Wednesday, March 17, 2010
3 Nashville council members push gender identity rights
Steine, Barry, Cole want private companies accused of discrimination investigated By Nate Rau • THE TENNESSEAN • March 17, 2010 Three Metro Council members are pressing the city's human rights agency to investigate private companies accused of discriminating against workers based on gender identity. It's the latest front in an ongoing and divisive debate about the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender citizens in the workplace. A letter from the three council members, who supported an update to the city's nondiscrimination policy last year, urged the Metro Human Relations Commission to investigate complaints of private sector workplace discrimination over gender identity. The letter also encouraged the commission to develop private educational programs related to gender identity discrimination. In September the council created a policy preventing Metro government from discriminating against workers or prospective employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Supporters cited a legal opinion by council attorney Jon Cooper as the basis for their letter. "While this codifies the policy pertaining to hiring, promotion and discharge of employees by the Metropolitan Government, we believe more can be done under our existing laws," council members Megan Barry, Ronnie Steine and Erik Cole wrote in their letter. Barry said the goal was to gather information on potential instances of workplace discrimination. "Since the commission hasn't been told to embrace this, that's what this letter does," Barry said. "It asks them to investigate and gather data." Motives questioned But Councilman Jim Hodge, who opposed the new nondiscrimination policy, questioned the motives of his colleagues. Hodge said the letter was meant to go "behind the backs" of the council in an effort to extend the reach of the nondiscrimination policy. "It seems to me they're attempting to come in the back door with something they're unwilling to bring to council," Hodge said, adding that he believes there is no appetite for the government to investigate workplace policies of the private sector. "It doesn't surprise me," he said. "That is part of the national homosexual agenda. "They can't eat the whole elephant so they'll just nibble away at it a little bit at a time." Human Relations Commission Executive Director Kelvin Jones said he had no comment until the matter is discussed at the commission's April meeting. Jones said that since the new nondiscrimination policy passed in September, there has been one inquiry but no direct claims of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Nate Rau can be reached at 615-259-8094 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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