"There's nothing wrong with discrimination," said Shelby County Commissioner Wyatt Bunker, while addressing the county commission committee charged with a vote on an ordinance that would prevent discrimination toward gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender workers in Shelby County government.
Though audible gasps from the audience followed Bunker's statement, five other commissioners apparently agreed, as they voted down the ordinance in committee. The ordinance will still go to the full commission for a vote on Monday.
The original ordinance, proposed by commissioner Steve Mulroy, would protect Shelby County employees, workers with county contractors, and employees of large private businesses in unincorporated Shelby County.
Commissioners Deidre Malone and J.W. Gibson proposed an amendment to the ordinance removing protections for all but Shelby County government employees.
"We need to get our own house in order before we can start regulating other people," said Malone.
Gibson also had concerns about the cost of enforcing the ordinance, if passed.
"This will require time and more people," Gibson said.
But Mulroy disagreed, stating that no additional investigators would be needed in the county's human resources office.
"It's not like we're going to have investigators roving the hallways looking for discrimination problems," Mulroy said. "The [Equal Opportunity Employment] Commission investigates based on complaints, just like they already do with other issues of discrimination."
Religious convictions guided the votes of several commissioners, including Mike Carpenter and Bunker. Bunker blamed the ordinance on a "homosexual agenda" and compared protections for gays to "the seven deadly sins."
"Once [homosexuals] get their foot in the door, they push their way through society until [homosexuality] becomes the norm," said Bunker.
Supporters and opposition for the ordinance filled the committee meeting room. Brad Watkins with the Mid-South Peace & Justice Center pleaded with commission members to consider God’s love when using Christian faith to justify their opinion on the ordinance.
"Our faith is one of inclusion and love. We can't say that we love someone and then sit back and discriminate against them," said Watkins.