Friday, March 11, 2011

What to Expect on the Council's Nondiscrimination Bill

Posted by on Fri, Mar 11, 2011 at 2:50 PM

Sure, a few things could conspire against the Metro Council's nondiscrimination bill when it goes up for third reading Tuesday night. But members say none is likely to deliver a rare late-in-the-game defeat of the ordinance, which would extend workplace protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

At least three of the 21 members who voted in favor of the bill on second reading last month will be absent Tuesday — because, dude, it's Spring Break! And they're probably off with their families in exotic climes while we're stuck here hacking away. According to co-sponsor Mike Jameson, the probable move is a deferral, which requires a simple majority vote. That'd push final passage — assuming the 21 all return without having changed their minds — back one meeting. When a bill is on third reading, a majority of the entire council (or 21 votes) is required for passage.

Jameson has continued to talk with the various interested parties and said he still might consider amendments to the bill, one of which would address a question of constitutionality raised by Vanderbilt law professor James Blumstein. In his regular analysis of bills on the agenda, council attorney Jon Cooper yesterday wrote that he believes the bill would pass constitutional muster in its current form — so consider that amendment unlikely at best. But the top reason any amendments are improbable at this point is that changing a bill on third reading requires a unanimous vote (with, oddly, two "no" votes needed to break unanimity), and that'd take a miracle.

I spoke with Councilman/state Rep. Jim Gotto this morning. He and Rep. Glen Casada were the two legislators who took part in the infamous closed-door meeting at LifeWay to discuss — with leaders in business and the Christian right — both PR and legislative strategies to kill the bill. Gotto told me he wasn't aware of any concerted effort by council opponents to beat back the expected deferral vote on Tuesday, adding that while he'll still vote against the ordinance on third reading, it's pretty much fallen off his radar.

Meanwhile, sniping continues from our kindly religious right. Friend of the show Richard Land (Southern Baptist Convention) lobbed a hail mary to "Councilwoman" Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors earlier this week, citing "disastrous moral and ethical conflicts" to come from protecting LGBT people from discrimination. As well, several council members have gotten calls this week from a Virginia-based minister who claims SBC affiliation and has argued against the bill.

Then, citing the compassionate part of Christianity, 21 clergy members sent a letter to the council today in support of the bill and those who've voted for it.

Long story short: After some sweating among supporters behind the scenes, it looks like it'll take one more meeting for the nondiscrimination bill to finally pass.

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