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Two Nashville officials are facing an ethics complaint after they voted against using city insurance to cover sex change surgeries for city workers, including one official who cited her religious beliefs in her decision to not support the proposal.
Last month, Edna Jones and Harold Finch, both members of the Nashville Metro Benefits Board, voted against giving insurance coverage to transgender surgeries on city workers. An ethics complaint was filed against them by activist and Metro Human Relations Counsel chair Maryam Abolfazli, who claims both acted in a discriminatory manner as city officials.
Abolfazli wants the two to be investigated by Nashville’s Ethical Conduct Board after the proposal to provide coverage failed in a 5-3 vote. Democrat Mayor John Cooper lobbied heavily for the coverage, saying that adding such treatments and sex-change surgeries to city employee insurance coverage would improve employee recruitment and retention.
Abolfazli took issue with Jones’ religious beliefs in relation to transgender surgeries and her opposition to the life-altering procedures being done on children.
I filed this complaint simply to raise the bar in our government and city that neither religion nor biases can impact our hiring, care and promotion of employees.
We are not a city for some, we are city for all. https://t.co/BQKEtIoVvd
— Maryam Abolfazli (@maryack) July 27, 2023
“My God does not make mistakes,” Jones said during debate on the issue in June. “He creates each of us as he chooses. I will vote no. Thank you.”
Finch was skeptical of Cooper’s claims that the coverage was necessary for recruitment. “I still question what is the skill set of this subgroup that Nashville is lacking that we don’t find in the other 99%,” he said.
“Both of these statements are deeply troubling,” Abolfazli said, according to The Tennessean. “This is Metro government. This kind of discrimination should not happen anywhere in any workplace, in any setting, but particularly when we’re talking about a government body.”
“It’s a problem when board members who make decisions that directly impact the health and well-being of Metro employees can make such blatantly discriminatory, hateful and ignorant statements without fanfare or consequence,” she added.
R.J. Robles, a woman who identifies as transgender, threatened to leave her position as the director of DEI for the city’s Human Relations Counsel if the coverage was not expanded.
“I will have to put off accessing gender-affirming surgery another year because of this decision. This will have a huge impact on my mental health day in and day out,” Robles said on Thursday.
Cooper, who is not running for re-election as mayor, said last month that he was disappointed with the decision from the board.
“Working closely with the LGBTQ caucus, our Administration pushed hard to enact this live-saving change to our health care coverage,” Cooper said in a statement after the measure was voted down. “As a result [of this vote], our trans employees will have to wait at least another year for their rights to be affirmed by their peers on the Benefits Board.”
Tennessee has been a focal point for the debate over transgender surgeries, with the state government to ban sex change operations, cross-sex hormones, and puberty blockers for children this past year. Left-wing groups sued to stop the law, and a federal judge blocked implementation of the hormone aspect of the law before the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals allowed it to take full effect.