All organizations—especially volunteer-based community organizations—have their ups and downs. HRC Nashville is no different, but under the leadership of the Nashville Steering Committee, the organization has become a model of how an organization can meet those challenges and come out stronger on the other side.
The 2018 Nashville HRC Equality Dinner is indicative of the current successes of the steering committee, becoming the most successful dinner in the HRC chapter's history. More than 700 attendees, which included representatives from businesses all over the state, came together for a night of camaraderie, support, and fundraising. The LGBT Chamber of Commerce received the Community Award and Grammy nominated singer Ty Herndon was awarded the HRC Visibility Award; Ty also performed a special song at the close of the dinner.
The Nashville Steering Committee was recognized by HRC during the annual HRC Equality Convention in Washington, DC, with 15 total awards for their accomplishments throughout Middle Tennessee. Nashville also brought home the highest honor of the night, Dinner of the Year, which is a first for the steering committee.
Eric Patton and Meredith Bazzell Fortney were also named Dinner Co-Chairs of the Year for their dynamic partnership making the dinner come alive. Eric Patton was also recognized as a Volunteer Rising Star, while Jenny Ford received special acknowledgement for Individual Achievement in Support of State or Local Legislation.
Fundraising is a necessary part of HRC’s work, but it’s all in service of fighting for and conserving the rights of the LGBT community. In Tennessee, HRC has played a major role in support of state legislative action. Teaming up with Tennessee Equality Project (TEP), the state’s largest LGBT organization, HRC had boots on the ground during the last three legislative sessions.
Over the years Tennessee has faced some of the largest waves of anti-LGBT legislation in the US. In 2017 alone, nineteen bills were filed that, if passed, would have set the state back decades. Working with TEP, HRC assisted by providing legal research, talking points, phone calls and on-site support. Though the controversial “Counselor Bill” passed, the team work paid off, diminishing what could have been a disastrous legislative session.
And in 2018, every anti-LGBT bill was stopped. This was the first time in over a decade that all such legislation was defeated.
STATEMENTS FROM HRC NASHVILLE STEERING COMMITTEE MEMBERS:
Meredith Bazzell Fortney:
“I joined HRC Nashville to be a part of something that has both national and local roots and where I can see the impact immediately. I have met the most incredible people since joining HRC and getting to experience life and affect change with people of such diverse backgrounds and life experiences has had a significant impact on the way I see the world, the people around me, and myself. HRC has helped me become my true, authentic self and now I strive to pass that sense of purpose and passion on to others in my community.”
“I believe the success and extraordinary improvements of the HRC Nashville Steering Committee over the past year or so lies in the intentional efforts of the Board of Governors seeking out talented and capable individuals to run the subcommittees. We have a fantastic group of people. Their drive and passion are refreshing, inspiring and have led directly to the success of HRC's presence in Tennessee as a whole. They are our greatest strength. ‘The Pride Season’ as we like to call it, is one of our most critical times of year. It's the time when we bring in the most members. The more members we have, the further our message goes. Each year HRC Nashville continues to add more cities to its Pride agenda and exceed its membership goals. It's the most fun time to be a part of the work with HRC. People are really genuinely happy to see you and tell you their story and that's very special to me. I can't wait to see everyone's smiling faces this year.”
"HRC not only effects change locally, the money we raise goes to fight all across the nation. When bad bills pop up, like we've seen in Oklahoma and Kansas with an anti-adoption bill, HRC is actively fighting those bills. When our neighbors to the east in North Carolina had the anti-trans bathroom bill, HRC was on the ground and threw the governor out of office. Doug Jones beating Roy Moore in Alabama? That was done with HRC support. And the nine anti-gay bills here in Tennessee that were defeated this year in the legislature? That was also with the help of HRC. A nationally united message with millions of members backing it? That makes legislators pay attention. My time with the incredible HRC Nashville team is genuinely the best ‘chosen family’ I've ever been a part of. I am welcomed, supported, and loved by this amazing team of volunteers. We spend holidays together, we go on trips together, we go to each others houses for dinner… This is my tribe.
“I am blessed to have the opportunity to work with HRC as both a governor and to lead on legislative strategy as TEP’s lobbyist.”