An update to Metro’s nondiscrimination ordinance, which would make discrimination against workers on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity unlawful, passed first reading at Tuesday’s Council meeting.
The ordinance was pulled off the consent agenda by District 33 Councilman Robert Duvall, who said there was “absolutely no reason for this bill.” It still passed first reading with a 24-9 vote.
At-large Councilwoman Megan Barry, the primary sponsor, said there are lingering misconceptions about what the bill does, and doesn’t do. Barry asked that the bill go through the committee process so it could be properly vetted.
Duvall said the Civil Rights Act of 1964 already protected all Americans, and therefore adding sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes was unnecessary.
District 22 Councilman Eric Crafton said he had questions he wanted answered, including what the definition of “sexual orientation” would be as defined by the ordinance.
Crafton also wanted statistics for the number of discrimination complaints registered with the Metro Human Relations Commission over the last three years. The Human Relations Commission Executive Director Kelvin Jones told The City Paper on Monday that there have been eight registered complaints of sexual orientation discrimination in the last four years.
Proponents of the bill, such as at-large Councilman Ronnie Steine, say there have been few complaints because there was no recourse available for the Human Relations Commission to offer. Although the commission could record allegations of sexual orientation discrimination, it could not take any other action. Gender identity complaints could not even be recorded.
Barry’s legislation, co-sponsored by nine other Council members, would make employment and workplace discrimination against Metro workers on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation unlawful.
A similar effort was pursued by Council in 2003, but it ultimately failed. The new ordinance already has the support of Mayor Karl Dean.
HOW THEY VOTED
In favor: Buddy Baker, Megan Barry, Erik Cole, Sam Coleman, 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, Bruce Stanley, Carter Todd, Parker Toler and Charlie Tygard.
Opposed: Carl Burch, Michael Craddock, Eric Crafton, Duane Dominy, Robert Duvall, Jim Forkum, Jim Gotto, Jim Hodge and Rip Ryman.
Abstaining: Karen Bennett, Randy Foster, Pam Murray and Vivian Wilhoite.