Politics behind delay in equal rights amendment? - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Politics behind delay in equal rights amendment?

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

Despite voting seven to five in favor of adding an amendment protecting city employees from discrimination for being gay, the Memphis City Council is holding off on voting for the entire ordinance for another 30 days.

MORE: Sexual orientation added to city ordinance

"It's very surprising to see that last minute development that kind of came out of nowhere," said Councilman Kemp Conrad who voted against adding the ordinance.

The decision to wait and see was brought on by the City Council attorney worried that approval of a sexual orientation amendment may need to come from the voters, not the council.

Councilman Myron Lowery has a theory on what's going on behind the scenes, "I think the issue of legality was brought up at the last hour to diffuse the vote, a political maneuver to delay the vote."

Those against such an amendment are arguing city workers are already protected from discrimination with existing wording that dictates the only consideration for hiring, promoting or disciplining is merit.

"I'm in favor of protecting the rights of all. I am not in favor of denying rights and I don't see what this ordinance would do to harm individuals who disagree with the lifestyle," says Lowery.

Reid Hedgepeth was the swing vote in getting the amendment passed. He says he was not turning his back on his republican beliefs but embracing them as a champion of business that made him vote yes. He says it was partially FedEx founder Fred Smith who influenced him.

Hedgepeth declined an on camera interview, but released a statement. It says in part:

"I have long held the view that government in many ways should be run more like a business. And if businesses like FedEx are progressive enough in their views to have anti-discrimination policies which prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation (as well as gender, race, religion, etc.), then I think the government should follow suit and at least provide those same protections."

But republican Councilman Kemp Conrad says he stands by his no vote, "A lot of businesses have done it. A lot haven't.  It's an issue where reasonable people can disagree. I don't think it's the right thing to do."

Hedgepeth had previously voted against the measure when it has come up over the last few years.

In Knoxville, they already have a non-discrimination policy covering sexual orientation that was approved by council and didn't go to voters.

"Knoxville has a similar provision in its charter. They nonetheless by ordinance added sexual orientation so I don't see a significant difference Knoxville and Memphis," says University of Memphis professor and County Commissioner Steve Mulroy.

Mulroy says like in Knoxville, our neighbors in Nashville also have such a policy. It was enacted by council and successful even though technically taking such action didn't fall under a list of their powers.

MORE: Read Knoxville's Policy

"It's a very lengthy list. Like 50 different things are listed very specifically but not one is passing discrimination ordinances," says Mulroy.

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