Mayor Dean endorses Metro Council nondiscrimination ordinance

Friday, February 11, 2011 at 5:21pm

Previously noncommittal about his stance over a proposed nondiscrimination bill, Mayor Karl Dean late Friday said the idea “makes sense” and that he would sign the ordinance into law if the Metro Council approves it.   

Meanwhile, citing several concerns with the ordinance in a letter to Metro Council members, the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce asked the bill's sponsors to defer the legislation. The bill is set for the council’s second of three votes Tuesday night.

The ordinance, sponsored by council members Erica Gilmore, Jamie Hollin and Mike Jameson, would require companies that do business with the city to adopt nondiscrimination employment policies that include protections for sexual orientation and gender identity.

“Nashville is known as a welcoming and friendly city and as a city that doesn’t tolerate discrimination,” Dean said in a statement issued Friday. “The idea of requiring companies that do business with the city to adopt a nondiscrimination policy similar to our own makes sense.

“The council initiated this legislation,” Dean said. “If they pass it, I will sign it. If it does not move forward at this time, I will encourage those on all sides to come together in the spirit of cooperation to talk through the issues and continue working towards that goal.”

Contacted by The City Paper, Jameson, who represents parts of East Nashville, said he’s “grateful” the bill has received Dean’s endorsement.

“I’m grateful that he concurs that it makes sense and that he’ll sign it, if passed,” Jameson said.

Jameson also indicated he would not oblige the chamber’s request for deferral. If approved next week, the bill would come before the council for third and final reading at the second meeting in March.

A letter sent late Friday afternoon to council members from chamber CEO Ralph Schulz took exception with the bill, calling a proposal to require Metro contractors to adopt the city government’s nondiscrimination policy “well-intended” but with potential flaws.

“As currently written, the legislation does not reflect a process in which diligent and responsible research has been conducted by those seeking the creation of a locally protected nondiscrimination category, or by those who would be impacted by new legislated requirements,” the letter reads.

“With the short timeframe surrounding this specific bill process, only preliminary research has been done concerning the bill and its impact on both employees and employers, as well as the city’s identity and image,” the letter continues.

The letter cites a chamber survey in which 300 companies took part, Schulz says, and produced a number of questions about the bill. Jameson said he plans to ask the chamber for a public disclosure of its poll results. 

Attached to the chamber’s letter are nine issues the chamber has identified with the ordinance. Among others, they include: the bill doesn’t define sexual orientation and gender identity; citizens haven’t been educated about the bill; implementing legislation could disrupt the workplace; the proposal would expand Metro policies beyond federal and state requirements; gay and lesbian people are not “readily apparent” in the same way race or gender identifies an individual; and “vague or impractical” rules could increase the cost of litigation for companies. 

Jameson said he and the other sponsors have also been doing research in anticipation of public discourse with the chamber.

“There’s 181 cities and counties that have discrimination policies that do extend to the private sector,” Jameson said. “What I find encouraging in the chamber’s letter is that apparently, just like us, they were unable to locate a single instance of any of the negative economic impacts that some had been alleging.  

“They’ve got a lot of questions, and we will certainly sit down and answer them to their satisfaction," Jameson said. “But, in the time they’ve had to be working on them, since January, there doesn’t appear to be any validation of the criticisms that have been speculated before.”

12 Comments on this post:

By: govskeptic on 2/12/11 at 5:21

Of course the Mayor has endorsed it, that's the Bloomberg
way of governing!

By: Loner on 2/12/11 at 8:35

A few more questions:

Who will enforce the law, GLBT's or straights? What are the penalties for contravening the law? Will businesses be forced to produce a token GLBT on their payrolls in order to do business with Metro? Will faith-based entities, (churches, synagogues, temples ministries etc.) be excused from observing the prohibitions against this sort of anti-gay bigotry?

By: Loner on 2/12/11 at 8:39

No, govskeptic, Bloomberg gets out in front of legislation, he doesn't wait to see which way the wind is blowing. Bloomie changed the rules so that he could run for a third term...his vision of a nanny state includes regulating everything from transfats to tobacco and everything in between. Mayor Dean is no Bloomberg, thank G-d for that.

By: Loner on 2/12/11 at 8:54

More naggng questions:

What does Contracting with Metro" actually mean? Beyond the obvious stuff, like providing goods and services to Metro, does "contracting with Metro" include Metro contracts involving rental and , leasing agreements and buying-selling real estate?

For example, do vendors at the fairgrounds flea market have to prove compliance, in order to participate?

What about the racetrack at the Fairgrounds.... does the lessee have to prove compliance with the new language of the law?

Then there's the "public art" the artists have to sign papers affirming their stand on the GLBT issue?

The Metro bus service, city cabs and the airport all contract with Metro, right? Are those industries included in the new paradigm too?

Will the Titans and Predators have to show compliance too?

Will businesses be considered guilty until proven innocent on this discrimination charge? Will businesses be forced to prove their innocence, before entering into new contracts?

By: Loner on 2/12/11 at 8:56

The new language should be fully vetted by at least one independent legal firm; this could save litigation costs down the road.

Again, contemplate before you legislate.

By: Loner on 2/12/11 at 9:43

The presumption of innocence is a quaint relic from earlier times. Things have changed.

If today's workers must prove themselves to be drug-free, in order to be hireable, and companies must prove compliance with the drug-free workplace laws, in order to land government contracts, then it's not a great leap for government to demand proof that individuals and companies are not discriminating against GLBT's, in order to be hired or contracted to work or conduct business with the government.

Today, the presumption of guilt is becoming more and more commonplace. This is a fundamental shift in American values and is the result of fear-based governance and "special interest" influence.

By: producer2 on 2/12/11 at 10:42

You may want to read the bill. Metro already has the policy in place. All the bill does is stipulate that any entity that signs a contract t do business with Metro must adhere to the same policies. It does not say you have to hire anyone, you just can't refuse to hire or fire them for prejudice. You don't have to do anything if you do not desire a contract with Metro. All very simple.

By: racer84 on 2/12/11 at 11:26

Since it's somewhat historic, I had to post to let you know we agree on this issue.

By: Loner on 2/13/11 at 6:02

Nothing is simple, producer2, when we are dealing with laws and human nature. Proof of compliance may be the next skid on this slippery slope.

Like Ronald Reagan said, "trust, but verify". Verification of compliance is a routine requirement these days. I don't see this ordinance as being any different, in this regard, than other regulatory burdens placed upon the private sector.

The law is well-intended; but possibly flawed.

Smart players will hire their token GLBT's right now...and put them on display.

By: Loner on 2/13/11 at 6:29

If "Affirmative Action" was and remains valid for dealing with the race issue, then it is arguably valid in dealing with the GLBT issue.

Prepare yourselves for verification schemes.

By: Nitzche on 2/15/11 at 5:48

I think this is a cry for carpet munchers to UNITE!

By: MetalMan on 2/16/11 at 6:38

Of course he does, he's a liberal!