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Nashville’s Clergy Split Over Equality Bill

Nashville’s Clergy Split Over Equality Bill

Tennessee

Some 20-plus clerics have signed a letter of support for a bill before the Metropolitan Council, the legislative body of Nashville and Davidson County, reports The Tennessean.

The bill would ban discrimination by city contractors against gay, lesbian and transgendered people. The ministers, mostly Methodists, wrote that they had been "in prayer that a spirit of inclusion rather than exclusion would descend upon our city... [The] Gospel calls us to defend the 'outsiders' and speak against the status quo that seeks to do harm."

Despite explicitly exempting churches and other religious organizations from compliance with the anti-discrimination measures, the bill faces opposition from other clerics. Three Southern Baptist ministers sent a letter to council leader Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors urging defeat of the bill. "It is clear that imposing this ordinance could lead to disastrous moral and ethical conflicts including trampling on the conscience protections of many residents of the Metro area," wrote Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; Randy Davis, executive director and treasurer of the Tennessee Baptist Convention; and Robert B. Sumrall Jr., executive director of the Nashville Baptist Association.

The proposal "would elevate sexual orientation and gender identity to the same level as such immutable characteristics as race, ethnicity and religion, creating a preferential status not enjoyed by other groups," Land, Davis, and Sumrall wrote.

Land voiced particular objections to transgender persons saying, "The self-identification of gender identity is a huge issue. If a man who is clearly anatomically a man walks in in a dress and says, 'I'm a woman,' the employer has to take his word for it and treat him as a woman. We think that's disruptive to the workplace and is not something Nashville needs to get into."

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