Metro At-large Councilwoman Megan Barry has called an update to Metro’s nondiscrimination ordinance an opportunity to extend equal protections to “all of our brothers and sisters,” working for the government.
Opponents believe Barry and her fellow supporters of the proposed nondiscrimination ordinance are unnecessarily creating special exceptions.
Either way, Metro Council will vote once and for all at its Tuesday meeting whether to make it unlawful to discriminate against workers or those seeking employment with the government on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Tears have been shed and emotions have run high over the last two months since Barry and nine other Council members brought the issue to the forefront. A similar ordinance came before Council in 2003, but it ultimately failed.
“It is an emotional issue, because I believe passionately that we should treat each other equally,” Barry said.
As of last week it appeared the proposed update to the nondiscrimination ordinance had enough votes to pass third reading and become law. If that were to happen, discrimination complaints could be filed with the Metro Human Relations Commission, which could investigate and take action, including issuing $50 fines.
In the last four years there have been eight registered complaints with the commission on the basis of sexual orientation. The commission could record complaints, but could not investigate any further because sexual orientation was not a protected class like race, color, religion, national origin, gender, disability or age. Complaints of discrimination based on gender identity could not even be recorded.
In the meantime, Council members Phil Claiborne, Sam Coleman and Duane Dominy have proposed an alternative that states Metro will not discriminate against workers for “non-merit-based” reasons.
The bill suggests sexual orientation as one of those non-merit-based reasons, but does not include gender identity. All three proponents of the alternative oppose Barry’s bill.
Mayor Karl Dean has offered his support for Barry’s bill, as have various other civic organizations across Nashville.