Nashville, Tennessee on Tuesday approved a plan to extend the city's gay protections to contractors.

In 2009, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean signed into law a bill that bans employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (transgender protections) by the Metro government. Metro Nashville is the governing body of the City of Nashville and Davidson County. The pair merged in 1963.

With a narrow 21 to 15 vote, the 40-member council decided that companies that do business with the city must adopt a similar nondiscrimination policy, joining more than 100 communities across the nation.

Chris Sanders of the gay rights group Tennessee Equality Project told the Tennessean: “The message it sends is that if you're talented and willing to work, you're welcome.”

At an earlier meeting, Councilman Mike Jameson, a co-sponsor of the legislation, was called out of order when he attempted to explain the main grievance, as he saw it, of the bill's opponents – that being gay is a choice.

“That crux is the belief that homosexuality is a choice,” Jameson told the council. “And I submit to you and ask for you to consider in explicit terms over the next two weeks whether or not that is in fact the case. Explore that issue with your friends, with your neighbors, with your constituents who are of the gay and lesbian community and ask them. Did they wake up one morning and decide to be gay. I would submit to you that the answer is no. That is not a choice.”

In a letter to the council's leaders, three Southern Baptist leaders condemned the measure.

“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.

But another 20 clergy members, mostly Methodists, had called on the council to approve the measure, saying that the “Gospel calls us to defend the 'outsiders' and speak against the status quo that seeks to do harm.”