Saturday, March 26, 2011

Nashville non-discrimination ordinance

On April 5th, 2011, an ordinance will come up for its final vote before the Metro Nashville City Council. This ordinance will require the Metro Nashville government to do business only with companies that have a non-discrimination policy that includes sexual orientation and gender identity. The present ordinance follows a bill passed by the council in 2009 that added sexual identity and gender identity to Metro Nashville’s own non-discrimination policy.

This bill has faced staunch opposition. In January of 2011, a group of local business leaders and Christian conservatives met to discuss how to prevent the bill from passing. A state representative filed a bill in the Tennessee House of Representatives that would block cities in Tennessee from passing legislation to prevent businesses from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Three local Baptist leaders ran an editorial in a local paper listing off the theoretical horrors that would descend on Nashville if the bill passed.

At the same time there has been a good deal of support for the ordinance. Not only has the local LGBT community supported the bill, but they have been joined by a group of over 20 members of the Nashville clergy community, the mayor of Nashville, and large corporations such as Nike. It now looks as though the ordinance will pass.

Both the supporters and opponents of this measure have strong feelings about why it should or should not pass. Many of you may be wondering why a measure to protect members of the LGBT community should even matter to you. The reason is simple, this ordinance and similar bills under consideration around the country aren’t designed to only protect the LGBT community against job discrimination.

Imagine a man goes in for a job interview with the owner of a small business in Nashville. The interview is going well and the business owner and applicant are having a fairly casual conversation about the applicant’s previous work history and education. The applicant talks about moving from another state to Nashville to attend college. While in college he meets a woman who lives in Nashville and upon graduating he decides that he enjoys living in Nashville and would like to make this city his permanent home and ask the young woman he met to marry him. The two were married and now they live happily together in Nashville with their two children.

At this point, the business owner looks at the applicant and informs him, using flawed reasoning, that he will not hire the man. Since the man is an obvious heterosexual and since heterosexuals are, as a group, morally flawed. The business owner explains his opinion by reminding the applicant that heterosexuals are responsible for almost all of the murders and rapes committed in our country. He tells him that heterosexuals have started the vast majority of wars throughout human history and that it was primarily, if not solely, heterosexuals who formed the institution of slavery in the United States and so he can not, with a clear conscious, hire a heterosexual.

I do not claim to know of any instances where someone has been discriminated against because they are heterosexual. However, as the law stands currently, the above scenario is a possibility. Without legislation banning discrimination based on sexual orientation anyone gay, straight, or bisexual, could find themselves facing a situation where they might not be hired or in which they might lose their job based solely on who they love.

I encourage everyone to come out to the April 5th, 2011 Metro City Council meeting to show their support for the non-discrimination ordinance. This effects everyone, and we should all stand up to say that discrimination is not an American value.