Clarksville could become the next city to add sexual orientation and gender identity in their non-discrimination policy. When the City Council met on Thursday, Dec. 13, business owner and activist David Shelton spoke in support of this issue. But it was meet with a challenger voicing his thoughts on this issue.

Rev. Tommy Vallejos from Faith Outreach Church asked the council, “Can you or should you consider an ordinance in the coming months knowing that it would create a separate classification of people based on sexual orientation? Can you or should you consider an ordinance in the coming months knowing that by doing so you would divide the citizens of our community forever?”

Vallejos believes the wording of this ordinance is discriminatory and by passing this would open a “Pandora’s box” of lawsuits. “I cannot change the color of my skin ... But it is a fact that many people can and do change their sexual preference and their practices.”

He ended his five-minute speaking limit by saying no company will come here because this will complicate rules more and “just because the president said it was OK doesn’t make it OK. Let’s record history and make it a community that comes together.”

Currently Nashville, Knoxville and Memphis are the only cities in Tennessee that have passed these additions. Nashville approved a mandate in 2011 saying companies wanting to do business must not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, but Gov. Bill Haslam signed a state law the following month blocking it.

This process is still in the early stages though. “I will meet with all of the council members and the mayor, and work with other organizations to drive up support,” Shelton said. “I will also be contacting civic groups and organizations in the community to build support.”

Clarksville Mayor Kim McMillan previously was elected by her collogues as the first female in Tennessee history to serve as House Majority Leader. She also worked briefly for Austin Peay State University as executive director of Community, Business Relations. APSU also has a non-discrimination policy that includes sexual orientation and gender identity.

“As a rule, Clarksville tends to be a live-and-let-live community. Unless people feel as if they are threatened, most of the people in the city would be either apathetic on the issue or somewhat supportive,” Shelton said. “I believe it's only a small minority of people who oppose any form of LGBT equality.”

Shelton encourages Clarksvillians to contact their City Council representatives to support this change. If interested in helping with the effort, visit his website “All politics is local — and that's where we can have the most impact. Person to person, face to face, and neighbor to neighbor.”

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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