Metro Council moved closer to adding two new protected classes to the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance on Tuesday.
The panel approved a bill — in a 23-16 vote — on second reading, which would make discrimination against workers on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity unlawful.
Debate on the Council floor became heated as both sides squared off.
At-large Councilwoman Megan Barry, the bill’s primary sponsor, said the legislation was a step toward defining and outlawing discrimination.
“The proposed ordinance… simply advances the principal that it is unacceptable to use people’s personal identities as a basis for a decision about whether to hire, promote or fire them,” Barry said.
But the bill received vocal opposition from socially conservative Council members, including District 30 Councilman Jim Hodge, who quoted his Christian faith as a reason to vote against the ordinance.
“As a Christian, I cannot endorse a lifestyle that is condemned in both the Old Testament and New,” Hodge said.
Conservative District 20 Councilman Buddy Baker, whose gay son died of AIDS in 1995, said he was glad to see the ordinance advance.
“I’m real happy,” Baker said. “People really don’t know until they go through it. It was something when I was growing up that I couldn’t really accept. But when you have a son that was gay and what he went through, blood is thicker than water. And I’m just glad it went the way it did.”
The bill still requires a final vote, at which time it will need 21 votes to pass.
District 15 Councilman Phil Claiborne and District 32 Councilman Sam Coleman filed an alternative to Barry’s nondiscrimination ordinance, which states Metro will not discriminate against workers or those seeking employment for any non-merit factors. Claiborne pleaded with Barry to defer her bill to track with their proposed ordinance.
But At-large Councilman Ronnie Steine pointed out the two bills were not mutually exclusive and shouldn’t be viewed as competing legislation. Ultimately, a motion to defer Barry’s bill was tabled and the bill passed when it was voted upon.
How they voted
In favor: Greg Adkins, Buddy Baker, Megan Barry, 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, Anna Page, Ronnie Steine, Carter Todd and Vivian Wilhoite
Opposed: Carl Burch, Phil Claiborne, Michael Craddock, Sam Coleman,Eric Crafton, Duane Dominy, Robert Duvall, Jim Forkum, Randy Foster, Jim Gotto, Jim Hodge, Pam Murray, Rip Ryman, Bruce Stanley, Parker Toler and Charlie Tygard