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VOL. 124 | NO. 159 | Friday, August 14, 2009

Council Meeting To Explore Sex Orientation Issue

By Andy Meek

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The Memphis City Council’s Personnel, Intergovernmental and Annexation committee is scheduled to grapple Tuesday morning with several weighty issues, including government consolidation and an update of the city’s nondiscrimination policy.

The city code that addresses nondiscrimination would be tweaked to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and expression, according to an ordinance that will come before the committee Tuesday. Councilman Shea Flinn, the committee’s chairman, said the ordinance would be the city’s version of a similar measure taken up by the Shelby County Commission in June.

“This is a nondiscrimination ordinance, relative to employment with the city,” Flinn said. “This is just the start of our process.”

When the county’s version of a ban on employment discrimination because of sexual orientation came before the full commission, it generated almost three hours of debate.

Almost 60 citizens spoke to commissioners during that June meeting. Hundreds more called and e-mailed the County Commission office before the vote.

The commission chambers were packed when the measure was approved 9-4.

The city proposal would amend a section of the city’s code of ordinances to read as follows:

“There shall be no discrimination in the city employment of personnel because of religion, race, sex, creed, political affiliation, sexual orientation, gender identity or expressions or other nonmerit factors, nor shall there be any discrimination in the promotion or demotion of city employees because of religion, race, sex, creed, political affiliation, sexual orientation or gender identity or expression or other nonmerit factors.”

The council’s personnel committee meets Tuesday at 9 a.m. at City Hall, 125 N. Main St.

Also Tuesday in the personnel committee, the council is scheduled to take up a resolution that would set up a new Charter Commission for the purpose of writing a metro government charter. That proposal comes less than a year after Memphis voters approved the work of a Charter Commission that worked for two years on a slate of measures, including term limits for City Council members and the city mayor.

“What this would do is establish a Charter Commission that would have appointed positions by the city and county mayors,” Flinn said. “And the charge of this commission would be, as opposed to just writing amendments, this commission would create what a metro charter would look like. This would be a chance to rebuild the whole thing from scratch. When we start talking about consolidation, we would have a document that would explain to citizens what they would actually be voting on.”

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