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
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.