscrimination polices consistent with the Metro government.”
Jameson, who has previously cited his district’s “significant gay and lesbian population,” said the bill would address all forms of discrimination, including discrimination based on sexual orientation.
“While it won’t retroactively solve recent controversies arising at Belmont, it will eliminate the possibility of any future sexual orientation discrimination under similar circumstances,” he said.
Chris Sanders, who chairs the Nashville committee of the Tennessee Equality Project, called the proposal “an appropriate next step.”
“It’s a privilege to do business with Metro,” Sanders said. “It’s not an automatic right. It’s typical for any entity to have standards for contracting.”