NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Council members opposing Nashville’s newest sexual preference bill invoked a rarely used rule March 4, delaying the proposal’s first reading for two weeks.
The bill — which would ban employment discrimination based on “sexual orientation” within metro government — must pass the council three times before it makes it to the desk of Mayor Bill Purcell, who has yet to take a public stance on the issue.
Bills on first reading are grouped together and normally pass collectively by voice vote. Discussion begins on a bill’s second reading. However, council rules state that if any member objects to a particular bill on first reading, it is pulled from the group.
Councilman Tony Derryberry was the objector.
“I’ve talked to several council people, and I’ve told them, ‘If you vote on this, it’s a slap in God’s face,'” he told Baptist Press after the meeting.
The same strategy will be used at the next meeting on March 18, Derryberry said, forcing a vote. If the bill passes, it will simply go onto the second reading. But if the bill fails, it dies.
The bill’s opponents hope to force a roll call vote each time, making “yes” voters go on record three consecutive meetings in support of the bill. One council member said March 4 that — because of political pressure — a few of the bill’s supporters want the issue behind them. Elections are in August.
While the bill’s outcome is uncertain, Derryberry said its supporters already have 14-15 votes. The bill needs the support of 21 of the 40 council members.
“You don’t know what you’ve got until the board is lit,” he said, referring to the council’s electronic balloting.
“I can name names of people that will definitely vote for me. … We want to pull it out and vote on first reading. We want to vote every time. Metro doesn’t need this bill.”
Cosponsor Chris Ferrell expressed confidence earlier in the day that he has the votes. “I’ve talked to a lot of the members of the council,” he told Baptist Press. “I wouldn’t have brought a bill forward if I didn’t think it had enough support.”
But opponent Carolyn Baldwin Tucker said supporters made the same claim in February, when a much broader bill was pulled because of a lack of support.
“I think we’re standing pretty good,” Tucker told Baptist Press after the meeting. “It looks like there are more and more people who are not going to be able to support this piece of legislation. It does not do anything but codify a behavior.”