A plan to add sexual orientation to the list of categories covered by Nashville's ordinance prohibiting discrimination in housing and the workplace has angered the Southern Baptist Convention, which may reconsider staging its 2005 annual meeting there, its hometown.
Bill Merrell, an SBC vice president, said the possibility was raised in an official communication to a Nashville tourism official that read, "This alters the nature of Nashville as a convention city for us."
With about 16 million members, the Southern Baptist Convention is the nation's largest Protestant denomination.
Merrell said Baptist leaders see the ordinance, with or without a religious exemption, as "another attempt by pro-gay activists to secure the approval and affirmation of the broader culture of the homosexual lifestyle." He said the ordinance could turn Nashville into "the San Francisco of the Southeast."
Nashville gay rights activist Abby R. Rubenfeld, a lesbian parent of two, is amused by the characterization. "I personally don't think there's anything wrong with San Francisco. It's a lovely city," said Rubenfeld, an ACLU attorney and Human Rights Campaign board member. "But this is not a trendsetting proposal."