Council prepares to vote on contractor nondiscrimination bill

Monday, February 14, 2011 at 9:27pm

A razor-close vote is expected Tuesday night when the Metro Council considers a nondiscrimination bill that would require companies contracting with the city to include employment protections for gay, lesbian and transgender workers.

Mayor Karl Dean has said the proposal “makes sense” and that he would be sign the bill into law if it clears the council. But the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce has expressed concern with the ordinance and is pushing for its deferral.

Two council committees Monday weighed in on the controversial ordinance, which would extend the same nondiscrimination policy that pertains to Metro workers to companies that do business with the city. The council’s Budget and Finance Committee vote breakdown went six for the bill, six against, with one abstention. The council’s Personnel Committee voted 5-3 to recommend an indefinite deferral of the bill.

Though both are non-binding votes, the committee discourse did provide a sign of things to come when the 40-member body discusses the ordinance Tuesday. The bill is up for the council’s second of three votes.

“This class has endured decades, if not millennia, of discrimination,” said Councilman Mike Jameson, one of the bill’s three sponsors “And I know that. And I know also that this is a category that they do not choose.

“This is a class of people that needs to be heard,” he said.

Jameson’s remarks were part of a spirited exchange with Councilman Phil Claiborne, who took exception with the bill singling out “sexual orientation and gender identity.” Claiborne indicated he would be more open to a bill that would prohibit discrimination for any “non-merit” based reasons, which he coined a “blanket policy.”

“If we’re talking about discrimination, then why don’t we address everybody?” Claiborne asked. “Why do we call out one group?”

A similar “non-merit’ bill was introduced in 2009 before the council ultimately voted to update the government’s nondiscrimination policy to include sexual orientation and gender identity. The 2009 law applies only to government workers. 

Councilman Jim Hodge, who voted against the nondiscrimination bill two years ago, called the latest proposal “unconscionable and unnecessary.”

“We’re a public body,” Hodge said. “We have no business going where this bill goes.”

But Councilman Jamie Hollin, another bill sponsor, framed the issue this way:

“Imagine if everybody in this council were gay,” Hollin said. “Each person sitting here, being gay, would we allow the expenditure of our tax dollars to go to a company discriminating people for being gay? I submit to you that we would stand up on the mountain top and raise hell and say, ‘No.’ The fact that we’re not gay doesn’t change that.”

Working in the backdrop is a state bill, filed by Republican Rep. Glen Casada, that seeks to prevent local municipalities, including Metro, from adopting nondiscrimination measures that affect the private sector.

Some council members indicated concern over the impact of the pending state legislation. Councilman Rip Ryman made a motion to defer a vote on the ordnance until June to wait until the state takes action. His motion failed.

“If the state passes their bill, which negates whatever we pass here ... I can’t see why we would pass something knowing that it’s very, very possible that could happen in the state,” Ryman said.

The council bill has been met with criticism from Christian right organizations. During Monday's committee meetings, David Fowler, head of the Family Action Council of Tennessee, registered as a lobbyist at the council office. Fowler confirmed his registration was in preparation for Tuesday's vote on the nondiscrimination bill. 

19 Comments on this post:

By: HokeyPokey on 2/15/11 at 5:04

Just one good argument against the bill is all I ask.

One good argument that doesn't mention Jesus, God, Allah, Muhammad or Holy Scripture.

How hard is that?

HP

By: spooky24 on 2/15/11 at 7:13

Political posturing by inexperienced would-be politicians who seem to always find the gay community for their ambitious needs.
Sadly, some people believe they are doing this because they believe in the policy-they don't-just how far will it take them is the only thing that matters.

sp

By: pswindle on 2/15/11 at 9:18

Why should someone not be hired to work because of who they are. If they can do the job, hire them. We are who we are.

By: Alphadog7 on 2/15/11 at 9:29

HokeyPokey: Way to discriminate again Christians and Muslims. Do Christians and Muslims not count? How bigoted.

PSWindle: In certain jobs your philosophy and personality are a large part of weather you can do the job. For others jobs it doesn't matter so much. People can decide that, we don't need a law punishing those who don't subscribe to a certain way of thinking.

By: bruingeek on 2/15/11 at 9:33

Should this bill pass the council, just how will this be enforced? Will every contractor who applies for project work be forced to indicate their sexual orientation? How else would metro know if there is even the possibility of sexual orientation discrimination? The general visuals of gender, age, and race are pretty obvious for identifying possible discriminations...but how does one prove that he/she is GLBT in order to establish themselves as a protected group?

By: govskeptic on 2/15/11 at 10:01

A large majority of the council are there, not to think, but to get
in on a lifetime of mostly taxpayer funded medical insurance.
Expect a "group think" on this bill just like on many others!

By: Antisocialite on 2/15/11 at 10:04

The only thing the bill requires is that any Metro contractor add 'gender identity and sexual orientation' to the already federally mandated 'race, religion, age, disability, national origin, gender, and creed' in their non discrimination policies. Honestly, I don't see what is so hard about this concept. There is no quota, or questionnaire that will have to be filled. It would simply allow those that may be fired, not hired, or not promoted because of who they are attracted to or what gender they feel comfortable as seek legal recourse.

The general visuals of gender, age, and race are pretty obvious for identifying possible discriminations...but how does one prove that he/she is GLBT in order to establish themselves as a protected group?

The question of how one proves he or she is GLBT is as absurd as asking how one proves they are Christian, Muslim, Jew or Buddhist. How you identify yourself is what you are. And if you are insinuating that there will be a rash of lawsuits with heterosexual people posing as homosexual whenever they are fired or not hired, I think you are seriously overestimating peoples willingness to tell anyone, much less a courtroom full of people, that they are gay... even falsely.

By: Alphadog7 on 2/15/11 at 10:18

If you are going to deny taxpayer funded city contracts to organizations that have traditional Christian or Muslim beliefs on homosexuality, then city council is not serving them. They should be exempt from all city taxes as well.

If the Council passes this, they are mandating playing favorites at the expense of those with traditional Christian and Muslim views. They should be more inclusive and represent everyone in the city, not just the GBLT community.

By: BigPapa on 2/15/11 at 10:19

," I think you are seriously overestimating peoples willingness to tell anyone, much less a courtroom full of people, that they are gay... even falsely."
I think you are undestimating what people will do for money.
If Im'm going to lose a $200 contact with Metro, then I'm not gay. If I'm going to lose a $2 Million contact with Metro, then I walk in whistly show tunes.

By: BigPapa on 2/15/11 at 10:20

whistling

By: bruingeek on 2/15/11 at 10:49

Antisocialite,
Actually, proving that someone is part of a religious group is something that actually happens in a courtroom with some frequency. Fellow members of a particular group can identify membership, dues, donations, etc. as proof of a religious group association/affiliation. It is not at all absurd to ask how someone identifies themselves as protected group. And the naive concept of "How you identify yourself is what you are" would hardly hold up in a court of law. I may identify myself as a genious, but that doesn't make it so if it ever came to a test of law.

By: Antisocialite on 2/15/11 at 10:56

Alphadog7 said:
If you are going to deny taxpayer funded city contracts to organizations that have traditional Christian or Muslim beliefs on homosexuality, then city council is not serving them. They should be exempt from all city taxes as well.

Right, and I should be exempt from paying taxes also since forty cents out of every dollar I pay goes towards a bloated defense budget that upholds a foreign policy that I don't agree with or believe in... Do you understand how juvenile and myopic that assertion is?

Alphadog7 said:
They should be more inclusive and represent everyone in the city, not just the GBLT community.

The cognitive dissonance in this comment is astounding. Calling for inclusivity at the same time as advocating for discrimination... wow!

BigPapa said:
I think you are undestimating what people will do for money.

So you must think that our court system is completely incompetent then, correct?

Let me ask you this, why aren't there hundreds of thousands of religious discrimination lawsuits in the court system right now? Surely it is just as easy to fake your religion as it is to fake your sexuality, and in today's job climate there is no dearth of ill will towards former and potential employers... Where are the court cases?

I'm just trying to grasp whatever logic you are using here, but it looks like there is none to be found.

By: Antisocialite on 2/15/11 at 11:03

bruingeek said:
Actually, proving that someone is part of a religious group is something that actually happens in a courtroom with some frequency. Fellow members of a particular group can identify membership, dues, donations, etc. as proof of a religious group association/affiliation. It is not at all absurd to ask how someone identifies themselves as protected group. And the naive concept of "How you identify yourself is what you are" would hardly hold up in a court of law. I may identify myself as a genious, but that doesn't make it so if it ever came to a test of law.

Previous sexual partners, character witnesses, parents, therapists... All of these people would be available to the court in order to prove sexuality... Wow you guys are really reaching now. Just because I don't fully thresh out every bit of legal minutiae in each comment doesn't necessarily mean you've found a flaw in my reasoning.

By: gdiafante on 2/15/11 at 12:04

"I may identify myself as a genious, but that doesn't make it so if it ever came to a test of law."

Did you mean genius? I don't think that case would make it to court...lol

By: global_citizen on 2/15/11 at 12:10

"If you are going to deny taxpayer funded city contracts to organizations that have traditional Christian or Muslim beliefs on homosexuality, then city council is not serving them. They should be exempt from all city taxes as well."

I don't think you can make a very strong case that bigotry should entitle one to be tax-exempt. That's a tough policy to sell.

By: Nitzche on 2/15/11 at 2:12

carpet munchers unite should be the name of this bill

By: racer84 on 2/15/11 at 3:16

I think the large majority of people who oppose this have no idea exactly what it says or does, and haven't read the massive amounts of information that Hollin and Jameson have provided to support the reasons why it's a good policy.

If you contact either council member I can assure you that they can explain it well enough for a first grader to understand.

It's not a bad deal for anyone.

Too many successful other cities and companies have the exact same plan in place....

By: GUARDIAN on 2/15/11 at 10:31

GUARDIAN-San Fransisco started out with this law now you can't do business there unless you prove you are qay and have lots of them working for you. I know how I would feel if I lived in Nashville and they started passing law like this. I would tell them to stick city hall where the sun never sines and move away. Let the qays have

By: localboy on 2/17/11 at 10:54

Go ahead and get the vote done and then move on to something else and get that done...gee whiz guys.