Employees Of Metro Have Protection Against Discrimination
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - After a hard-fought and sometimes heated debate, council has passed a sexual orientation anti-discrimination bill.
The bill prohibits discrimination of Metro employees based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It's a bill that has died in council before, but Tuesday it became a reality.
"This is one more card in that deck against prejudice and discrimination," said bill proponent Holly Spann.
It takes three readings for a bill to become law in Metro City County.
"We are setting up ourselves to have a real conflict between religious liberty rights and sexual liberty rights," said bill opponent David Fowler. "I think council has in its intentions to do good, done something they will later regret."
Supporters from both sides of the issue filled council chambers for what turned out to be a landmark vote.
"I am so thrilled that everybody stepped up and did what they said they were going to do," said bill sponsor Megan Barry.
Council members who opposed bill 502, but supported other anti-discrimination legislation acknowledged it was time to put this issue to rest.
"I am glad to some extent we are finalizing this matter because it's done nothing but cause us hate email from both sides of the coin," said Metro councilman Sam Coleman.
Coleman is sponsoring an even broader anti-discrimination bill, which also protects sexual orientation and gender identity. It passed on second reading and could also become law.
His version bans discrimination on non-merit factor, like party political affiliation. It does not provide medical or pension benefits for same-sex partners.
Tuesday's vote on third reading to pass Megan Barry's discrimination bill actually had more yes votes this time around, than it did during the second reading.
"I think at the end of the day, we have two bills that are comprehensive and provide protection, and you couldn't have said that two months ago," said Barry.
The last time Metro council took up this anti-discrimination issue was back in 2003. Then Vice-Mayor Howard Gentry casted a tie-breaking vote that defeated the bill during that council session.