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Nashville Poised to Pass LGBT Anti-Discrimination Bill

by Kilian Melloy
Wednesday Aug 12, 2009

Even as a local club proprietor stirs up double standards regarding sexuality and erotic entertainment by preparing to open a strip club that showcases male talent, the city of Nashville is poised to adopt a non-discrimination policy that will be inclusive of the GLBT community.

An Aug. 2 article posted at Nashville Scene reported the new city ordinance faced stiff opposition from the religious right, but was expected to pass nonetheless.

Read the article, "Despite hissy fits by evangelicals and homophobes, the Metro Council is on track to join the 21st century by adopting an ordinance to ban workplace discrimination against gay and lesbian city employees.

"At least that's the view of the bill's supporters, who insist they've corralled enough votes to fend off even the Christian right's fear-mongering," the article continued.

The article quoted the Tennessee Equality Project's Chris Sanders as saying that the measure's "opponents are serious and they shouldn't be underestimated, but things look promising."

Added Sanders, "It's unfortunate, but there's a segment of the population that hates us more than taxes. That's coming out."

Among the opponents of the measure are local chapters of the Family Action Council (headed nationally by anti-gay activist James Dobson) and the Eagle Forum (whose national leader is Phyllis Schlafly). Both groups have launched a email blizzard against the measure; the article says the the campaign relies on wildly inaccurate misinformation, including claims that the city of Nashville would pay for sex reassignment surgery of the measure were to pass.

The Tennessee chapters of the Rev. James Dobson's Family Action Council and Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum are orchestrating an email campaign against the bill, bombarding council members with crazy claims. Among them: The ordinance would force people to use courthouse restrooms in the company of cross dressers (oh my!) and it would require the city to pay for sex-change operations.

Noted Sanders, "[The proposed ordinance deals with] just hiring, firing and promotion, but according to our opponents, the apocalypse is going to turn on what Metro Council does."

The article noted that the measure's sponsor, Megan Barry,
sent a message to her peers to restate the need for Nashville to join with other localities in guaranteeing non-discrimination.

Wrote Barry, "Fully half the states have either written sexual orientation into their state civil rights laws or enacted regulations protecting public employees.

"More than 170 cities and counties around the country have passed laws with these kind of protections as well. Louisville, for example, a city with much in common with Nashville, has had countywide laws banning sexual orientation discrimination in place for 10 years.

"Also, regulations banning employment discrimination based on sexual orientation for all federal employees in the U.S. have been in place for over a decade.

"These kinds of protections have become, if anything, common and mainstream," Barry noted.

But others on the Nashville city council disagree. Web site Out & About reported in an Aug. 7 article that Jim Gotto and Eric Crafton were vociferous opponents of the measure, with Crafton declaring, "We don't need to be adding any special classes beyond what the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 covered."

Gotto cast the issue in terms of people's "choice" of sexuality, an approach that echoes faith-based opponents of GLBT equality who insist that human sexuality is always heterosexual by nature, with gays having elected to find members of their own gender sexually appealing.

Said Gotto, "And we don't need to vote on a protected class based on a person's choice of sexual orientation.

"We should protect other things."

Meantime, a deep double standard regarding sexuality and erotic entertainment came to light as locals reacted to news of the male strip venue.

An Aug. 6 article at the Web site of local station News Channel 5 related that the new club, dubbed Arrow Nashville, would "be the first male strip club in Tennessee," in the words of Cole Wakefield, a co-owner of the new venue.

Added Wakefield, "We cater to anybody who wants to come see men dance naked."

In a new twist riffing on the traditional brass pole common to strip clubs featuring female dancers, the new club will have a stainless steel pole for the male dancers to use.

"We decided to man it up--stainless steel for a tougher look," Wakefield said.

But city councilman Michael Craddock pronounced himself "sick to my stomach" at the idea.

"I'm just absolutely sick," Craddock went on. "It's different for a man to show himself than a woman.

"It's another step in the wrong direction."

But a lawyer for the new business venture hailed Arrow Nashville as a step into the contemporary world.

Declared the lawyer, John Herbison, "I'd say look at your history and bring it on."

Added the venue's lawyer, "It's time to let the market decide whether a show bar featuring male dancers will be successful."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


  • Abby, 2009-08-12 14:29:40

    It seems pretty clear from this and the linked article that the proposed ordinance will NOT protect the LGB*T* community, but only the LGB community. I am deeply offended that a publication supposedly dedicated to our entire community would blithely ignore the important fact that the transgender portion of our community is being left out yet again and whitewash this omission by referring to this bill as an "LGBT anti-discrimination bill."

  • , 2009-08-12 15:30:49

    The Nashville Bill INCLUDES Gender Identity "The NDO, introduced by Metro Council Member-at-Large Megan Berry, will expand prohibition from discriminating in Metro’s hiring policy to include sexual orientation and gender identity."

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