A Tennessee Christian-right leader is advising opponents of a bill that would extend Metro’s nondiscrimination policy to city contractors to contact five "key council members,” seemingly to urge disapproval of the ordinance.
David Fowler, a former Hamilton County state senator who now heads the conservative Family Action Council of Tennessee, has highlighted Metro Council members Sam Coleman, Emily Evans, Frank Harrison, Walter Hunt and Lonnell Matthews Jr. as possible swing votes on legislation that would require companies that do business with Metro to include employment protection for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered workers.
Earlier this month, Fowler hosted a closed-door meeting with dozens of notable business leaders, Christian conservatives and Republican state Reps. Glen Casada and Jim Gotto to plot their strategy to defeat the proposal.
The bill, sponsored by council members Jamie Hollin and Mike Jameson, is up for the second of three votes Feb. 1, but sponsors have said they plan to ask for a deferral to allow Mayor Karl Dean and the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce time to review the legislation. The bill cleared the council’s first reading by a 22-13 vote, but some yea-votes were presumably made to adhere to council process to direct the legislation into the council’s committee system.
In an email obtained by The City Paper, Fowler discusses the bill sponsors’ intentions to defer the bill, acknowledging it would be unlikely to override their intentions.
Anticipating that a vote before Feb. 15 –– the subsequent council meeting –– is unlikely, Fowler points specifically to five council members whom he seems to believe could play a pivotal role in deciding the fate of the ordinance. He provides reasons why he believes three of them may oppose the pending bill and posts their phone numbers.
• Coleman –– “He was a ‘no’ on the 2009 ordinance and probably cast a courtesy ‘yes’ vote on Tuesday.”
• Hunt –– “Initially opposed/expressed concern about ordinance in 2009 in committee but then switched”
• Evans –– “She represents part of Bellevue and could be open to pro-business argument”
The “2009 ordinance” Fowler refers to is the bill the council approved a year and a half ago to update Metro’s nondiscrimination policy that applies solely to Metro employees. “Tuesday” refers to the first of three votes on the bill at issue.
Fowler, who could not immediately be reached for comment, doesn’t provide reasons for including Matthews and Harrison on his list.
Contacted by The City Paper, Evans didn’t seem to know why her name was included.
“I guess it was because I wasn’t there for the vote on first reading,” Evans said. “My husband was in New York and my son was home along throwing up. So, I guess that’s the only reason.”
Matthews said he’s seen the email, adding he’s already formed a position on the ordinance.
“I’m supporting the bill,” he said. “There’s probably no way to really sway me, unless there was some way to show me that this was going to be financially detrimental to any private enterprise. I don’t see it as such, and I don’t see how it could be.”
Hunt seemed confused why Fowler has opted to go through others to contact council members.
“If he has a question with any bill that comes to the council, I think it would be more appropriate if he would contact me, rather than going through a third party,” Hunt said.
“I’m not understanding what his purpose is for the comments,” he said. “Where does he fit in this thing? I want to know who he is. I don’t ever recall even seeing the guy.”