Councilman Sam Coleman stood up during last Thursday’s Council meeting and pleaded with Councilwoman Megan Barry not to drag out debate on the nondiscrimination ordinance.
The bill ‘only’ has been voted on once and already council members are growing weary of the “divisive” issue (Coleman’s words).
Barry promised to stick to the schedule she mapped out on Aug. 6, meaning a one meeting deferral is all she needs to answer lingering questions. The bill will be on second reading Aug. 18.
One thing is certain: the issue is clearly an emotional one.
Activists on both sides of the issue sat in attendance at the meeting, including the personnel committee meeting where the bill was voted for disapproval. Afterwards, Barry became choked up when talking about the nondiscrimination ordinance. During the committee meeting, she was essentially denied a fair chance to speak, which left the usually reserved at-large Councilwoman noticeably angry.
She expressed continued confidence that support would be there for the bill, which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to Metro’s list of protected classes for workers and those seeking employment with the government.
District 33 Councilman Robert Duvall, who has become an outspoken conservative voice on social issues of late, speculated that Barry was merely stalling at the Aug. 6 meeting. Duvall insinuated Barry wanted to defer the bill because with several supporters absent (especially Councilmen Darren Jernigan and Bo Mitchell), she didn’t have the votes to pass the ordinance on second reading.
Duvall might have been correct, but the flip side was probably also true.
Conservative Council members haven’t won many fights lately — notably losing on the opt-out for guns in parks — and they saw an opportunity to kill the bill.
So where do things stand heading into second reading? It seems that they’re pretty close. Last Thursday’s vote went 22-14 on Barry’s deferral motion, with Councilwoman Vivian Wilhoite claiming she meant to vote in support despite the fact the machine recorded her as abstaining.
When handicapping a final vote — using best guesses for supporters, opponents and those in the middle — Barry seems to have a slight lead, but most of those in the middle seem more likely to vote ‘No.’
It will be a thin margin for sure. And if it ends up 20-20, expect Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors to cast the deciding vote in favor of the ordinance. The bill needs 21 votes on third reading in order to pass.
Predicted supporters (18): Tim Garrett, Megan Barry, Ronnie Steine, Jerry Maynard, Lonnell Matthews Jr., Mike Jameson, Erik Cole, Darren Jernigan, Anna Page, Sandra Moore, Kristine LaLonde, Erica Gilmore, Buddy Baker, Emily Evans, Jason Holleman, Sean McGuire, Carter Todd, Bo Mitchell.
Predicted opponents (13): Walter Hunt, Michel Craddock, Jim Forkum, Rip Ryman, Jim Gotto, Carl Burch, Phil Claiborne, Eric Crafton, Randy Foster, Duane Dominy, Sam Coleman, Jim Hodge, Robert Duvall.
Undecided (9): Charlie Tygard, Frank Harrison, Pam Murray, Karen Bennett, Bruce Stanley, Edith Langster, Greg Adkins, Vivian Wilhoite, Parker Toler.