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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Nashville's Anti-Discrimination Issue

Once again the Metro Council has taken up the issue of requiring companies that do business with the city not discriminate against gays and lesbians in matters of employment. Mayor Karl Dean was quoted in today's Tennessean newspaper that if passed, he will sign it. The Nashville Chamber is asking to slow down consideration of the measure for more study; in other words, they don't favor it but need more time to know just why.

Its time for this measure to pass. Discrimination is good and necessary so long as its based upon performance and behavior. You should, as an employer, pay more, give more, and advance people who perform in favor of those who don't. The word "discriminate" has a negative connotation based upon its use in the civil rights struggle, but leaders must do it every day to lead an organization. It is discrimination using factors other than performance and behavior that run counter to both Christian and American values.

Labor lawyers and traditional managers don't favor sexual preference discrimination because it complicates the employment landscape. How do I know the sexual preference of an individual I'm about to discipline, terminate, or not hire? I understand that argument, believe me I do. But the framework is already there to accommodate new restrictions using the existing non-discrimination framework (methods, policies, procedures) that HR departments already use in employing minorities and women. It really isn't that big of a deal.

I would suggest to Metro and to the Mayor's office that they go one step further. Once enacted, they should ask for all employers who are not city contractors to sign a pledge to uphold the law voluntarily. In a region not known nationally for tolerance (the South's reputation has not caught up with the fact that we're pretty open-minded in our urban areas), this would brand Nashville as progressive and tolerant and would give us an additional advantage in landing new businesses and creating new jobs.

"But that lifestyle is not Christian," you say? Well I'll leave that theological debate to others. Almost all Christian companies employ non-Christians whether we know it or not. Chances are some of the Christians that those companies employ engage in immoral behavior at times without losing their jobs. Our goal each day should be a workplace where performance, behavior and adherence to our core values in the workplace are all that matters. Banning discrimination against gays and lesbians in all workplaces would be a huge step in that direction.

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