Maintain discipline to pass the Non-discrimination Ordinance

Editor's note: Nashville’s GLBT community is so close to victory. But, unbridled zeal and misplaced anger could overshadow our progress and deliver us a costly setback if we aren't cautious. Enthusiasm to pass the Non-discrimination Ordinance, along with the pain of discrimination, has evoked the need in some people to be abusive to council members by phone, email or blog postings.

During the last two months, many people have come forward with positive, moving stories that exemplify why we are fighting this fight. Other posts have been mean spirited and in some cases inappropriate. Such negative outbursts could prove to be costly missteps and will not help win this battle.

Just three weeks from today is the third and final vote on the non-discrimination ordinance that would protect Metro government employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. We’ve waited six years since the defeat of a similar measure on second reading.

Has anyone ever said to you “Don’t mess it up,” when you were on the verge of success? It’s probably not the most positive way to make a point, but it’s a point we all need to consider over the next three weeks. There are many elements of the campaign that could help pass the ordinance, but the one over which we have the most control is ourselves.

All of the good will we have established by recruiting 50 allied organizations and by engaging in a professional lobbying effort can be wiped out if we don’t have discipline. And the key to discipline is controlling our expression of anger when we hear some of the things our opponents are saying like “special rights,” “lifestyle choice,” and “contrary to Scripture.”

What I want to make very clear to you is that we will not move Council Members who have so far voted NO on the ordinance by being insulting or by carrying on an email war with them. Resist the temptation to show you can win a debate. Have the composure to do what it takes to win.

I know that it is tempting to tell a Council Member who has voted NO that “You’ve lost my vote.” I’ve attended every Council Meeting and listened to every debate on the ordinance and I’ve been ticked off many times. But what I have learned by observing the process up close is that lashing out did not get us the majority votes we’ve won so far and it will not help the lobbying effort over the next three weeks.

When you feel tempted to send an angry email to a Council Member, I hope you will pause and keep the words of a gay former Metro employee in mind:

“In my third year, I discovered that a coworker had been making derogatory comments about me including use of the word “queer”. I experienced great anxiety wondering what to do. One of the factors I weighed was whether I would face retaliation for reporting the incident since the co-worker who had been defaming me was placed high in the department. I was equally concerned the information would be made public by the employee involved. I wrestled with the possibility that my supervisor, colleagues and employees might have a problem with gay people. I was concerned my work environment might become hostile. I even feared losing my job.”

Hundreds of Metro employees who have no protection from discrimination are the reason for this ordinance. It’s not about our anger or whether we can prove to individual Council Members that we’re right.

I urge you to contact your Council Member if you haven’t done so, but remain positive. If you’ve made the case for the ordinance and your Council Member is not convinced, there’s no dishonor in putting your time into some other part of the campaign. That’s the kind of discipline that will help us reach the finish line this time.

Let me know if you’d like to help by contacting me at

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