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.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Why LGBT involvement in election campaigns matters

I will never forget the date of November 23, 2010 ---  the day that the Memphis City Council failed to pass an employment non-discrimination ordinance by one vote.

I knew back then that we would have to wait until the next term of City Council before we could introduce an LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination ordinance again. We needed at least one more vote to ensure passage.

Memphis City Councilman
Lee Harris of District 7
The opportunity for that one vote came with the 2011 municipal election. Barbara Swearengen Ware of District 7 who voted against the ordinance declined to run again.  TEP PAC had a chance to support an equality advocate for the open seat. The field of candidates was large, but TEP PAC made the strategic decision to place our hopes in Lee Harris to represent the neighborhoods of North Memphis, Frayser, Uptown, and Mud Island.

TEP PAC's endorsement of Harris motivated LGBT people and their allies to contribute their time, talent and treasure to Harris's campaign. We made phone calls, canvassed neighborhoods, and held fundraising drives to support Lee's election. While many other groups and organizations supported his candidacy, TEP PAC and volunteers helped make a difference in his campaign. Lee won a majority in the first election and then won the runoff election.

Fast forward to the summer of 2012. President Obama and the Shelby County Democratic Party announced their support for marriage equality and full equality for LGBT people. And freshman Councilman Lee Harris approached TEP about re-introducing a non-discrimination ordinance. The rest is history.

I share this story to emphasize the importance of supporting equality advocates running for elected office. One day that candidate will be the elected official who champions equality.

November 6 is a national election. More people turn out to vote for or support a candidate for President, US Congress or the US Senate. But I am here to argue that State and Local elections matter more than most people appreciate. It's hard for one person or a small group to make a noticeable difference in campaigns for President, Congress or Senate. But the example of our support for an equality advocate in a North Memphis City Council district proves that your voice, your volunteer hours, and your financial support make a huge impact in a local election.

Margaret Mead said it best: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

Are you ready to make an impact? TEP PAC will be engaged in a statewide Day of Action on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012. We'll be supporting equality advocates for elected office knowing that our work is vital to promoting pro-equality public policy in State and local government. We invite you to join us! Visit TEP PAC's Facebook Fan Event Page for the opportunity closest to you. 

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