Today the 108th General Assembly of the State of Tennessee convenes in Nashville.

We do not know what discriminatory bills may be introduced, but we are prepared for the reintroduction of the Don't Say, License to Bully, and Police the Potty bills. It is highly doubtful that any positive bills that enshrine equal protection into our laws will advance, but we are also prepared to share a positive message about workplace equality, the value of our relationships, and the importance of safe schools with the Legislature.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

*Commit to attend the Ninth Annual Advancing Equality Day on the Hill in Nashville on March 12. We will start the day at the Rymer Gallery in downtown Nashville at 8:30 a.m. Central Time for a light breakfast and policy briefing. Around 9:30 we will go together to Legislative Plaza to meet with our state lawmakers. That afternoon there will likely be a rally with other progressive organizations at War Memorial Plaza. We are exploring van service from Memphis and Knoxville to the event. More information can be found at the Facebook event here .

*Learn the names of your state senator and state representative. Go to http://www.capitol.tn.gov/ and check the lower right corner of the page. Type your address and the Legislature's website will tell you the names of your legislators. This information will be useful to you as you communicate with them during the session.

*Begin or continue your financial support at http://tnequalityproject.org/donate/ . 100% of your contribution goes to work in Tennessee where it is needed--fighting for equality! You can make a one-time or recurring donation. Please, consider it.

LOOKING BACK OVER THE LAST 6 MONTHS

In July we asked you to RISE UP and push harder for equality than we have ever done. You delivered some amazing results. Some of you spoke at your monthly school board about policies and practices that would reduce bullying. Many of you volunteered and voted for pro-equality candidates in state legislative races. And our TEP Shelby County Committee helped secure passage of the Memphis non-discrimination ordinance. We rallied in Memphis, Cookeville, and Nashville for the President to sign an executive order barring job discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity by federal contractors. The rallies supported by many organizations around the state kept the story alive in the media and kept the pressure on. In 2013 we will continue to join others in pressing for the executive order because we know it is the most viable way to protect you from job discrimination in the near future.

CORE BELIEFS

As we carry out our work over the next few months, I want to share with you the beliefs that guide my approach to our work together.

*I believe in the power of citizens like us to change the outcome in Tennessee. Politics is for all of us, not just the professionals and specialists. I've seen active citizens make a difference again and again.

*I believe that a great way to win in Tennessee is to study how others have won progressive victories in our state, apply the lessons, and understand the personalities and forces shaping Tennessee as it changes.

*I believe local victories prepare the way for state victories. As we pass more local non-discrimination ordinances and as more school boards adopt inclusive anti-bullying policies, we gain allies who change the political culture of their areas of Tennessee. And that shapes the way state legislators view our issues.

*I believe we have many victories ahead of us. I would give up if I didn't. There's no feeling in this world like being in your local Council chamber with dozens of your friends for the final vote for a non-discrimination ordinance. And I believe more of us around the state will get to experience that in the coming years.

*I believe Tennessee and other Southern states have a story to tell that can make our national equality movement stronger. We know the reality of discrimination and our story can remind our fellow citizens of the need for measures like ENDA.

And I believe our work has just begun. We need you this year. Together we will rise to the challenge.

Yours,

Chris Sanders

Chairman of the Board and President

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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