It would become unlawful for Metro to discriminate against someone based on his or her gender identity or sexual orientation if a new nondiscrimination ordinance filed with the Council office Thursday is enacted.
The ordinance will be on the July 21 Metro Council agenda. The primary sponsors are at-large Council members Megan Barry, who spearheaded the update to the nondiscrimination ordinance, along with Tim Garrett, Ronnie Steine and Jerry Maynard.
Council has pursued an ordinance to protect Metro workers based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In 2003, however, a similar effort failed.
“I’m an optimist,” Steine said. “I just believe the government and the government work place ought to be an environment where individuals are treated with respect and treated equally.”
Metro’s current nondiscrimination ordinance makes it unlawful to fail or refuse to hire, promote, fire or discriminate against an individual based on race, religion, creed, gender, national origin, color, age or disability. Gender identity and sexual orientation would simply be added to the ordinance.
District 4 Councilman Michael Craddock said the better route to take to curb discrimination would be to mandate diversity sensitivity training for Metro workers. In 2008 Mayor Karl Dean signed an executive order mandating such training, but Craddock said only about a third of Metro workers have taken advantage of it so far.
Steine countered by saying that the nondiscrimination ordinance was not mutually exclusive with sensitivity training and that both should be embraced.
There was talk that Barry’s ordinance would expand beyond Metro and make discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity unlawful throughout Davidson County. Steine said it was appropriate for Metro to be the “example,” but said it should lead by example first.
In 2007, Keith Durbin became the first openly gay elected official in the history of Tennessee when he became the District 18 Metro Council representative. Durbin resigned his position in January to become the chief information officer for Mayor Karl Dean.