Grand Divisions

Tennessee Equality Project seeks to advance and protect the civil rights of our State’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons and their families in each Grand Division.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Opposition to the NDO: Phantom of its Former Self

One could say a great deal about why the effort to pass the Metro non-discrimination ordinance succeeded. I had thought about writing extensively about that, but I think I'll leave it at this. A very smart, strategic group of Metro Council Members led by Megan Barry were masters of the process and the arguments. It was an honor to help develop the ground game to support their efforts, and TEP is extremely grateful for their work.

But I will say a bit about why the bill didn't fail. The opposition really never materialized. Despite the press continually pointing out that the bill was "controversial," the controversy was a mere echo of 2003.

Churches: I think we can put to rest the old canard of the "churches vs. the GLBT community" with respect to policy issues that come up in Metro government. There were certainly some Evangelicals who opposed it. But Family Action itself indicated that efforts to mobilize congregations against the bill were failing before third reading:

"Although Family Action of Tennessee (FACT’s 501(c)(4) sister organization), a few churches and other organizations tried to rally Nashville-area Christians to urge their council members to defeat this ordinance, it moved forward by a vote of 23 to 16, with one abstention."

Nashville congregations had other things to do, like the support the ordinance, for example. Ten congregations--Jewish, Christian, Unitarian--supported the effort. In fact, we kicked off our campaign in October 2007 in a Church setting. Councilman Bo Mitchell's comments yesterday during the Personnel Committee meeting reflected the changed situation when he said that his "God doesn't discriminate." Sure, the inflammatory comments of Councilman Jim Hodge made an appearance in the debate, but they didn't seem to have any persuasive force.

Local vs. Imported: The opposition also failed because they could not mobilize support inside Davidson County. I heard again and again that Council Members were receiving negative emails from Franklin and Murfreesboro. The one letter to the editor in the Tennessean against the bill came from Cookeville. In fact, last night, some came from as far away as Bartlett to oppose the bill:

Among them was Liese Thomas, who drove from Bartlett, Tenn., in Shelby County.

"I believe that one man and one woman's marriage is the stabilizing force of all healthy civilizations, and where there are any deviations, the civilizations start to crumble," she said.

Even though the bill didn't address the issue of marriage, Thomas said her argument applied because approval of any "deviant behavior" inevitably leads to destruction of values.

I guess she missed her chance to say that back in June when we were working on the Shelby County non-discrimination effort. I have no idea why the opposition thought the Council wanted to hear from people outside Davidson County.

Web vs. ?: I don't know what tactics the opposition used to reach people. Their use of social networking media seemed non-existent. I know that we used it extensively as one tool among many to drive contact with Council Members. The opposition's resources, not to mention their language, struck me as primitive.

Obviously we'll be doing a great deal of thinking about what worked and what didn't work over the coming days as we prepare for the non-discrimination effort in Memphis City Council. But today we celebrate a great victory! Thank you, Nashville.

1 comment:

Jonathan in Memphis said...

Evita said it best: "Politics is the art of the possible." To that I say that You. Are. An ARTIST. My hat is off to you and the many others who advanced this cause. The arc of history bending toward justice now reaches halfway across the great state of Tennessee.