Many want anti-discrimination order tweaked - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Many want anti-discrimination order tweaked

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

When it came to decision making, my grandpa always lived by the adage: "if you study long, you study wrong."

While the Memphis City Council has struggled toward a final vote on an anti-discrimination ordinance the passage of time has now produced a potential new obstacle that just might spell doom for what's already been done.

It's been almost three weeks since what many at the time considered the "miracle" passage, by a conflicted city council, of an amendment to add sexual orientation to the language of the city's non-discrimination ordinance.
But, as the council awaits a legal study of the ramifications before voting for final passage in mid-October, proponents are willing to "roll the dice" again at the complete ordinance's peril.

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"We want to challenge the Memphis City Council to go one step further, making this a fully inclusive non-discrimination ordinance," said Jonathan Cole, Tennessee Equality Project. "By amending the ordinance even further by adding gender identity and expression."
 
"There's some level of risk anytime you do business with city council or city hall," added Councilman Lee Harris. "I don't think this is any exception."

The potential difficulty of, for a second time, squeezing out the needed seven votes to add transgender city employees under the discrimination umbrella, wasn't lost to those in attendance at a Tennessee equality project sponsored news conference held at AFSCME headquarters downtown. It came complete with the testimonial support of some city employees who've allegedly had their sexuality become an issue in the workplace.

"I just want people to know that it's more about," said Ellyna, a transgender city employee. "It's more than just working. When someone is denied work you, also deny them housing. You deny them food."

"Memphis is a city of love and compassion and is a pioneer for equality for all, for all human kind" added Virginia Awkward, a Memphis police officer.

The attendees also had some harsh words of reality regarding the opposition of the measure by many in the faith-based community. It ran along the now familiar lines of the ordinance amendments being a civil rights issue rather than a religious one.

"If Dr. King were alive he would be here," said Tennessee State Rep. Johnnie Turner. "Because he believed as I do, that no one of us should be discriminated against when we are children of God."

"If you want to go down the path of having religious authorities set the law, civil laws, there's a country that does that. It's called Iran. Things don't seem to work out there," added Chad Johnson, AFSCME union executive director. "We tend not to agree with that."

However, finding agreement from a council, that's already been through a soul-searching experience on this ordinance and a similar one that failed two years ago, isn't going to easy. It eventually could become an "all or nothing" vote.

"We believe that everybody should be treated equally and fairly, and it's a risk we're willing to take. We want to see everybody protected," Coles said.

The vote on the anti-discrimination ordinance is now slated for Oct. 16.

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