Ordinance would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Ordinance would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation

By Kontji Anthony - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - A Memphis City Council member wants to add an ordinance to the city charter that would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Memphis City Councilwoman Janis Fullilove made a passionate plea to her peers Tuesday.

"It's about treating people with dignity and respect," she said.

Fullilove's ordinance would make it against city hiring policy to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.  At a council committee meeting, Tennessee Equality Project President Jonathan Cole spoke.

"An employee here at City Hall was twice denied a promotion for positions for which his education and experience exceeded the stated expectations of the job description, after employees made homophobic remarks about him," Cole said.

Cole added that a Memphis police officer was fired a week after his supervisor learned he was gay. Neither came forward for fear of retaliation.

The topic prompted Dr. Steve Gains, pastor at Bellevue Baptist Church, to ask to speak.

"We believe this ordinance is against discrimination, is discriminatory against people of faith, people who have a genuine conviction about scriptures and the Judeo-Christian way of life and world view," he said.

Gaines called the ordinance divisive.

Councilwoman Barbara Ware, who is also a minister and usually votes with Fullilove, was vehemently against the ordinance. Ware said there is no need to reach out to one group when the city already has an equal opportunity employment policy.

"I think that we are opening up more than a keg of words, and this is just the beginning of something bigger," she said.

Fullilove called the matter a "human issue."

After the discussion, council members clarified that the ordinance would not extend to private companies that do business with the city.

Council members will continue the discussion in two weeks, after deciding to get Mayor A C Wharton's position on the matter before moving forward.

Copyright 2010 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.

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