A letter signed by 26 members of the Metro Council requests that Mayor Karl Dean appoint a Study and Formulating Committee to consider domestic partner benefits for Metro employees — a step toward making benefits available to the same-sex partners of city workers.
Council members Peter Westerholm, Lonnell Matthews, Megan Barry and Brady Banks are the lead signees of the letter, which notes that "almost two-thirds of Fortune 500 companies (most recently Walmart) offer domestic partner benefits for their employees, as well as the local governments in a number of Nashville's peer cities."
Officials in Chattanooga and Knoxville have publicly expressed an interest in considering the issue, after Collegedale, Tenn., a small suburb of Chattanooga, became the first city in the state to approve benefits for the domestic partners of public employees, gay or straight. Last month, council members in Nashville acknowledged that there have been ongoing conversations about a similar effort here.
The Dean administration has not discouraged the discussion. The mayor's spokeswoman, Bonna Johnson, told the Scene last month that Dean "is proud that we live in an open, welcoming city that respects individual dignity and embraces the differences among us" and said that Metro Human Resources and the Metro Law Department were studying the issue.
Read the letter here
UPDATE (5:00 p.m.): Dean spokeswoman Bonna Johnson sends over a statement, saying the mayor intends to move forward with appointing a committee.
"Mayor Dean is proud that we live in an open and welcoming city that respects individual dignity and embraces the differences among us. Twenty-six members of the Metro Council have requested we study domestic partner benefits for Metro employees. We intend to move forward with appointing a Study and Formulating Committee, which will require approval by the Metro Council. As the letter points out, many major corporations and other cities already offer domestic partner benefits. Offering a competitive level of benefits attracts employees and is a smart way to do business."