To the Editor:
I was happy to see that on July 11, Out & About Newspaper issued two endorsements for candidates vying for State House District 52. I applaud the Newspaper's decision to continue the practice of endorsing candidates for state offices and I hope that Out & About will be able to issue other endorsements in the future. It is encouraging to me that, one, candidates Mike Steward and Eric Stansell recognize the fact that GLBT voters will be essential to the success of their campaigns and , two, state and local elections are not being overlooked by the GLBT community.
While the focus of many will remain on national elections this year, it is arguable that the ramifications of state and local elections will prove more significant to the cause of advancing equality. Federal legislation such as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a repeal of the discriminatory "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy, and the reintroduction of the federal marriage amendment have drawn the attention of national GLBT advocacy groups and media during the 110th Congress. However, over the course of the past two years in our own state legislature, bills have been introduced that would require schools to notify parents and receive their approval before children can join or participate in any school clubs (SB1133/HB905), prohibit teaching materials in public schools on sexual orientation other than heterosexuality (SB3910/HB2997), and prohibit gay and lesbian couples from adopting children (SB3910/HB3717). Though federal legislation should be tracked closely and federal legislators should be watched carefully, what happens at the state level should draw more scrutiny from the GLBT community. In short, Tennessee's GLBT population needs to be more concerned with who is governing our state.
Knowledge of and participation in the political process is the only way that our voices will be heard. If we want to prevent further erosion of our liberties, then it is necessary that we get involved, especially at the state level. This is a lesson we learned all too well in 2006 with the passage of the marriage amendment to our state constitution. The moral of that story: It is impossible to advance our cause and remain passive observers. Too great of a trust is given to our elected officials for them to be left unaccountable. Those 132 legislators on Capitol Hill and those candidates who are running for office need to hear from Tennessee's GLBT community. We should get to know our state representatives and senators as well as the candidates running against them. We need to write them, call them, e-mail them, myspace and facebook them and ask them about their positions on GLBT issues.
It is up to us to educate the candidates. If we want them to move Tennessee forward in promoting equality, then we need to tell them. Once that rapport is established, when we go to cast our votes, we will know who will stand up for our rights when the state legislature reconvenes in 2009. Not only that, but our representatives and senators will know that they were elected with the help of Tennessee's GLBT community and with the expectation that we will be honestly and faithfully represented.
Again, I applaud Out & About for issuing its endorsements this election season, and hope that this practice will continue in the future.