The LGBT Chamber worked with community partners, Tennessee Equality Project, Stonewall Bar Association, and Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition to establish expectations of the next Nashville mayor. All of the organizations have been successful in advancing inclusive policies and culture, but we have a long way to go.
Mayor Karl Dean was one of the first Nashville mayors to support the LGBT community by helping pass and implement LGBT-inclusive policies. During Mayor Dean’s tenure, sexual orientation and gender identity were added to Metro’s employment non-discrimination policy. In 2011, the city council voted to make sure their vendors do not discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Last year, Metro government implemented partner benefits for their employees.
However, the non-discrimination policies do not carry over to access to housing or public accommodations. The Metro Human Relations Commission conducted a survey and issued a report that revealed large gaps in the promotion rates and salaries of African American Metro employees, and an absence of Latin American employees. LGBT employees were not included in the survey or report. In fact, Metro does not have a method of measuring or tracking LGBT employees or LGBT suppliers.
Transgender healthcare benefits are missing from Metro employee benefits. There are health and housing issues for the aging population of the LGBT community as well.
There is a need for affirming shelters and housing for homeless LGBT youth. Safe schools for students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or gender nonconforming could prevent drop out rates, suicide rates, and improve graduation rates. Simply stating that Nashville is a welcoming and inclusive city is not enough when lives are on the line.
In other cities, the local LGBT community center and the LGBT Chamber of Commerce receive funding from the mayor’s office. It could be time for the Nashville mayor to put their money where their mouth is.