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.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Ambulances and Elections: Which way are we going, Nashville?

It has taken me about 36 hours to process what has happened on Thursday, but I believe Nashville is still headed in the right direction for those of us who care about equality.

Ambulances: On Thursday, as I was heading to the Madison Library to hold a sign for Nancy VanReece's Metro Council campaign, I got a call from Jerry Jones of Out & About Newspaper about a Nashville Fire Department paramedic who posted anti-gay comments in a Facebook group, some of them specifically about co-workers. The story has also been covered by WSMV and WTVF. The Fire Department is handling the incident responsibly; the coverage even indicates the paradmedic's co-workers gave him Hell about his comments. And no one should be surprised because this is exactly what we've been working for since 2007 when our election involvement was based on passing the 2009 Metro non-discrimination ordinance that protects government employees from job discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. I should also point out that the Nashville Firefighters' union endorsed that ordinance, so it doesn't shock me that they're serious about good working conditions for all their members. Still, it's a nice confirmation that the workplace is changing for the better in Metro.

Elections: Election night was more of a mixed bag in terms of what we hoped for, but the results still bode well for advancing good public policy when the new Metro Government takes office.

*Overall: Mayor Karl Dean, the most pro-equality executive in the history of Tennessee, won easy re-election as did Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors, who has always been clearly on the side of fairness for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community. Three of our five TEP PAC-endorsed Council At-Large candidates (Megan Barry, Ronnie Steine, and Jerry Maynard) won their spots outright and will not face a runoff, with Barry and Steine as the top vote recipients. And even though they didn't make the cut, Vivian Wilhoite and Sam Coleman came in 7th and 8th in a crowded field and it has been great working with them both. A total of 18 of our endorsed Council candidates won outright on Election Day and we're particularly happy about the outcome for Fabian Bedne, the first Hispanic person elected in Nashville. Four of our endorsed candidates are in a runoff, including Peter Westerholm, TEP's former public policy chair. Additionally, Bo Mitchell, who has a perfect voting record on equality bills, won outright as did others candidates with whom we can work. So we should have a pro-equality majority in the new Metro Government.

*Departing Foes: Eric Crafton and Jim Hodge, two vocal opponents of equality measures, will not be returning when the new Council is sworn in. I won't miss the sneering from one or the comparison of homosexuality to smoking from the other.

*Hard Losses: The hardest losses were in districts 16, 8, and 18. Councilwoman Anna Page has a perfect voting record on equality bills and it is very sad that she wasn't reelected. Districts 8 and 18 gave us hope for openly gay Council Members emerging victorious from competitive races, but we'll have to wait a little longer for that. First-time candidate Nancy VanReece ran a great race in a moderate to conservative district and I'd say she's competitive for the seat if she chooses to seek it in four years. David Glasgow came so close this time, but I know he will continue to find ways to serve Nashville and his neighbors in the 18th. They both make our city proud.

Nashville is still moving forward.

-Chris Sanders

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