I write to you today with this open letter so that we might together address an oversight that can — and should — be corrected soon. As you well know, our City is one of the best places to live and work in the United States, and we are proud to have one of the most vibrant and among the youngest populations of any city our size.
That oversight is simple: It’s time to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees from discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
This is a simple, basic rights issue that we as a community must take the shared responsibility to address. There are a few points that we should consider. An overwhelming majority of those under 40 support nondiscrimination policies. In fact, In every category, large majorities favor workplace equality: conservatives, Republicans, men and women. The controversy isn’t that we might consider passing such a policy — but that we haven’t already done so!
Some other facts to consider:
- We already have a large number of LGBT employees on the City’s payroll
- Many of them serve in silence
- We can recruit top notch employees from other states based on a strong equality policy
- Such an ordinance will NOT affect local businesses or religious institutions, only those employed by the City
A friend of mine posed an interesting question: “If, in fact, the City does indeed already have a large number of LGBT employees, aren’t we already doing a great job in not discriminating?”
The answer to this question is both simple and complex: “Yes and no.” Quite simply, those of us who are LGBT often have to be silent about who we are. We don’t feel comfortable in putting a photo of our significant other on our desk. Or talking about the movie we saw together the night before.
But, if we are already being fair in our practices, then it’s time to be equally fair in our policy. Codifying this basic fairness is an essential part of ensuring the best for ALL of our city’s great employees. What’s more, it will establish that our City is a leader in our state — joining Nashville, Knoxville, and now Memphis — all of whom have passed similar policies.
While ENDA laws across the state and at the federal level still languish, we have an opportunity to speak loud and clear on behalf of all of our citizens — that our City’s government will not discriminate against LGBT people in employment.
Let’s also consider the fact that a large number of businesses in our city — large and small — also have similar policies, including mine.
I urge you to consider this policy. It’s time has come, and we have a responsibility to stand firm as leaders in our community. I have worked along side several of you on various topics over the years, and I’m proud to call many of you friends. My sincere hope is that we can work together to correct this oversight and bring fairness to all of the City’s employees.
Thank you for your service to our City, and thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from all of you.
David W. Shelton