Council passes update to nondiscrimination ordinance

Tuesday, September 15, 2009 at 11:17pm

Two years after becoming the first legislative body with an openly gay member in the history of the state of Tennessee, Metro Council Tuesday night passed an update to the government’s nondiscrimination ordinance, which makes it unlawful to discriminate against a worker on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

“It makes me incredibly proud to be in Nashville. It makes me incredibly proud of my former compatriots on the Council that they would actually take this step,” said Keith Durbin, who won the historic vote two years ago. “This has been a long day coming.

Durbin was elected to Council as the representative for District 18 in 2007. He served until January of this year when he became Metro’s chief information officer for Mayor Karl Dean.

“In some ways, this is almost a validation of my worth as a city employee,” said Durbin, who was in attendance during the vote. “And I know that sounds overblown, but that’s how much it means. And I’ve spoken to other gay Metro employees and I think the feeling is pretty unanimous.”

The ordinance didn’t become law without opposition, but it passed with a 24-15 margin. At-large Councilwoman Megan Barry, who was the lead sponsor, called the bill’s passing “really powerful.”

“I think the conversation has created an environment for us to be a more inclusive city and I’m really glad about that,” she said.

The bill passed third reading on the same agenda when a competing piece of legislation passed second reading. Councilmen Sam Coleman and Phil Claiborne opposed the update, but introduced a separate bill stating Metro would not discriminate in its employment practices for any “non-merit-based” reason. That bill passed second reading with a 28-11 vote. The bill has broad Council support and figures to pass on third reading.

On hand for the occasion were advocacy and opposition groups, who made their presence felt throughout deliberation of the bill.

The update to the nondiscrimination ordinance had the support of Dean, and the Human Relations Commission, which will oversee the new policy’s implementation. Should a Metro worker, or someone seeking employment, feel discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, they can file a claim with the Human Relations Commission, which can now investigate the matter.

How they voted on BL-2009-502

In favor:

Greg Adkins, Buddy Baker, Megan Barry, Karen Bennett, Erik Cole, Emily Evans, Tim Garrett, Erica Gilmore, Frank Harrison, Jason Holleman, Walter Hunt, Mike Jameson, Darren Jernigan, Kristine LaLonde, Edith Langster, Lonnell Matthews Jr., Jerry Maynard, Sean McGuire, Bo Mitchell, Sandra Moore, Pam Murray, Anna Page, Ronnie Steine and Carter Todd 


Carl Burch, Phil Claiborne, Sam Coleman, Michael Craddock, Eric Crafton, Duane Dominy, Robert Duvall, Jim Forkum, Randy Foster, Jim Gotto, Jim Hodge, Rip Ryman, Bruce Stanley, Parker Toler and Charlie Tygard

Note: Councilwoman Vivian Wilhoite was not in the Council chambers when the vote took place, but said later she would have voted in favor.

12 Comments on this post:

By: JohnR on 9/15/09 at 9:44

Karen Bennett is the biggest disapointment. In most circles she readliy claims to be a republican which she is most certainly not. She is a RINO and even that only when it benefits her. She is one of those that speaks differently according to the crowd she is speaking to.

She is most well known for going over and butting into Pam Murrays affairs.

She is also a member of Two Rivers Baptist Church which I thought was a main stream Southern Baptist Church, but guess not if they have members like MS Bennett that will quikly go against the Word just for political gain.

Shame on her for pretending to be one thing and turning out to be another.

I have a personal friend that lives in her district and they have already heard from one person that is making the rounds and and telling folks that they fully intend to run against her.

Good Luck Karen!

By: tnobserver on 9/15/09 at 10:39

Ah Ok I didn't understand that one of the main platforms of the Republican Party was that it is OK to fire to people because they are gay. No wonder you guys can't win very many elections these days! What a ridiculous and embarassing viewpoint...

Oh, and I didn't realize that firing gay people was an essential article of faith either--so you think "the Word" requires gay people to be fired and put out on the street to become homeless because of their sexuality? What a silly view of Christianity.

In any event, we don't live in a city governed by your religious views, so why do they matter?

By: govskeptic on 9/16/09 at 4:51

It is of note that every woman on the council voted in favor. I'm not
sure where the tnobserver get the notion that Christians are out
to fire anyone or put anyone on the homeless register. The members
of my group feed them, overnight them, and help many find jobs and
permanent shelter. Many find bashing those of faith their mission!

By: Kosh III on 9/16/09 at 6:07


Maybe because so many avowed "Christians" fight against equality for gay people and do all they can to keep gay people as inferior citizens with special i.e. lesser rights.

I remember a few years back, Glendale Baptist, then SBC, hired an assistant pastor who was gay. The members who worked for Lifeway were told to drop their membership at the church or be fired from their job. I heard this from numerous people.

"there is neither jew nor greek, slave nor free, male or female (black or white, gay or straight, rich or poor, clergy or lay) but you all are one in Christ Jesus" (sic)

By: JohnR on 9/16/09 at 7:19

The point I tried to make about Ms Bennett is that she pretends to be somone she is not. I can accept most of those that voted for this because that is who they are politically and that is really what they believe they should do. Ms Bennett speaks out of both sides or her mouth.

She is very two faced.

By: Time for Truth on 9/16/09 at 7:44

This vote is no surprise. I never thought of Bennett as a conservative. Consistent conservatives like Duvall, Craddock, etc. and goobers like Rip Ryman made up most of the "no" votes as expected.

By: Jeremiah_29-7 on 9/16/09 at 7:49

I have worked with Karen Bennett on several issues and found her to be genuine, straight-forward, and frankly a breath of fresh air. We probably don't agree on every political or social issue, but then I have never tried to make her take a litmus test for my particular views.

You disagree with her vote?? Fine. But don't try to assassinate her character or malign her religious beliefs.

Your comments illustrate perfectly why we are now having such trouble in political debates like health care. Too many people are ready to demonize another and distort what they have said -- or read malevolent intent into their motives.

We can certainly disagree with one another, but let's do it as part of a relationship, realizing that your "enemy" today may be your ally tomorrow on a different issue.

By: District 8 on 9/16/09 at 8:16

No doubt the vitriol response that Ms. Bennett has received from members of her own church has given her a first hand look at the ugliness that exists in that false "brand" of Christianity. Knowing the likely fall-out and continued abuse from those church members makes her vote even more impressive. It was a courageous act and a shining example of leadership. As a long-time resident of District 8, I am proud that she is my representative. She did not get my vote before; she has it now.

By: sidneyames on 9/16/09 at 10:09

The people who voted "FOR" this were voting on behalf of their constitutients. The people who voted AGAINST this were voting on behalf of their constitutients. I believe we voted our city council in and if we disagree with them, then vote them out. I'm sure that Ms. Bennett was voting the way her community leaned. Lean to the left, lean to the right, stand up, sit down, fight fight fight. An old cheer that's been around forever. I don't think that sexual preference should even be talked about. I'll never forget a guy I met for the first time in CA shaking my hand and saying, "Hi, my name is Michael and I'm gay". To say the least, I thought he must have thought I found him attractive and might have made a pass at him. My response was "Hi, my name is Sidney and I'm happy as well". His face dropped to the floor cause I didn't comment on his sexual preference. He was baiting me. Sorry, Mikie, boy I didn't fall for it. When I meet someone, I don't ask them "hey what do you do in bed?". It ain't nonna my buzziness. And on the job, in the work place and in politics, it has no place. AND in church -- it's up to God. The only time we will REALLY know what he wants, is in THE END!

By: Time for Truth on 9/16/09 at 11:57

Good post Sid. Although I think it could be argued that some councilpersons voted the way they wanted to, overall everything you said makes sense to me.

By: yank283 on 9/16/09 at 2:04

Great points Jeremiah and District 8. I also commend Karen Bennett for standing in and representing the District 5 residents when their own council lady disregarded and ignored their requests, supported illegal out of area slumlords, and generally trying to keep the status quo in the area between Gallatin Road and Dickerson Pike (in the face of reverse racism and intimidation tactics).

By: Govworker on 9/17/09 at 9:59

I don't think either party has it totally right. I am usually somewhere in the middle of the road with more conservative ideals than liberal. I have been labeled a Republican; however I am very happy this vote passed. I guess that means I am talking out of both sides of my mouth too, huh?
I know Karen Bennet and I have never known her to be 'two-faced'. She is a smart woman who thinks things through, listens to others and makes well informed decisions. I am very interested in why JohnR thinks she is 'two-faced', because that is not her personality at all. What exactly did she tell you that contradicted how she voted? Do you even know her? Have you ever spoken with her?
Surely, you aren’t making judgments and speaking negatively about another without basis. That certainly wouldn't be Christian of you.
And if you think just being a Christian or a Republican means you are anti-gay, you are sadly mistaken. There are several religious conservatives out there that believe in gay rights. We don't pick and choose which part of the Bible to read and believe. God created us all, God loves us all. We don't get to supersede God and decide that some are not made in His image, and are therefore less than us.