Sandy Springs on June 7 adopted a new non-discrimination policy that tightens protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, and that applies to all aspects of city business for the first time.

City Council member Andy Bauman called for the policy tightening earlier this year in the wake of debate over a state “religious liberty” law widely criticized as permitting discrimination against LGBT people. Gov. Nathan Deal later vetoed the bill.

The city’s previous policy applied only to its own employment practices, not other city business. Among its categories was “sexual preference,” an old term referring to gay people that is now considered incorrect and offensive.

At the June 7 City Council meeting, City Manager John McDonough said staff “recently did a full review of the city non-discrimination policies.” That included reviewing all city employment and contractual documents; the non-discrimination policies of other area governments; and current federal law based on the Constitution and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

McDonough recommended an updated policy that includes “sexual orientation” and “gender” as protected categories, as well as “any other status or [classification]” protected under any federal, state or local law. The policy would continue to include other specific categories such as race and religion.

The update immediately applies only to the city’s employment policy. But, McDonough said, it will be the basis to “update all other documents,” including outside contracts and agreements covering use of city parks and recreational facilities.

The policy change was done as quietly and quickly as possible. McDonough discussed it during a staff report period near the meeting’s end, where discussion items are not listed on the meeting agenda. There was no council discussion and the policy change was made without a vote, as Mayor Rusty Paul simply said, “Without objection, so ordered.”

Bauman later praised McDonough’s “thorough” review. He said the policy update reflects his belief that the city is not discriminating against anyone, but that it also was lacking a full policy to deal with potential outside problems. “It’s good to have it consistent” and clearly applied to all city business, he said.

Sandy Springs now has a more wide-ranging non-discrimination policy than such neighboring cities as Brookhaven and Dunwoody. Atlanta still has one of the strongest non-discrimination policies in the state, protecting LGBT people and applying not only to city business, but to many private businesses as well.

The following is the full text of the new Sandy Springs policy:

“The City provides equal opportunity to all employees and applicants for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender, national origin, age, disability, or military or veteran status, or any other status or classification protected by applicable federal, state and local laws. This policy applies to all terms and conditions of employment, including but not limited to, hiring, placement, promotion, termination, layoff, recall, transfer, leave of absence, compensation, and training.”

John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.

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