Born during an era plagued by discrimination, Howard Gentry is no stranger to oppression.  He recalled marching as a young adult to change those laws that discriminated based on race, but also to change a culture of hate.  If elected, Gentry pledges to be the most gay friendly and inclusive Mayor yet.  Most importantly he pledges not to “create the same environment that he grew up in.”

Howard Gentry promises to have an open door for the GLBT community, including allowing gay and lesbian city employees to openly serve in their current positions.  Gentry argued that “people ought to be able to be who they are.”

But many GLBT community members question this promise with his 2003 deciding vote against an anti-discrimination bill for Metro City employees.  If passed, the bill would have protected gay and lesbian employees against discrimination.   When asked about the vote, Gentry claimed that, “the proposal had no real teeth to it.”  Furthermore, Gentry could not recall any incident of discrimination for any reason that wasn’t immediately and appropriately handled. 

At the time, Gentry did not see a real need for the bill and wanted to end all the turmoil.  Gentry argued, “What I want people to know is that I didn’t make that particular decision to hurt anyone.  I will fight discrimination in any form.” 

Gentry stated that he has plenty of gay friends and that he is the only candidate that he knows of to attend PrideFest and show his support for the community.  Gentry concluded stating, "Don’t let one decision define me as a person." He also stated that he would be open to revisiting this if there was a real problem in the Metro Nashville government with discrimination based on sexual orientation.

When asked how he might handle a valid complaint of discrimination base on sexual orientation (if elected mayor), he affirmed that, “I will go after anyone that discriminates for any reason with my guns fully loaded.”  Gentry further pledged his support for the current bill that the U.S. House and Senate are examining that would add sexual orientation as a “hate crime.”

As Mayor, Gentry’s platform would start with education.  Gentry declared that “education is critical in that it creates a viable labor force, which has a direct affect on unemployment, public safety and economic development.” For Gentry, all roads begin and end here.  He wants to help “build people up” so that they can help themselves.

To do this, Gentry pledges to pull together private industry, not-for-profit agencies and government resources to do so.  Gentry argues that as vice-mayor he has already built these relationships.  He concluded pledging to “build Nashville up” by “building people up first.” 

For more information on Howard Gentry’s campaign, visit his Web site at www.howardgentry.com.

This article has been republished from Out & About Nashville, and was part of a series of first-person pieces written by the late Bobbi Williams.

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