If you have watched Ride Upon the Storm/Herrens Veje, the Danish series on Netflix, you are drawn into a story in which you wonder, “How much worse can life get for these characters?” Despite temporary reprieves, there is a growing, weighty sense that things can get much worse.
We face a similar story every time the Tennessee General Assembly reconvenes. In 2020, some of the 2019 bills will return and new discriminatory bills will be filed. You might call it the Slate of Hate PLUS. We have a bit of reprieve in that the new Speaker of the Tennessee House is not as focused on discriminatory legislation as former Speaker Casada was. That’s significant, but it will not be enough to guarantee that we prevail. We will have to do the work.
Fortunately, we are off to a good start. We have spent the year organizing in more places around the state, so that we can have a greater impact during the legislative session. State legislators from Nashville and much of Memphis already vote against discriminatory legislation. Our opportunity is to form better relationships with legislators in other parts of Tennessee. So I am grateful to the advocates in Northwest Tennessee, Dickson County, the Morristown area, Rutherford County, and many other places who are organizing and speaking out.
The whole statewide community of LGBTQ people and allies needs to own the battle. Our long-term hopes for advancing good bills and making bad legislation a thing of past depend on taking the map of Tennessee seriously. We will have to show legislators that equality advocates live in their districts.
So once again we will hold three Advancing Equality Days on the Hill—February 4, March 3, and April 7. We are recruiting district captains from around the state to take the lead in changing hearts and minds at these events. If you are in Nashville, you can prepare for these days on the Hill and the whole legislative session, by attending Advocacy 101 on January 9 at 6:00 p.m. at the Green Hills Library. Nashvillians, in particular, can also help by staying alert and attending key committee votes, wearing red for visibility.
Allies play a critical role in speaking out. We know that clergy and business voices matter in Tennessee. The LGBTQ community always determines which bills are important to us and which bills we will fight. We will call on allies to join us again in fighting the entire Slate of Hate.
What is thrown at us can always get worse, but I think our community is getting better at fighting back. And I think more allies are answering the call to support us. Taylor Swift, Mike Curb, and many others made strong statements against discriminatory legislation in 2019. When our community fights back and sends a clear message, I am confident the help will come.