Commissioner backs non-discrimination ordinance - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Commissioner backs non-discrimination ordinance

By Kontji Anthony - bio | email | Follow us on Twitter

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - A Shelby County Commissioner wants to put gay rights on the books for the first time in the form of a non-discrimination ordinance.    

Commissioner Steve Mulroy wants to make gay rights the law in Shelby County.

"This would be groundbreaking for the state of Tennessee," he said.

Commissioners will vote if they should add a new article to the Code of Ordinances title, "Sexual Orientation; Gender Identity or Expression."

"You can't hide from it," Mulroy said. "You have to make a statement. Are you in favor of discrimination or are you not? And I think this ordinance will reflect what commissioners believe."

It would prohibit discrimination and firing of gay Shelby County employees, and gay employees of county contractors.

"It does not say that gays need to be recognized in marriage.  It simply says that Shelby County Government will treat everyone equally with all its services and employment whether you're gay or not, and private employers must do the same," Mulroy said.

But it only effects private employers in unincorporated Shelby County because the Commission does not have jurisdiction in Memphis and other municipalities.

"I think it has a reasonable chance of passage," Mulroy said. "I think the time has come. Shelby County is ready."

Penalties could include a fine and a court order to stop discriminating against gays.  A county contractor could be dropped and made ineligible to bid on county contracts for three years.

As with any ordinance, the gay rights proposal will have three readings, starting Wednesday morning. The final vote should happen in mid-June, and Shelby County Mayor AC Wharton would have to sign off on it.

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