Nondiscrimination ordinance spotlight shines on Tygard

Wednesday, July 29, 2009 at 1:13am

At-large Councilman Charlie Tygard is at the center of a tug-of-war between advocates and opponents of the nondiscrimination ordinance working its through Metro Council.

Tygard said his e-mail inbox has reached a point where he’s been forced to delete messages after reading them, because he doesn’t have time to respond.

Opposition groups such as the Family Action Council of Tennessee and the American Family Association have started rallying Nashville residents to contact Metro Council members about the ordinance. That’s led to a barrage of form e-mails to all Council members, especially those like Tygard who are viewed as swing votes.

The nondiscrimination ordinance, proposed by at-large Councilwoman Megan Barry and co-sponsored by nine other members, would make it unlawful to discriminate against Metro workers on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

The bill passed first reading on July 21 with a 24-9 vote and Tygard voting in favor of it.

“We’ve gotten such a flood of form e-mails from both sides,” Tygard said. “I said I voted on first reading to get to second and to see the analysis [from the Metro Council staff]. I’m not sure where the ins and outs and pros and cons are.”

An e-mail from the Family Action Council to local opposition tags Tygard as one of nine Council members who “may be key to defeating this ordinance.”

Gay rights advocacy group the Tennessee Equality Project responded with another chain e-mail urging supporters of the ordinance to send Tygard hand-written thank-you notes. Tygard said already he’s received a handful of them.

The subject line of one e-mail acquired by The City Paper reads, “Charlie Tygard is our focus for the next three days.”

The e-mail from the Tennessee Equality Project continues, “If we can hold Charlie through second reading, I think we can rally the votes for third reading, but nothing is definite.”

A similar nondiscrimination ordinance came through Metro Council in 2003 when Tygard represented District 35. He voted against the ordinance then, and it ultimately failed.

Tygard said zoning issues are the hardest to face on Council, but added that social issues, such as the nondiscrimination ordinance or the guns-in-parks opt-out bill, were also difficult.

“Then you get into these emotional issues and answering to the special interest groups, whether it be guns or nondiscrimination, and it can be divisive,” Tygard said.

Although the ordinance received 24 votes on first reading, some members cast their support for the purpose of moving the debate along and are not committed to voting ‘yes’ on second reading.

District 22 Councilman Eric Crafton, who voted ‘no,’ said he wants to see the statistics for the number of sexual orientation discrimination complaints filed with the Metro Human Relations Commission. The Human Relations Commission can record complaints, but cannot investigate claims or take any action because sexual orientation is not a protected class.

The City Paper learned last week there have been eight complaints of discrimination based on sexual orientation since 2005.

Supporters of the ordinance claim the lack of complaints was due to the fact that no real action could be taken, since sexual orientation is not a protected class like race, religion, gender or disability.

The Family Action Council of Tennessee is run by David Fowler, an attorney and former state senator from Chattanooga. The group has reportedly contacted Nashville churches to rally opposition to the ordinance.

The American Family Association is a national group, which describes itself as one of the largest and most effective pro-family groups in the world.

One e-mail to Council members from local representatives of the American Family Association warns against setting off down a “slippery slope” should the ordinance pass.

“We must not continue down a slippery slope of lasciviousness by lowering our community standards to appease a micro-minority constituency that [is] less concerned about tolerance, but who are dead set on forcing the majority to accept behavior they consider repugnant and immoral,” the e-mail, from Nashville residents Brian and Cheryl Welch, states.

The ordinance will be on second reading at the Aug. 4 Council meeting.


11 Comments on this post:

By: idgaf on 7/29/09 at 2:24

What is wrong with Barry even bringing this up?

She gay?

By: JohnR on 7/29/09 at 7:38

What is wrong with Barry? Where do I begin??? She is married to that extreme radical liberal Bruce who expounds on issues over at that rag known as the Scene, She wants to run for a county wide office, she is extremely disingenuous and self centered. Her colleagues on the Council will tell you that she will throw them under the bus and misrepresent the facts to them to further her own agenda. She enjoys no respect among her peers on the Council which speaks volumes. She has never sponsored one piece of legislation that would actually benefit the city as a whole and she seems to be always posturing on education and any other front page issues.

I would suggest she go and have a talk with Cris Ferrell and ask him what this gay ordinance did to his political carreer. Do you remember him? precisely.

By: ashleycrow on 7/29/09 at 8:17

Since when is nondiscrimination a special interest? It's in every human's best interest to create a society that does not persecute those who differ from the norm. And no, crazy online commenters, that doesn't mean you can kill people or have sex with animals. It's only a slippery slope for those with their eyes (and minds) closed.

By: BlueInTn on 7/29/09 at 8:41

Hey JohnR Megan Barry has run for county-wide office and one a spot on the Metro Council. You can also thank Chris Ferrell for your ability to post on this site. He does own the paper.

By: kcouncil on 7/29/09 at 8:43

Rortunately, people like Megan and Chris care more about what is right than what taking a real stand does for their political career. Since when is it right to discriminate against any class of person? Murders and rapist have more rights that a couple that not only contributes to society, but also contributes to the economy of this city. Does that really make sense? And has for the number of discrimination complaints - when you know there is no law to really protect you, why complain? It will fall on deaf ears. Let's hope the leaders of this City can remember they are in office to serve all tax payers. And trust me, this 10%+ part of our population is responsible for helping to revitalize communities, we purchase homes, we shop largely in local owned businesses over big box chains. And we believe in supporting the growth and welfare of our wonderful City. Is it really that much to ask for a little protection in return?

By: kcouncil on 7/29/09 at 8:44

Obviously, that was meant to say "Fortunately".

By: alex24 on 7/29/09 at 9:15

There is not a "lack of complaints"

there have been 8 complaints filed since 2005.

clearly discrimination is an issue

By: Jeremiah_29-7 on 7/29/09 at 10:27

Seems like these good Christian folks would be in FAVOR of preventing discrimination. At the moment, an employer can't discriminate by religion. "I won't hire you because you are Baptist." The employer can't discriminate -- even if they believe that Baptists are "dead set on forcing the majority to accept behavior they consider repugnant and immoral."

However, if we DON'T protect gays from discrimination, maybe someone should start removing religion as a protected class.

By: Jeremiah_29-7 on 7/29/09 at 10:28

And by the way, ALL Christians are not against this ordinance. Lots of us see the importance of having it.

By: SirKnight on 7/29/09 at 10:38

kcouncil, What does revitalizing communities, buying a house and shopping in local businesses have to do with anything? A lot of gay people DON'T do any of those things. And even if ALL gay people did this, what difference does it make?

I agree unfair discrimination is bad, but people should be able to take the whole character of an individual into consideration before they offer a job to someone. Whether it be Metro govt. or a private business, it shouldn't matter. If a business owner deems a person's open sexual preference unacceptable, then he should be free to decide against hiring that person. If he is missing out on a real catch of an employee, that's his problem....not YOURS!

By: OPENmindedONE on 7/29/09 at 5:07

John, Howard Gentry voted against it, do you remember him? Precisely.

I would suggest she go and have a talk with Cris Ferrell and ask him what this gay ordinance did to his political carreer. Do you remember him? precisely.