Bill To Void Nashville Ordinance Advances In House - | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Bill To Void Nashville Ordinance Advances In House

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by Heather Graf

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The House has passed a bill that would void a Nashville ordinance barring companies that discriminate against gays and lesbians from doing business with the city.

The measure sponsored by Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada of Franklin was approved 73-24 on Monday, but not before about 40 minutes of heated debate.

"I personally think, as a moral issue, that discriminating against gay people about jobs is wrong," said Rep. Jeanne Richardson of Memphis.  "So what this bill really is, is anti-gay."

Representative Brenda Gilmore of Davidson County also spoke out against the idea.

"This bill that our sponsor has proposed is an unprecedented violation of local control and freedom," she said.

The proposal would prohibit local governments from creating anti-discrimination laws that are stricter than the state's own laws.  Under state law it is illegal to discriminate against a person because of race, creed, color, religion, sex, age or national origin.

Casada denied accusations that the bill was "homophobic," along with suggestions that it was proposed as a form of retaliation against Metro Council.  Instead, he said the bill is needed to promote intrastate commerce, and create a consistent, state-wide policy.

"If I'm doing business in one town and I want to expand to another town, I can at least know that in the area of discrimination, it's the same law.  And so I don't have to have a battery of attorneys to decipher what I've got to do to do business in the next town," he said.

The Nashville ordinance prohibits companies that discriminate because of sexual orientation or gender identity from receiving city contracts. It does not apply to local governments' hiring policies for their own workers.

An amendment to remove Nashville from the proposed legislation failed Monday. 

Metro Council member Jamie Hollin said he is disappointed by the vote.

"Tonight the House of Representatives of Tennessee cemented its position on what I believe will ultimately be the wrong side of history," he said.  "I'm disappointed in my state that we've done that."

Monday's vote doesn't necessarily mean it's a done deal, though, because the bill must still be approved by the state senate.

A senate sub-committee will take up the issue for the first time on Tuesday morning, and there's no doubt, metro council members will be watching closely.

Representative Casada says he's been working on this bill since November, long before Metro Council passed it's non-discrimination ordinance.


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(The Associated Press Contributed To This Report.)

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