Notes Toward the Next Equality Agenda for Nashville

Candidates have been busy this year, particularly lately, making announcements about next year's Metro Nashville elections.  We've been fortunate in that the 2007 and 2011 Metro elections resulted in pro-equality majorities in Metro Government.  We were aided by having a clear policy agenda that we worked through steadily, an agenda that was completed this year with partner benefits for Metro government employees.  So what's next?

Here are a few thoughts that are emerging.  These will continue to be refined in conversation with our board.  But we have been looking at the needs with an eye to what is possible to pass.  Here are three areas that candidates who want LGBT and allied votes should be talking about.  These are also areas that members of our community and allies should be asking candidates about.

1.  Youth homelessness.  Estimates vary, but typically the statistics one sees indicate that 20 to 40% of the youth homeless population is made up of LGBT individuals.  Metro has put a renewed and welcome focus on homelessness.  I think the next Metro government can continue to do more to explore transitional housing, particularly for youth.  The private sector is doing what it can and, indeed, trying to do even more.  But there is still a role for Metro to lead in identifying, encouraging, and increasing the resources for homeless youth that are truly inclusive of our community. 

2.  Gender transition/gender confirmation health coverage.  Metro already has an inclusive employment non-discrimination policy and already covers partner benefits.  More and more cities around the country are going a step further by providing transgender inclusive health insurance coverage that allows their employees to be who they are.  Just this year Vanderbilt University announced the addition of this benefit.  It makes sense for Metro to adopt the same for its employees.

3.  Partner registry.  If the Supreme Court doesn't take up Tennessee's marriage case or if we get a negative ruling affirming Tennessee's marriage discrimination amendment, Metro could explore a registry for domestic partners who live or work in Nashville.  The benefits would be limited and would in no way make up for the huge loss of the freedom to marry.  But such a registry might help some couples in some very concrete situations better protect themselves.  We hope that this step is not necessary, but it is worth exploring in case things don't work out in the Supreme Court.

As I noted, this agenda is provisional.  But it is a starting point that will be further refined as we get closer to the 2015 Metro elections.  We will be exploring similar approaches for other cities around the state.

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