Grand Divisions

Tennessee Equality Project seeks to advance and protect the civil rights of our State’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons and their families in each Grand Division.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Memphis City Council votes favorable on LGBT-inclusive workplace protections

Equality advocates at
Memphis City Council
Equality advocates prevailed at last night's meeting of the Memphis City Council. The Council voted favorably on two separate items concerning LGBT-inclusive workplace protections.  Watch the proceedings here for the vote on the Consent Agenda that included the Employment Non-Discrimination Ordinance (the Item #5 at 2:14:37) and the debate, public comment from citizens and the vote on the Discrimination Study Resolution at (Item #31 at 2:47:22). Many thanks to everyone who attended or spoke at the meeting, made phone calls, or sent messages of support to the City Council.

The council voted yes on the Employment Non-Discrimination Ordinance (Item#5) as it appeared within the Consent Agenda with other resolutions and ordinances. The ordinance would prohibit employment discrimination in City Government based on a number of non-merit factors including sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression (SOGIE). The last time that the ENDO appeared in a first reading (Aug. 10), Councilwoman Swearengen Ware requested the ENDO be voted on separately which opened the ordinance to amendments weakening the legislation. Her absence from the council this time due to an indictment on a charge of official misconduct probably made the legislative process smoother this time.

This time the vote on the consent agenda was as close as the first time, gaining the 7 votes necessary to pass out of the 11 members present:
Yes: Collins, Halbert, Strickland, Ford, Lowery, Fullilove, and Flinn.
No: Boyd, Conrad
Abstained: Brown, Morrison
Absent: Hedgepeth
Suspended: Swearengen Ware
Send a message of thanks to each of the council members who voted yes at this link for keeping the chance for LGBT-inclusive workplace protections alive. They need to hear from you before the second reading on Nov. 23.

The next item on the agenda (#31) was a resolution calling for a comprehensive review of discrimination based on non-merit factors including sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression in every division of city government. The measure passed with a more comfortable margin with nine votes:
Yes: Morrison, Boyd, Collins, Halbert, Strickland, Ford, Lowery, Fullilove, and Flinn.
No: Conrad
Abstained: Brown
Absent: Hedgepeth
Suspended: Swearengen Ware
What's next? The ENDO will appear for second reading in the Consent Agenda at the Nov. 23 meeting of the Memphis City Council (3:30 PM). Our sponsor and supporters on the Council have asked that equality advocates be present for this second reading, especially since the vote is so close. After the second reading, the ENDO will be held for third reading until the results of the discrimination study is received by the Council.

Implementation of the Study Resolution that passed is a complicated matter requiring that several concerns be addressed. Representatives of Tennessee Equality Project and Family Action Council of Tennessee have been invited to work with the Director of Human Resources for the City of Memphis to develop a study process that is fair, objective, and impartial. TEP will seek to ensure that the survey process protects the confidentiality of employees since many of the City employees that we've spoken to fear coming forward with their experiences of discrimination in the workplace due to concerns about harassment and retaliation.

In addition to contacting your Memphis City Council members in support of LGBT-inclusive workplace protections, you can support the advancement of equality in your community by making a contribution to Tennessee Equality Project. You can donate here or make your contribution in person at a House Party benefiting TEP at 7 PM on Saturday, Nov. 20 at 1889 Nelson Avenue in Memphis (click here for full details). 

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