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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Nashville Politician Says LGBT Anti-Discrimination Laws Choke Businesses

By Michael A. Jones -

This week, Nashville's Metro Council held a marathon of a meeting. And though a big chunk of it was dedicated to debate over whether to destroy a racetrack at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds (an issue that brought out one of the biggest crowds in years, proving that racing fans aren't afraid to get their politics on), a major LGBT issue factored into the meeting as well.
That issue is whether the Metro government of Nashville should extend an anti-discrimination ordinance inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity to vendors and contractors in the city. If passed, it would mean that no business could contract with the city, unless they agreed to protect LGBT employees from discrimination.
What fueled debate on this issue is the controversy that emerged at Belmont University late in 2010, after a lesbian soccer coach was terminated suspiciously. Her players argued that she was fired because she was a lesbian and because she was getting ready to have a baby with her partner, and they pointed to the fact that Belmont doesn't have a policy prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
The incident got the entire community of Nashville talking about discrimination. Several Metro Council members, wanting to take a bold stand for equality and root out all forms of anti-gay discrimination, suggested legislation that would expand Nashville's anti-discrimination ordinance to apply to vendors and contractors.
Seems like a fine move, right? Yet anti-gay activists are fighting hard to put the kibosh on the measure.
So here's the good news: the bill moved forward this week after the Council voted 22-13 in favor it. Now the bad news: the vote was largely procedural, and the bill faces two more votes in front of the council before becoming law. And several anti-gay activists in the area, as well as folks on the Metro Council who think businesses should have the right to discriminate against LGBT people, are vowing to stop the measure.
Take Councilman Robert Duvall, who thinks it's wrong for Nashville to make vendors and contractors agree to protect LGBT people from discrimination. Not sure whether he feels that way about race, religion, gender, age, or disability, of course.
"“We shouldn’t be imposing on private business,” Duvall said. “We shouldn’t be imposing the guidelines that a private business is supposed to operate out of. They all have their own work rules. They all have to follow federal and state laws. We, at the Metro level, shouldn’t be setting another layer of regulation. It's just crazy. This country is choking to death on regulation."
So telling businesses that want contracts with the city that they can't discriminate somehow chokes them and imposes on them? Councilman Duvall, how 1920s of you.
Councilman Jamie Hollin, one of the lead Metro Council members behind expanding the city's anti-discrimination ordinance, noted that there's a tough road ahead for the bill, but that many businesses that work with the city are down with rooting out discrimination. And indeed, the Nashville Business Journal has a print edition out today that covers a number of business leaders who are a-OK with the city expanding the anti-discrimination ordinance.
"As everyone knows, part of the government's job is (to) promote and protect the welfare of its citizens," Hollin said a few weeks ago, discussing this bill. "This is just a way to ensure that occurs for all classes of citizens, not just some."
Exactly. And that's exactly the reason why this expansion of Nashville's non-discrimination ordinance should happen. Send these Metro Council members a message that Nashville should be a place where discrimination is never welcome or tolerated, at least when it comes to those doing business with the city.

petition text -

Please don't contract with entities that discriminate

Dear Metropolitan Council of Nashville and Davidson County,

In the coming weeks, the Metro Council will debate a measure to expand Nashville's anti-discrimination ordinance to vendors and contractors, as a means of making sure that all partners with the Metro government don't discriminate against people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. I urge you to support this measure.

Nashville has a national reputation to consider, and that reputation should value diversity and inclusion. Expanding your anti-discrimination policies to make sure contractors don't discriminate against LGBT people only helps bolster Nashville's reputation in this regard, and sends a message that the community and the government cares about eliminating discrimination and harassment.

Please support this expansion of the anti-discrimination ordinance. Many thanks for your time.

[Your name here] 


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