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.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Boxing Day Edition : Deserved Praise and Questionable Blame

Calendar Notes: It's Boxing Day. Of course, it's Sunday, too. So I'm not sure whether those in the former British Empire get tomorrow off or not. But here's hoping they do. It's also St. Stephen's Day or the Feast of Stephen--you remember, the day that prompted Good King Wenceslas to look out "when the snow lay round about/ Deep and crisp and even." Seems fitting for today.

Praise: Speaking of good, there's a great piece in today's Commercial Appeal titled "12 Who Made a Difference." And one of them is TEP's own chairman Jonathan Cole.

Cole said one of the things the group has been successful at is "engaging the GLBT community in a more formal way in the political process.

"If we don't send a message to our local leaders, then we can't expect leaders we send to Washington to express those same values."

The list of cities more progressive than Memphis on GLBT issues is long, but Cole is staying put.

"Do I ever want to give up? I will take breaks, but I don't feel I need to throw up my hands yet," he said.

The fight for equality "is not for summer soldiers and the sunshine patriots. It's a commitment for the long haul."

Amen to that!

Blame?: In my view, there's been some odd criticism of some folks who have been great supporters of equality legislation in Nashville.

Let's start with yesterday's Tennessean. It included a piece about 18th District Councilwoman Kristine LaLonde and her role in the Belmont University controversy. LaLonde was a cosponsor of the 2009 Metro non-discrimination ordinance She has spoken about the conversations occurring inside Belmont to make the campus more welcoming. As a faculty member she is a voice for equality. We shouldn't forget that it was the faculty resolutions on this issue that prompted trustee emeritus Mike Curb to get involved in the matter. If the Belmont Board of Trustees is going to make a change, it will require concerted action from the faculty and from benefactors like Mike Curb to move things along. So while I understand the source of the questions that some have raised, I would hate for people to lose sight of the factors that will actually bring change to Belmont and the role LaLonde is playing. Besides, the bill revoking Belmont's Rose Park lease has been deferred indefinitely, so that piece of the puzzle is a moot point now.

My thoughts would be along the same lines with respect to Mayor Karl Dean. The Mayor just recently sent a letter to boards, commissions, and authorities asking them to update their non-discrimination policies to match's Metro's in response to the inflammatory comments by the Belmont board chair/Convention Center Authority chair. The Convention Center Authority has already updated its policy. However, there have been a few complaints that the Mayor should have taken this action in 2009. Sure, and why not long before that, for that matter? But here's the thing. When we were working with the Mayor and allied Council Members on the non-discrimination ordinance, we asked for a very focused ordinance that would have impact and pass. No one in 2009 talked about the boards, commissions, and authorities. We either assumed the ordinance would cover those bodies or it didn't occur to us. In 2009 the Mayor and allied Council Members did everything they were asked to do in supporting the bill. That includes speaking publicly for it, working on strategy for it, voting for it, signing it, and implementing it. It is the first law of its kind in Tennessee and it happened because people worked together like a symphony.

It's going to be tough to pass something like the bill requiring vendors contracting with Metro Government to have an inclusive non-discrimination policy if we aren't focused on keeping our friends from the 2009 effort motivated to stick together. After a snowy holiday, let's get back to work on making something positive happen.

-Chris Sanders

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