Memphis City Council committee passes anti-discrimination - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Memphis City Council committee passes anti-discrimination ordinance

By Kontji Anthony - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - A Memphis City Council committee passed an ordinance Tuesday banning bias in the hiring and promotion of city employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The vote drew strong reactions from both sides of the issue. As one group said it is an issue of human rights, the other said it suppresses religious expression.

"It's just a slippery slope," said Josh Davis of the Family Action Council. "It becomes very expensive. It becomes very divisive."

"There's certainly a lack of education and appreciation for the kinds of barriers the people with a gender identity condition face in this world," said Jonathan Cole of the Tennessee Equality Project.

According to Davis, it is unnecessary to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the city's anti-discrimination policy.

"The city policy says you can't hire or fire anyone for any non-merit factors," he said. "Non-merit factors include what someone's private sex life is, so there's no need to add on to what's already on the city law."

But Cole believes the plight of lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgendered people must be addressed.

"They (transgendered people) experience high unemployment, more than 50-percent in most communities, and so the wall is very steep for them to find gainful employment and so to minimize their issue is really troublesome," he said.

For the ordinance to come to a final vote, the committee is requiring the city's Human Resources Division conduct a study of discrimination in city government, including sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.    

It's unknown how long the study will take.

A similar ordinance failed in committee two months ago.  It's believed the council committee passed this item Tuesday because city contractors were removed from the first ordinance - the new proposal only includes city employees.

The Tennessee Equality Project and Family Action Council will help oversee the study.

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