Fri, Feb 09, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Nashville votes for official language

AP , NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE

Nashville's city council has voted to adopt English as its official language, becoming what is believed to be the largest in the US to make such a move following similar measures by several smaller cities.

After months of debate, the city's Metro Council voted 23-14 on Tuesday to approve the measure requiring all government communications to be in English, except when multilingual communications are required by federal rules or are needed "to protect or promote public health, safety or welfare."

The exceptions were added after the city attorney contended that the bill's original language was unconstitutional. Some supporters and opponents of the measure said the exceptions mean the law would have little effect on city business.

The measure moves on to Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell, who had not said by Wednesday whether he would sign it, veto it or allow it to pass into law without his signature.

Nashville is home to the US' largest Kurdish community and has been a resettlement site for refugees from Africa and Southeast Asia.

The Hispanic immigrant population has also boomed, and researchers say Nashville's foreign-born population has grown 350 percent since 1990.

Gregg Ramos, a Nashville attorney and first-generation American who opposed the measure, said Nashville is the largest city and the only state capital to pass such a law.

Smaller communities including Pahrump, Nevada; Taneytown, Maryland; the Dallas suburb of Farmers Branch; and the Atlanta suburb of Cherokee County all recently passed similar resolutions.

The new version makes exceptions to comply with US law and to allow for situations "necessary to protect or promote public health, safety or welfare."

Communities across the US are debating what to do about the recent growth in immigration, including illegal immigration, and critics say some of the moves have been harsh.

Twenty-eight states have adopted English as their official language, including Arizona, where voters approved a law last year, said the US English Inc, a Washington-based advocacy group.

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