On Tuesday, September 18th, the Memphis City Council discussed the passage of a non-discrimination ordinance protecting LGBT city workers, but its final passage was delayed until October 16th because of confusion over whether or not its passage would violate the city charter.
Council attorney Allen Wade and city attorney Herman Morris were of the opinion that such a change might require a public referendum.
Knoxville's council unanimously passed a very similar ordinance last year, and county commissioner Steve Mulroy, an advocate for the city's passage of the ordinance, decided to investigate if there was any issue with Knoxville's charter.
Ronald Mills, Knoxville's deputy law director, wrote Mulroy a letter that says: "This letter is to confirm that the City of Knoxville Law Department did not find the recent revisions to various sections of the Knoxville City Code regarding discrirrńuatìon based on gender identity, sexual orientation, and other factors to violate Knoxville’s home rule Charter. Given the Wording of our Charter, this really is not an issue that came up in consideration of the ordinance, because there is nothing in our Charter which we find to be a definitive and exclusive list of discriminatory practices."
Said Mulroy in response: “I thought it prudent to check with another big Tennessee city and see how they were able to do it. Their opinion is instructive. Their charter and ordinance are virtually identical. Indeed, the argument that the City Council has authority under the charter is even stronger in Memphis."
To read the full letter from Mills and statements from city councilman Lee Harris and Tennessee Equality Project's Jonathan Cole, check out this post on Grand Divisions.