Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Will Christian Right Defeat Gay Discrimination Ban?

Posted By on Wed, Aug 12, 2009 at 5:15 AM

click to enlarge Megan Barry
  • Megan Barry
Despite hissy fits by evangelicals and homophobes, the Metro Council is on track to join the 21st century by adopting an ordinance to ban workplace discrimination against gay and lesbian city employees. At least that's the view of the bill's supporters, who insist they've corralled enough votes to fend off even the Christian right's fear-mongering.

"The opponents are serious and they shouldn't be underestimated, but things look promising," says Chris Sanders of the Tennessee Equality Project. "It's unfortunate, but there's a segment of the population that hates us more than taxes. That's coming out."

The Tennessee chapters of the Rev. James Dobson's Family Action Council and Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum are orchestrating an email campaign against the bill, bombarding council members with crazy claims. Among them: The ordinance would force people to use courthouse restrooms in the company of cross dressers (oh my!) and it would require the city to pay for sex-change operations.

"This is just hiring, firing and promotion," Sanders says, "but according to our opponents, the apocalypse is going to turn on what Metro Council does."

Only 24 of the 40 Jealous Whores voted for the bill on first reading. That's not a good sign because first readings are pro forma. And it was a battle for the sponsor, Megan Barry, to delay the bill's second reading while proponents studied a slew of amendments from Eric Crafton. Deferral is usually a courtesy afforded sponsors on all bills. Yet supporters say they don't believe any of their votes have been shaken. At least two were missing on first reading.

Council member Sam Coleman has filed legislation to ban discrimination based on "non-merit factors," an apparent attempt to confuse the issue and sap support for Barry's bill. But legal director Sue Cain already has said Coleman's bill wouldn't provide any new protection for gays and lesbians. Essentially, in fact, it would do nothing, Cain says.

Barry's bill should come up for second reading Tuesday and for final passage Sept. 1. Mayor Karl Dean has announced he's for it, and his aides are supposedly helping the bill's supporters. In an email to council members, Barry pointed out:

"I think it is important to restate that state and local laws protecting against employment discrimination based on sexual orientation are longstanding and widespread. Fully half the states have either written sexual orientation into their state civil rights laws or enacted regulations protecting public employees. More than 170 cities and counties around the country have passed laws with these kind of protections as well. Louisville, for example, a city with much in common with Nashville, has had countywide laws banning sexual orientation discrimination in place for 10 years. Also, regulations banning employment discrimination based on sexual orientation for all federal employees in the U.S. have been in place for over a decade. These kinds of protections have become, if anything, common and mainstream."
Update: Nate Rau breaks down the votes.

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