Thursday, July 31, 2008
Approximately 40 students attended the presentation at First Congregational Church in the Cooper Young Neighborhood. Most of the student are criminal justice majors who will likely go on to serve in law enforcement in our area. I was pleased by the inquisitiveness of the students. Many expressed their appreciation for learning something they did not know.
After the presentation, Professor Lt. Stacy Cunningham invited the class to walk up Cooper Street to visit the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center.
My sincere thanks goes to one of the class instructors, Lt. Cunningham (who is also a new instructor with the Memphis Police Department Training Academy) for extending the invitation to speak. I also want to thank Amy Livingston for arranging space for the class and the people at First Congo for allowing me to speak.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
PO Box 330895 Nashville, TN 37203
For Immediate Release: July 30, 2008
Rhonda White, TEP Foundation Anti-Violence Project Chair – email@example.com (615) 424-2238
Randy Cox, TEP Foundation President – firstname.lastname@example.org (615) 585-1371
Chris Sanders, TEP President – email@example.com (615) 390-5252
LEADERS URGE DISTRICT ATTORNEY TO PROSECUTE CHURCH SHOOTING AS HATE CRIME
Knoxville TN: The Tennessee Equality Project (TEP) and the Tennessee Equality Project Foundation have extended their support, thoughts and prayers to the victims, families, and the entire community of Knoxville after a shooting at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church claimed the lives of two congregation members, and injured others. Leaders also encouraged District Attorneys to prosecute the incident as a hate crime, as Tennessee’s hate crimes statute explicitly includes religion and sexual orientation. A signed, four page letter authored by the gunman stated his hate for “liberals” and “gays.”
Carla Lewis, a member of the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition who often attended church services and group meetings at TVUUC, was present at the time of the shooting. She reflected on the horror of her recent experience, by recounting to Out & About Newspaper , “We saw children and adults with blood on their clothes. We saw the worst side of human cruelty we had ever seen.” Rhonda White, chair of the TEP Foundation’s Anti-Violence Project, lamented that “It has been unthinkably tragic to watch such a loving church community fall prey to such a horrible hate crime in what is supposed to be the safest of places.” “The tragedy on Sunday is especially painful for me,” says Randy Cox, President of the TEP Foundation. “Having grown up in Knoxville and experienced prejudice personally, this violence demonstrates the work we still have to do in East Tennessee. We mourn for the losses that our friends at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church are experiencing and want to offer our love and support to them as they heal.”
Reverend Gail Seavey of Nashville’s First Unitarian Universalist Church echoes this sentiment, and adds that “This terrible episode highlights the fact hate crimes truly affect everyone, regardless of orientation or identity. As a community, we cannot let hate or hate crimes go unchecked in our churches, schools, legislatures, military or anywhere else. It is thus everyone’s responsibility to provide the education, direction and guidance necessary to prevent this type of crime from happening again.” First Unitarian Universalist, located at 1808 Woodmont Blvd., will hold a vigil at 7:00 p.m. Wednesday.
TEP also calls on the concerted efforts of elected officials, police officers, educators, community leaders to support the prosecution of such crimes appropriately, as TEP President Chris Sanders says “We must send the firm message that gay, transgender, and allied people and the communities of faith that embrace us are not legitimate targets for violence by prosecuting this crime for what it is – a hate crime.”
The Tennessee Equality Project is a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote and sustain the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons in Tennessee.
Senator Bob Corker: As far as I can tell, Senator Corker was the first to issue a statement. He says that he has reached out to Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam. Although Senator Corker did not vote for the Matthew Shepard Act, he deserves praise for making his support of the Knoxville community and for local officials known so quickly. It's the right example.
Mike Padgett: I looked on the campaign site and at first didn't find anything. I also didn't recall the shooting being mentioned in any emails. So I contacted Terry Quillen, who pointed out the Knoxville Democrat's blog post dated July 28. His own First Baptist Church hosted a service of prayer for the community. Highlighting the bridge building between two very different congregations is also the right response.
Chris Lugo: Chris Lugo reacted to the news Monday by calling Tennessee Valley UU a "beacon of joy and hope in East Tennessee" and by urging comprehensive gun control.
Bob Tuke: I haven't found a statement yet, so I've asked the campaign for comment.
Kenneth Eaton: I didn't see anything on the main campaign site or on his blog. I've requested comment.
Senator Lamar Alexander: I couldn't find a statement at the Senate or campaign site and I've asked for comment from his campaign, too.
Again, I want to point out that a statement in itself isn't everything. The candidates may have reached out in other ways. I also want to be sure to add that I could have missed their statements. I hope to have updates on all the campaigns whose information I'm lacking.
Monday, July 28, 2008
Out & About Newspaper features this moving account by Carla Lewis of the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition, who was present during the shooting. Pam's House Blend, a national GLBT blog based in North Carolina, analyzed the media's lack of clarity on what exactly is liberal or progressive about the congregation and reads the hints of an anti-gay motive. Mr. Kleinheider finds links to comments about the tragedy made by First Lady Laura Bush as she was visiting Nashville.
A Knoxville activist asked and received when he wrote Mayor Bill Haslam about acknowledging Knoxville's GLBT community. Haslam wasn't the only elected official to comment. Governor Phil Bredesen issued this statement:
Our prayers are with those who have been affected by this horrible event. We extend our sympathies to the families who lost loved ones and hope those who were injured make a full and quick recovery," Bredesen said.
targeted Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church due to "recent publicity" the church had received regarding its "liberal stance" on things.
A sign recently went up at the Church indicating its welcome of the GLBT community.
We'll continue to follow the story.
Update: This headline on a North Carolina paper's story is the first I've seen that indicates hatred of gay people is a motivation.
Update: The Knoxville News Sentinel is now adding gays as Adkisson's targets.
Update: The statement of the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition
Many people across the state are devasted as they try to come to terms with what has happened.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
This congregation hosts the Spectrum Cafe, which is a welcoming place for GLBT youth. Please, keep the members of this congregation in your thoughts and prayers.
Update: WBIR has several details and a time line of events.
Update 2: The Knoxville News Sentinel story linked above has been updated and reports that Greg McKendry has died from wounds he received when he interposed his body between the shooter and other parishioners. "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." The Gospel according to St. John 15:13
Update 3: Out & About Newspaper provides additional information on the ways in which the congregation has been supportive of the GLBT community.
Update 4: The FBI is involved in case the matter turns out to be a hate crime. One parishioner notes that the gunman was yelling "hateful things." (I had seen a report that a second person has died. It is no longer posted. Will try to find out more.)
Update 5: The Knoxville News Sentinel has acknowledged the conflicting information about a second victim and released the name of the shooter as Jim D. Adkisson of Powell. The online story is also the first in the mainstream media to acknowledge the congregation's outreach to the GLBT community. They mention in connection with officers being dispatched to other congregations for security.
[Knoxville Police Chief Sterling] Owen said when authorities learned of the shooting, police officers were sent to other churches to provide security.
"We've gone to some in the county and in other counties as well," Owen said. He declined to identify the churches targeted for additional security, however, the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church was a strong proponent of gay rights in the community.
The largest category of volunteering in Nashville was understandably religious. 44.1% of those who volunteer do so through their faith communities. One of the lowest categories was civic, coming in at 4.2%. But compared with other Southern cities, that rate is slightly higher than most, although Atlanta came in at 4.6% and Orlando came in at a whopping 9.3%.
Even given Nashville's comparatively high rating for civic volunteering, I'm surprised it's not higher. Not only have we seen an explosion of neighborhood associations that engage Metro government, but most of the statewide advocacy groups on several issues as well as the state political parties are based here.
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Pictured left to right are Chris Nelson, Peter Westerholm, Katy Johnson, R.G. Cravens, Kim Council, Chris Sanders, Rhonda White, Jeremy Harwell, Todd Hughes, Daniel Forrest, Joyce Peacock, James McKissic, Lisa Beavers, and Shawn Stewart, who are board members or key volunteers of the Tennessee Equality Project. Not pictured are board members Stephen Henry, H.G. Stovall, Jeremy Davis, Tom Ekman, and Susan Ford Wiltshire as well as lobbyist Jenny Ford.
We held our first meeting in our new headquarters at 617 Hart Lane in Nashville today. It was a good discussion of statewide outreach and policy for about three hours. We welcomed new board members James McKissic, who is chair of our Hamilton/Bradley Counties committee, and Kim Council, who is chair of our Rutherford County committee.
It also happened to be our first meeting of the new board year. The new year promises to bring advances in municipal nondiscrimination policies, a better network to bring about change in the handling of hate crimes in Tennessee, and a push for positive legislation in the General Assembly.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Quite disturbingly, she had received death threats after her remarks were made public. There was another incident in June in which she was found with a gun in the capitol. I have no doubt that she fears for her life.
Events like this one make me realize that "culture war" is not merely an image for some people. That death threats have become part of the debate over social issues is completely disgusting.
I find myself as sick of words like bigot, extremist, and so forth that are used to characterize the Right as I am of all the dehumanizing ways the GLBT community is characterized in the discourse of those who oppose us.
In the end, the individuals who make death threats and those who perpetrate hate crimes are responsible for their actions. Arguing about whether our political discourse causes particular acts of violence is a little like trying to determine whether violence in movies makes people do terrible things. It's a pretty foggy enterprise.
But what is clear to me is that the religious discourse on the Right and the secular discourse of progress on the Left have not yet been successful in tempering the feelings and language of violence. I don't even know if we can borrow a religious word like "redemptive" and give it a nonsectarian meaning and apply it to the ways we talk about those with whom we are locked in disagreement.
But the fact that there have been threats against an Oklahoma representative and the fact that the GLBT community continues to suffer violence means we're not trying very hard at persuasion. Right now, persuasion sounds pretty redemptive.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Steve Hargis, who seems to have the most politically helpful connections (farming, Blount County Commision, and volunteer fire fighters) is running against Governor Bredesen:
Hargis says he is "not pleased with the way the governor is handling the budget" and with cuts to it. He says he intends to be "aggressive against taxes and also wasteful spending," which he said is "running wild.
"The economy is growing slower than the state budget," he said. "It's gotten out out of hand."
In 2006, the Governor won Blount County with 23,433 votes to Jim Bryson's 11,701.
If you don't want to attack your fellow Republicans in a primary and you don't want to run on President Bush's economic record, maybe all you can do is run against the Governor. But trying to label him a big spender and anti-growth is pretty counterintuitive.
OK, was that enough letters? The Davidson County Young Democrats are hosting an outreach event for the GLBT community called "Proud to be a Democrat" on July 29 from 6:00 to 8:00 at Tribe on Church Street. The notification was posted as a comment on TEP's MySpace page last night. The group also participated in last year's Nashville GLBT Chamber of Commerce Business and Life Expo.
Monday, July 21, 2008
The City Paper's Nate Rau points out: Oftentimes on local issues, the word progressive becomes synonymous with pro-neighborhood. To that end, some of the voices calling for Nashville progressives to organize have been those outside of Council with pro-neighborhood sympathies.
The article indicates that Councilman Jerry Maynard and others have a desire to get back to a more "traditional" progressive agenda of affordable housing and environmental concerns. Neighborhood interests, after all, don't always translate into progressive causes or candidates. In 2007, the Nashville Neighborhood Defense Fund endorsed Carolyn Baldwin Tucker for Vice Mayor. Every GLBT person who has lived in Nashville since 2003 knows where she stands on our issues. Similarly they said "Beware" of the following candidates: Jerry Maynard (whom they endorsed) and Ronnie Steine. I'm not knocking their process. They exist to protect neighborhoods, not to enact some broad progressive agenda. I'm just saying the neighborhood test is insufficient to establish or revoke one's progressive credentials. There are plenty of progressives who support business, development, and property rights. And social conservatives can find plenty of reasons to back a neighborhood agenda.
While not showing an interest in being part of a caucus, Councilman Steine considers himself a progressive, but his careful approach to social issues seems warranted:
“Issues like abortion and prayer in school and gay marriage, those are for the state Legislature or Congress to address,” Steine said. “Frankly I think one of the issues with the previous Councils was they spent too much time on memorializing resolutions that didn’t accomplish anything and it divided the Council.
“For me it’s a constant struggle, because [social issues] obviously mean something,” Steine said. “I think progress is in the eye of the beholder and you have to address it almost issue by issue. It’s more in terms of who wants to move the city forward and who likes the status quo.”
And with a Council of 40, I think that means gradual progress because consensus building is so important. A move to the Left too far and too fast is likely to inspire even more ballot initiatives like Councilman Crafton's English-only measure. We need a progressive wind in Metro Council, but one that blows gently forward, one that gives people the feel that they're moving mostly at their own pace. But moving, nonetheless.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
I certainly appreciate your statement that you believe in the "Great Flood" as related in the Bible and that "there is but one human race … . We are all related."
This reference to Noah and the Great Flood reminds me, as I stated to the General Assembly earlier this year, that Tennessee is like a ship on the ocean. Or an ark.
Sometimes we must trim the sails and throw the excess baggage overboard. Nothing personal or political, of course.
The Human Rights Commission is like a row boat. Everyone must use the oars equally. If only those on the left paddle, the boat will veer to the right. If you rock the boat, or overload it, all aboard may get wet.
"There is no doubt that Coriolanus and his rival Aufidius have a love-hate relationship and the wrestling in the sand pit with their shirts off will please most TEP supporters." stated an anonymous supporter.
Excitement was high at the Glassmeyer/Delworth event, despite Coriolanus’ patronizing and sarcastic demeanor.
“Though Coriolanus’ attitude can be a bit off-putting, I believe that the people of Nashville will see that he is the most qualified candidate for consul,” said Nancy VanReece, Executive Director of the Nashville Shakespeare Festival and Coriolanus’ campaign manager. “Unlike other candidates who don’t consider Tennessee an important state to campaign in, Coriolanus has seventeen appearances planned in Nashville from August 14 through September 7. He obviously values the citizens of Middle Tennessee.”
Christopher Brown as Coriolanus and Kamal Bolden as Aufidius
Photo by http://www.jefffrazier.com/ Costunes by Billy Ditty
--TEP's value of the arts in Nashville is well known. We hope that the TEP Foundation license plate gets through in the next pas so that funding and awareness can support the mutual goals of the LGBT Creative Class --
“Your” government and “my” government. Mr. Cunningham is profoundly confused and ill informed.(Other Views Public Art THE TENNESSEAN 7/11/08) As William Shakespeare profoundly declared through a character in the play CORIOLANUS 400 years ago, “The people are the city”. The notion that government funds for the arts are somehow extra add-ons for the “dilettantes” is obscene. Most arts organizations that receive funding from the National Endowment For the Arts, The Tennessee Arts Commission and the Metro Nashville Arts Commission (MNAC) do so out of necessity. Arts funding is much like a three-legged stool. Government Funding, Business and Foundation Funding and Individual Donations make all the work possible. With out all three, the programming will suffer or may even come to a complete halt. If you want to see what your tax dollars are doing through arts funding, visit the organizations and ask them to tell you. Go to The Community Foundation’s wonderful transparent resource at www.givingmatters.com and read about the programming, education and funding of the creative class in your city.
Norree Boyd, Executive Director of MNAC, was clear about the cultural tourism and how our city is perceived by others. How do you perceive your city? Can Nashville be a city that treasures its Shakespeare in the Park, Symphony Hall, Children’s Theatre, Film Festival, Untitled Artist Group and Frist Center as much as it does its sports teams? As a citizen of Nashville we should all be striving for ways to help make this the city we all want it to be. As the NEA slogan says; ‘ A great nation deserves great art”. I boldly proclaim that “A great city deserves great art!” - Nancy VanReece, Executive Director, The Nashville Shakespeare Festival, making your world a stage, all year round!
* another house party is schedueld in the home of Shakes board president Phil Phy on Sunday July 27. Please email me if you woudl liek to be added to the e-vite list!
Saturday, July 19, 2008
Last night the Nashville Shakespeare Festival held a house party at the home of Jon Glassmeyer featuring a "satellite uplink" with the candidate Coriolanus...who is running for consul, of course. One of Shakespeare's most political of plays, Coriolanus is being marketed creatively during this election season with yard signs and bumper stickers.
Coriolanus wasn't the only candidate with a presence that night. Mike Stewart, who is running for the Tennessee House 52nd District seat, also made an appearance.
The sign is up. We're about to move into our 617 Hart Lane Nashville location with two other great GLBT organizations--Out & About Newspaper and One-in-Teen. We'll be holding our next board meeting in the new space this coming weekend.
Interestingly, we're across from the TBI's offices. That should provide some good opportunities to talk about hate crimes. We're also within easy distance of some of the neighborhoods where many of our members live.
(camera phone photo credit: Jerry Jones)
Thursday, July 17, 2008
The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has released a survey on religion and opinion in the presidential race that shows that John McCain has less of a lead among Evangelicals than President Bush did in either of the previous two elections.
But Evangelicals don't appear to be flocking to Senator Obama. Despite being comfortable with the languages of Evangelicalism, Obama is nevertheless a little behind John Kerry and Al Gore's performance with this group.
Why? Is it because of the steadily rising profile of center and left-leaning Evangelicals like those associated with Sojourners? I don't think so, although that may be a factor in allowing Obama to hold a quarter of the group. Is it the fact that McCain has had trouble with Evangelical leaders like James Dobson and the late Jerry Falwell? That is obviously relevant.
But what the results may be showing are the effects of a process of soul searching and identity clarification. In particular, some Evangelicals are increasingly uncomfortable with the movement being popularly identified with politics and the culture wars.
If McCain loses the Evangelicals, Dobson and company won't be able to take all the credit. A growing fatigue with politics might be the silent killer. At this point, it is difficult to imagine John McCain getting 79% of their votes, as President Bush reportedly did in 2004. Bush picked up 10 points among them from June to November. What would it take for John McCain to pick up 18 points to reach that same mark? A miracle.
“I have connected with Tennesseans from the smallest counties to the biggest Metro areas, in all 95 counties, and a red plaid shirt is about all they can recall about their current U.S. senator."
Both campaigns have done a good job of putting out information about their candidates; the media have not decided to pick up what they're laying down, though. That's a shame.
If it weren't for blogs, I'm not sure anyone would be paying attention to the primary. In the end, I think nothing overwhelmingly positive or negative stuck to either candidate in the public's imagination. So we are left with Bob Tuke's fundraising advantage and Mike Padgett's concerted effort to be everywhere.
Party primary races include US Senate, US House Districts 7, 8, and 9, and Tennessee Senate and House seats. Some of the Primary races are likely to determine the outcome of the November general election (e.g., US Senate races, US House Districts 7 & 9 and many of the other state senate and house races). Shelby County will also be voting for a Criminal Court Judge, Assessor, Trustee, County School Board members, and whether to retain State Appeal and Supreme Court Judges.
There are also important ballot initiatives (see 360, 361 A & B) to amend the Shelby County charter that will affect the number of terms that county commissioners and the the county mayor may serve and will define which county offices will be elected.
Go vote! Here's the information you need to know to vote early:
AUGUST 7, 2008
FEDERAL & STATE PRIMARY AND COUNTY GENERAL ELECTION
Pursuant to Sec. 2-6-103, Tennessee Code Annotated, notice is hereby given by the Shelby County Election Commission of unrestricted early voting for the August 7, 2008, Federal & State
Site Locations, Dates and Times
3939 Riverdale Rd., 38141
7942 Church St., 38053
5586 Stage Rd., 38134
4536 Summer Ave., 38122
1475 E. Shelby Dr., 38116
101 Walnut St., 38017
915 Chelsea Ave., 38107
1141 S. Barksdale St., 38114
4982 Knight Arnold Rd., 38118
2095 Appling Rd.; 38016
70 N. Bellevue Blvd. 38104
3045 Chelsea Ave., 38107
7786 Poplar Pike, 38138
1833 S. Third St., 38109
3295 Powers Rd., 38128
3121 Range Line Rd., 38127
4480 Westmont St., 38109
Pursuant to Sec. 2-6-102, TCA, a voter who desires to vote early shall go to the County Election Commission office or to any of the satellite locations listed above within the hours set out for the early voting period, sign an application for ballot and vote. Pursuant to Sec. 2-7-140 (c) (1) voters who are already registered can make address changes at an early voting site. For further information, call 545-4132.
SHELBY COUNTY ELECTION COMMISSIONMyra Stiles, ChairmanRichard L. Holden, SecretaryRobert D. MeyersO. C. Pleasant, Jr. Shep Wilbun, Jr.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
...his campaign lurched back to the center Tuesday with a clarifying statement saying “he recognizes that there are many abandoned children who have yet to find homes” and “believes that in those situations that caring parental figures are better for the child than the alternative."
I don't know whether such a clarified position will be enough for McCain to get the nod from groups like the Log Cabin Republicans. But I believe it will help him capture at least the 25% of the GLBT vote that President Bush received. In many states that have constitutional bans on same-sex marriage, adoption is the big battleground. And it energizes the GLBT community far more than relationship recognition issues. In Tennessee, we saw that very clearly in 2005 and 2008 when some lawmakers attempted to pass versions of adoption bans. Both efforts generated thousands of contacts with legislators and a concerted response that helped defeat the bills. Attacking the ability and rights of gays and lesbians to be parents strikes a deep chord in red states.
The only qualification I would add is that what would help drive the press to ask tough questions is someone, some group standing up and organizing the opposition to Crafton's effort. Sorry to say it again, but it's now the middle of July and we haven't heard a serious peep out of the opposition in weeks. It is not dishonorable to lose; not fighting back is a pathway to regret.
TEP learned the hard way during the marriage amendment campaign that you can never get back the time when you weren't organizing.
Monday, July 14, 2008
I have a little experience with this sort of thing. Last year about this time, the Tennessee Equality Project and the Nashville GLBT Chamber of Commerce led a coalition of organizations and businesses in a Save-your-receipts campaign when some grocery chains pulled Out & About Newspaper from their racks. The idea was basically for supporters to save their grocery receipts from any place other than the two stores that had pulled Out & About. We then pooled the receipts and attempted to show one index of the community's buying power. The action was mostly effective in that the two chains started carrying the paper again, although I should point out that one chain only returned it to selected locations.
In 2004, Focus on the Family brought its Love Won Out conference to Nashville. These events are held all over the country and the message is that GLBT people who want to change can do so. The conference organizers also say that they are calling the Church to a more compassionate approach to sexuality than has usually been present. I worked with a group of academics and activists to put on a program the same day to debunk the idea that these change efforts are successful or warranted. Love Won Out got about 1000 attendees. We had 175 at Vanderbilt. But the press coverage was equal and we successfully challenged change therapy in the media. We also threw one of their conference organizers into fits. He emailed the Chancellor demanding equal time. We had the element of surprise on our side because I believe, to that point, no one in the other cities had challenged the conference in this way.
I don't know that either event really constitutes a boycott. In the Save-your-receipts campaign, we never told anyone where he or she could or couldn't shop. We also realized that we wanted to show our buying power to help persuade the grocery chains to change their practices. The conference at Vanderbilt was what I believe is called "counter programming." Again, we never told anyone not to attend Love Won Out. But we wanted to show the other side. We also never told anyone to picket either the conference or the offending grocery chains with signs and whatnot, although a few did.
I think both actions were effective because they were local responses led by local people. We also communicated with the media significantly better than the other side. Both generated significant local coverage and some national coverage. And that brings me to national boycotts. I think it's hard to make them work. People get most excited about events in their own communities. They also like to be given concrete, positive things to do instead of following orders about what not to do.
I think the American Family Association's boycott, in which they are asking McDonald's to "remain neutral in the culture wars," has a huge symbolic problem as well as the other issues that come with national boycotts. Here's what one Southern Baptist leader, while acknowledging that consumer choices are up to the individual, had to say about the boycott and issues of stewardship: "Yet as Christians, we should be consistent in living out our values, rooted in God's Word, even if it means we have to sacrifice." The problem with that is Christ's own example. Jesus' practice of eating with those considered sinners in his day was a potent act emblematic of the Kingdom he was proclaiming. To boycott a restaurant because of its outreach to the GLBT community might run counter to the very narrative of God's Word to which the AFA and others appeal. I hope it's a theological problem they will chew on a bit while they're abstaining from those Big Macs.
Sunday, July 13, 2008
I believe in a greener tomorrow. I support the early education of our
students and community in the need to rethink the way we interact with
our environment, including increased community awareness of
the need to reduce, recycle, and reuse resources in our homes and
She says her candidacy was prompted by the discovery of a high levels of toxic materials in the soil and water causing a public health threat. She found a lack of concern from Senator Jim Tracy, whom she hopes to face in November.
The piece goes on to cite the wide gap that traditionally separates environmental activism and racial minorities and the propensity of poor and minority communities to be victims of polluters.
Dee Butler faces Jean Anne Rogers of Murfreesboro in the Democratic primary.
Do you support a Constitutional ban on gay marriage, and should such a ban be extended to civil unions? Explain.
I do not support a Constitutional ban on gay marriage. “Do unto others as you would have them do to”—this phrase from Luke sums up my feelings on the subject of same-sex marriage. I wouldn’t want the government telling me who I could or couldn’t marry; as an American citizen, I have the right to marry who I love. Only a few decades ago many states prohibited mixed-race couples from marrying, and discriminating against someone because of who they love is just as wrong as discrimination on the basis of race or gender.
He faces an uphill battle. But his answer to this question not only shows courage and conviction, it concisely puts the case in terms that people can understand, whether they agree or not. It goes beyond the stale values debate to the very meaning of the good news of his faith. It is not coded. It is direct. It confronts the reader with the meaning of the Christian faith and the proper role of government as well as what it means to be an American.
Friday, July 11, 2008
Thursday, July 10, 2008
This year's legislative races are important for the future of Tennessee's LGBT community. Today we announce our first endorsements for the Tennessee House of Representatives.
District 52 includes more people on our contact list than any other district in the state. As you would expect, issues important to our community are important to the candidates. In the Democratic primary, TEP-PAC endorses Mike Stewart. Mr. Stewart has shown his commitment to equality in his responses to questions about policy as well as his consistent outreach to our community. His opponent Eric Stansell has also shown a true commitment to issues of equality in response to questions about policy. We thank the candidates for their clear support. If you would like to help Mike Stewart's campaign, go to http://electmikestewart.org.
In District 89, we again endorse Rep. Jeanne Richardson (D-Memphis). She is running unopposed, but we would be remiss if we did not acknowledge her strong defense of our community in the preceding legislative session. We are grateful for her leadership.
TEP-PAC is a state political action committee registered in Tennessee. Joyce Peacock, treasurer. The endorsements of TEP-PAC do not necessarily reflect the views of the board of the Tennessee Equality Project.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
I've been reading Paul Conkin's The Southern Agrarians, a monograph on the literary and political movement that emerged from the friendships of a group of men with ties to Vanderbilt. Usually described with a dismissive blanket conservative label, the Agrarians were obviously not free market fans. And while they had an appreciation for fundamentalism, their socially conservative stance differed in its sources and details from fundamentalism as it was then and is today. They are also remembered as segregationists, but there were fissures in the group on this very point. Conkin highlights the disagreement by pointing to the debate between Allen Tate and Donald Davidson. In opposition to Davidson, who was a convinced segregationist, Tate argued that the "South should take over the process of desegregation and do it with 'order and dignity.' "
It's not clear how history might have been different if Tate's advice had been followed by state and local governments throughout the region. We get glimpses of it in Governor Frank Clement's decision not to oppose court ordered integration. His leadership is credited with Tennessee's comparatively peaceful transition to greater racial equality, though Tennessee was not spared violent detours along the way.
I think Tate's argument is relevant. Just as Tate saw integration as inevitable, I think most if not all of the legal forms of equality that our community is working for will be achieved. The questions are how long and what methods. Based on the analysis of the Williams Institute at UCLA, one is forced to conclude that either the number of same-sex couples is increasing rapidly in the South or that they are being increasingly open about their relationships. I think the path ahead is either one of gradual accommodation by state and local governments to these realities or a long build up to controversial decisions by the courts.
Tate's equality with "order and dignity" would mean that the South would have to own GLBT issues as native to the citizens, families, and institutions of the region, not as an alien force out to destroy the particularity and vitality of the region. For now, the resistance remains strong.
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
- Which governmental entity or entities SHOULD have responsibility for funding schools? Why?
- What funding streams (i.e. taxes, fees, etc.) are most appropriate for funding our schools? Why?
- How do you define equitable funding of schools and how do we achieve it?
- What are the advantages and/or disadvantages of a Joint Board of Control? If there were a JBC, to what functions should it be limited, if any?
- What are the advantages and/or disadvantages of establishing special school districts? If new special school districts were established for MCS and SCS, should they have taxing authority? Why or why not?
- What are the advantages and/or disadvantages of the City of Memphis taking over Memphis City Schools and appointing the school board and superintendent? Under this scenario, who should be responsible for funding Memphis City Schools.
I, for one, look forward to reading the responses posted by our community and hope you will participate. Thanks to Commissioner Carpenter for promoting this conversation.
Monday, July 7, 2008
There are plenty of things wrong with the way we create specialty plates in this state, but the primary one is this: It is a legislative instead of an administrative function. To create a plate, those wanting it must gather 1,000 signatures of people who also want the plate. Then, it must be approved by the legislature and signed by the governor.
The Tennessee Equality Project floated a specialty plate bill for the TEP Foundation for a bit in 2007 and 2008. Some of you may recall that it caused a bit of a stir in the blogosphere in 2007. Unfortunately, it got misidentified as an "idea plate." And that's when imaginations took off. In fact, it was a nonprofit organization license plate. Yes, of course, ideas animate nonprofit organizations. That's why they are required to have mission statements. To a degree, all nonprofit plates are idea plates. But most nonprofit plates don't spell out the idea in any detail. A logo and a name are usually the end of it. We just wanted the same opportunity to raise money and get the name of the TEP Foundation out there like Ducks Unlimited or the University of Tennessee. Needless to say, we've got a long way to go on that one.
But if the Secretary of State grants the TEP Foundation a solicitation permit and the IRS grants it 501(c)(3) status, then that organization like any other ought to be able to apply for a specialty plate in a reasonably nonpolitical process. The requirement for a certain number of preordered plates could be maintained to prevent an endless proliferation.
Allen, who is gay, and Austin, a straight ally, both helped organize students to get the Metro School Board to pass a comprehensive anti-bullying policy.
You can read the profile and see their photo here.
The story is an example of how policy can be changed at any level should we actually take interest and get invovled.
At least The Tennessean featured the two students and actually covered a gay topic.
Meanwhile, Neal Anthony continues his fight against all kinds of homophobia in Warren County. A fight The Tennessean continues to ignore, as does Neal's local newspaper, The Southern Standard.
Don't miss Wendi Thomas' column in Sunday's Commercial Appeal about Cohen and his major primary opponent.
Sunday, July 6, 2008
The August 7 Republican Primary Race for U.S. Congressional District 7 is drawing more and more attention in the media. Shelby County Registrar Tom Leatherwood hopes to best incumbent Marsha Blackburn in the primary which will likely determine the outcome of the General Election in November.
This quote from today's Commercial Appeal article gets my blood boiling:
Leatherwood is taking an aggressive approach, swinging at Blackburn for her effectiveness, questioning the accuracy of her campaign financial disclosures and jabbing criticism at her tactics of characterizing him as tied to Memphis rather than Shelby County and his hometown of Arlington.
When I first started working in state government in 2000, it did not take long to notice the hostile attitudes toward Memphis and Shelby County held by people in the central and eastern parts of Tennessee. Whenever I attended statewide meetings and discussed the special needs and issues of Memphis and Shelby County, I could hear eyes roll within my fellow Tennesseans from other parts of the state. With Shelby County's large African American population, the culture of my part of Tennessee differs significantly from the rest of Tennessee.
I am not naive. Memphis and Shelby County has suffered many unethical fools in public and elected service that has led to mistrust of anything coming out of my home city and county.
But this hostility grew to contempt when I recently participated in a statewide ethics training via satellite link. The trainer from the Ethics Commission in Nashville ridiculed Memphis and Shelby County during the training as if we weren't even there. It was insulting.
The efforts of the Blackburn campaign to demonize Tom Leatherwood with references to associations with Memphis and the contempt expressed by the ethics trainer plays into the worst kind of stereotyping. When politicians use Memphis to divide and conquer the electorate, it smacks of racism.
Saturday, July 5, 2008
On the recent spate of violence against gays:
“I will support the expansion of the hate crimes statute.”
“Without question we have to strengthen the laws in this area.”
Randy Cox, president of the Tennessee Equality Project Foundation, asked the question. I spoke with Randy after the debate and he said that he actually asked the question in reference to the violence against transgender people. The current hate crimes law covers gays, lesbians, and bisexuals (sexual orientation), but it does not cover transgender people (gender identity).
Still, we're glad that Pulle was there covering the discussion and that Randy was able to ask his question. Even better is the fact that both candidates can be convinced of the need to strengthen the law so we can bring more attention to this issue.
Friday, July 4, 2008
Toby’s stance on the war in Afghanistan got him mislabelled as a Republican, and many assumed — incorrectly, as it turned out — that he also thought the war in Iraq was a good idea. Clearly, Toby is able to take a stand with either party at various times, showing his belief system to be beyond politics.
"My right to carry a gun is not political," he says. "I’m an American, and that is my right as an American, just like it’s my right to vote... Do I care if gay people get married? I could care less. It doesn’t bother me one bit. When you look at Al Gore trying to save the planet, that’s not a political issue."
Instead, he suggests, it’s a social issue that everyone should be examining.
"If the polar ice cap is melting and we’re doing it, I need to educate myself," he says, adding, "I don’t see things right-left. I see them right-wrong."One can argue about whether it matters what a country star or any other celebrity thinks about politics. On the issue of same-sex marriage it matters in this way. Very few male country stars are on record as being supportive of GLBT issues. Culture shapes politics. Country music and men's professional sports are still frontiers when it comes to issues of sexuality and gender. If there are whole cultural arenas in which these issues are not addressed in a positive way, then that reinforces negative views about GLBT people. Keith's comments are a breath of fresh air. He makes them confidently in a way that no one could question the masculinity that helps define a male country star. He's his own man.
Thursday, July 3, 2008
Some residents of Paris, TN were on hand at San Francisco's Pride celebration earlier in the week. The possibility of hate crimes came to mind as they expressed their wonder at the acceptance of the GLBT community in the Bay Area.
Some visitors expressed surprise at the sheer size and diversity of San Francisco's event. River Byrd, 48, and his partner, 41-year-old Mark Duncan, watched the parade before catching a plane back to Tennessee, where they live in a small, conservative town called Paris.
"It's so incredible to see this many gay people," Byrd said. "We're the buckle of the Bible Belt. If we held hands in public, we'd be beat up."
Eyewitness News interviewed me in the developing story about transgender homicide victim Ebony (Rodney) Whitaker.
WMCTV5 interviewed Will Batts, Executive Director of the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center, in their updated coverage.
There has been some strange impulse in the discussion that leads me to think some activists at the national level think it is more important to issue a statement than to see what they can do to help ameliorate the local situation. To my knowledge, the Human Rights Campaign and Amnesty International are the only national/international organizations that have checked to ask what they could do before they issued their statement or got involved. The Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition has been closely involved on a consistent basis with the Memphis community for more than five years now and their action reflects a commitment to local solutions, too.
Subsidiarity makes sense in government and it makes sense for those trying to influence government. In our case, the Tennessee Equality Project has a Shelby County committee whose members are perfectly competent to develop appropriate solutions for their community and advocate for them with local officials whom they know personally. So it makes sense to give them the widest possible latitude in working through these problems.
That's not to say that attention from statewide and national organizations is inappropriate. Far from it. When these groups speak, they can bring additional pressure to bear. But they ought to do so in such a way that enhances and supports the efforts of local citizens. Without checking in and asking questions first, activists at the national and state level risk confusing the issue and even undercutting the efforts of those closest to the action.
Perhaps a lack of patience with the federalism that is inherent in American government and a lack of commitment to the principle of subsidiarity partially explain why GLBT issues have not made the same progress in the South as they have in other parts of the country. Obviously there are huge cultural issues as well, such as the place of Evangelical religion in public life. But that is all the more reason to strengthen local efforts. I appreciate those organizations that respect and empower local efforts.
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Late night news reports from other television media released the given name of the victim as Rodney Whitaker. The specific circumstances leading to her death are not known at this time. But there is reason to believe this is a hate crime fueled by transphobia. Memphis police officers are searching for any possible witnesses. If you have information that could aid police, call CrimeStoppers at 901-528-CASH.
The recent news of the terrible beating of Duanna Johnson by Memphis police heightened everyone's awareness of the violence directed at transgender citizens in our city. Is the public hearing about this new crime against a transgender citizen because of Duanna's high profile case? Or is this merely a coincidence? Channel 5 did not even mention in their report that the victim was transgender. Have previous transgender murder victims not been reported as such?
Will irrational fear and violence continue to define Memphis? Or will our community admit to the underlying prejudice that has been thrust before us? When will our community realize that all citizens deserve to live in safety regardless of race, sexual orientation, or gender identity and expression? Will elected officials, civil rights leaders, church leaders and other organizations join the cry for justice and meaningful reform of our society's policies and laws?
This horrible incident must serve as a reminder to all citizens and our governments of the need to add gender identity and expression to existing state and federal hate crime laws so that these terrible acts can be properly recorded, investigated and prosecuted as hate crimes.
Please keep the victim and her friends and family in your thoughts and prayers.
Apparently folks in those areas need their fix of Tennessean "news". WSMV is citing "a worker" at The Tennessean who is quoted as saying "in the past 24 hours they have received about 200 calls from people complaining about the loss of delivery service. "
The daily circulation for these nine counties, which includes subscriptions as well as newsstands, is 3,000 people.
The paper told Channel 4 that while fuel costs are a factor, this is not the only reason for the decision, and they are calling it a "strategic move."
We're didn't see Warren County in this list - surprising when you consider the fact that the Tennessean has refused to provide any coverage on the recent rash of hate crimes against Neal Anthony in Warren County. Perhaps that's too sensitve of a topic for those rural readers, or perhaps coverage of those types of news issues do not fit in with The Tennessean's "strategic moves".
We could suggest that those readers can get their daily Tennessean fix online - but good luck with that. It truely has one of the worst news Web sites....but remember it's "powered by you".
Speaking of the arts, as he often does, Vanderbilt's Bill Ivey is interviewed by the Utne Reader. The question is interesting. What role does policy play or should policy play in encouraging the amateurs in the arts?
How can amateurs reclaim the arts? The amateur scene is very vigorous and very much alive. It is served by for-profit industries that provide all kinds of training systems, DVDs to teach the guitar, programs that show you how to paint, magazines and books that are oriented toward craft and art skills. There’s no absence of amateur art-making. What we don’t have is an elevation of amateur artwork into public policy around the arts. We’ve elevated the professional and placed the amateur in the role of being a mere consumer of greatness.
In the July edition, which is not online yet, she comes to the defense of Sen. Raymond Finney. She argues that the magazine not only misinterpreted the Tennessee Scenic Vistas Protection Act, but they ignored the tourism industry so vital to Sevier and surrounding counties.
"No one will come here to see a topless Rocky Top or mountains that look like highway medians. There are plenty of mountains to our north decapitated by coal mining. That is one reason we don have to compete with Kentucky and West Virginia for tourists."