Nashville Rejects Nondiscrimination Bill
[NASHVILLE, TN] - Nashville, Tenn., put an end to three months of debate on Tuesday night, killing a watered-down gay rights measure by a 19-18 margin.
Vice Mayor Howard Gentry, who usually does not vote, was obliged to break the tie. Mayor Gentry explained that since he had not run across a case of sexual orientation discrimination within the ranks of county and city workers, the measure was unnecessary. According to the Tennessean newspaper, gay and lesbian activists subsequently accused Gentry of going back on last year's campaign pledge to support the community.
The gay rights bill had a strange history. Proposed last fall, the measure was originally framed as a broad ban on sexual orientation discrimination throughout the Nashville area. The bill advanced through two of the three obligatory votes before the Metro Council with ease, passing its second reading on Dec. 18 with a 26-2 council landslide.
Heavy right-wing pressure then stalled the measure, which was pulled for revision before the final vote. When the bill re-emerged, it had been reduced to a shadow of its former text, and its coverage was limited to public employees.
But despite the restricted language, opposition to the idea of gay rights had risen. On March 4, at the first reading of the modified version, a council member used a rarely employed procedural motion to shelve the matter. At the following meeting, the measure did pass the first reading, but only by the skin of its teeth on a 17-16 vote. According to the local press, no proposal before the Metro Council has ever been defeated on first reading, with the exception of a bill by Councilman George Darden in the early 1990s to construct a landing pad for extraterrestrial explorers.
The 18 council members who voted against the bill on Tuesday invariably explained that their constituents were against it, or alternatively, that the bill was unnecessary.
Only two members expressed powerful anti-gay views. Ron Nollner called homosexuality a sin, and said: "I would vote no 17 times if I could." Carolyn Tucker made references to her Christian values, and called homosexuality a lifestyle choice, the Tennessean reports.