Wednesday, December 31, 2008
And then go do it. You can find early voting information here. And, gosh, everybody's doing it so you'll be with friends.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
In the story, Dana Rebik explores why lack of employment opportunities for transgender people can lead to involvement in high risk activity like sex work. The story emphasized some of the points made in a statement released by the Tennessee Transgender Politcal Coalition:
We call on business people who refuse to hire transgender people to open their doors immediately to transgender workers so there are alternatives to working on the streets.The piece aired on television was more detailed.
We call on shelters that routinely turn away transgender people who are seeking help, to open their doors so that transgender people do not have to live on the streets.
We call on religious leaders who preach intolerance towards crossdressers and transsexuals from the pulpit to cease immediately and begin preaching messages of love and acceptance of diversity.
We call on political leaders of all parties to stop campaigning against transgender people and start supporting fully inclusive employment non-discrimination and hate crimes legislation to show that the lives of transgender people have value.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
I doubt that he'd care since Ellen DeGeneres is a lesbian (and he wants the RNC to be all about fighting same-sex marriage), but she has some good advice that fits the situation.
The problem is not someone's sexuality. The problem is legal discrimination and social intolerance that conspire to keep people in the closet or pressure them to be something they aren't.
I know people who tried to "pray the gay away" and endure years of bizarre "therapies." They wanted it to work. They tried to be straight. It failed. These efforts to change sometimes lead to suicide because as time goes on and nothing works, people become hopeless.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
The eyes of the nation turned to Knoxville when a warm Sunday morning in July was disrupted by three shotgun blasts in a church along Kingston Pike near the University of Tennessee campus.
Unemployed truck driver Jim David Adkisson, police allege, pulled a 12-gauge semiautomatic shotgun from a guitar case he carried into the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church. More than 200 people were crammed into the church at 2931 Kingston Pike for a special presentation of the children's musical "Annie Jr."
Two people were killed and six others were wounded in the 10:18 a.m. July 27 rampage.
Police said the 58-year-old Adkisson planned to continue shooting the sawed-off shotgun with the 76 shells he carried until he was killed by responding officers. Those plans were thwarted when several church members overpowered Adkisson as he reloaded the shotgun. They held him until police arrived.
Police said Adkisson targeted the church because his ex-wife had worshipped there and the church supported gay rights.
He is being held in jail in lieu of $1 million bond awaiting a March trial.
Let me start by saying, "Right on!"
Yesterday I attended the requiem mass for Eddie Lightsey. It was a mixture of ancient liturgy and hymns you would hear at just about any Southern funeral--Amazing Grace, It is Well with my Soul, etc. The congregation gathered was a mixture of his gay and lesbian friends (some Christian, some Jewish, some of no particular faith tradition), his family, and members of his parish (straight and gay). It was the universal Church and the human family at its best.
Maybe it was the experience of Eddie's funeral that has made me more sensitive to the fact that Warren's efforts to produce a binary opposition between Christianity and the GLBT community are insulting and inaccurate. But it's an old line that he knows will get him somewhere with some audiences. I hear it all the time. I can't tell you how many reporters have interviewed me about a policy issue and asked, "What about the Churches?" And I remind them that those of us involved in the Christian faith take a variety of positions on issues.
The point is not to conflate the two. Religious diversity is as much a part of the GLBT community as any other segment of the community. If there seems to be more of a gap, perhaps that's because the loudest voices in American Christianity have been at the front of the line in opposing our rights. But Warren doesn't speak for Christianity and he doesn't have a broad enough constituency (millions of copies of poorly written books notwithstanding) to say that anyone who disagrees with him is Christophobic.
We're not afraid of Christ, Mr. Warren. We're afraid of the effects of your divisive rhetoric. You would do well to take a page from the president-elect by reaching out more and stop making up fear-based disorders.
Friday, December 26, 2008
Criminal: The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation released their annual hate crimes report that showed a slight decline in hate crimes based on sexual bias from 2006 to 2007. What we must remember is that from 2005 to 2006 there was a three-fold increase. So it would be fair to say that the number stabilized at an alarmingly high level. Based upon a string of news reports, 2008 was nothing less than a year of hate. The police beating and subsequent murder of Duanna Johnson, the murder of Ebony Whitaker, and the shooting of Leeneshia Edwards all in Memphis painfully illustrate the dangers facing transgender persons in Tennessee. The attacks on three gay men leaving a Johnson City bar and the onslaught of vandalism endured by a Warren County man are reminders that being out is never easy in many parts of our State. The murders of two people at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist congregation in Knoxville brought home the reality that even our allies are not immune to anti-liberal and anti-gay hate.
Legislative: The second year of the 105th General Assembly of Tennessee brought renewed attacks on our community’s adoption rights as well as efforts to erase mention of our existence in our public schools. Both bills failed. But the adoption bill remained alive until the first week of May—quite late in the session. And while there was national outrage and some local outrage about the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, there was almost as much attention given to the argument that the bill’s sponsor was not treated fairly in the House K-12 subcommittee because he had asked for but initially not received a roll call vote. People who couldn't manage a word about the perniciousness of the bill didn't waste any time yelling "Not fair" about procedures.
Electoral: Facing an invigorated State Republican party, some Democrats running for legislative seats based their campaigns in part upon opposition to “gay marriage.” Particularly onerous were the radio ads run by both parties’ candidates in the 12th Senate District. Because same-sex marriage is already banned by statute and constitutional amendment in Tennessee, the message was nothing but an appeal to prejudice. It largely turned out to be a losing strategy for Democrats. Conservative Republicans won control of the State House and Senate for the first time since Reconstruction setting up 2009 to be another rough year for the State’s community.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
A transgender woman shot in the face is in critical condition.
Police say the shooting happened sometime around 5:00 a.m. Tuesday, December 23, 2008 in the 3100 block of Boxtown Road in south Memphis near T.O. Fuller State Park. Leeneshia Edwards was last seen about an hour earlier at the “C.K.’s Coffee Shop” on Union Avenue in midtown Memphis.
Edwards, is now in critical condition at “The Med”. Her cousin tells us Edwards was shot in the jaw, side and back and is undergoing multiple surgeries.
More here after the jump. If you have any information about this cases, call Memphis Crime Stoppers at (901) 528-CASH.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Rest eternal grant to him, O Lord:
And let light perpetual shine upon him.
May his soul, and the souls of all the departed,
through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
An analysis of tax-return data compiled by the Internal Revenue Service showed that in Memphis, upward mobility often translates into outward mobility. The total income of people leaving the area outstrips the pay of those moving in by tens of millions of dollars each year, according to the data.
That has led to a substantial -- and accelerating -- hemorrhaging of wealth, bringing ominous portents for the economy, tax base and even quality of life for the entire region.
The income drain has been most pronounced within Shelby County. During a 10-year period ending in 2007, the county sustained a net loss of $1.83 billion in incomes among residents moving in and those leaving.
Not only did the number of wage-earners leaving (173,601) outnumber those coming in (155,660), but the average income of the outgoing residents was greater than those arriving -- $46,880, compared with $40,544.
One person who left Memphis for greener pastures "cited familiar complaints with Memphis: intractable racial divisions, the high cost of air travel and a lack of forward thinking. 'People are so focused on looking back at the past'."
This trend reminds me of Richard Florida who wrote The Rise of the Creative Class and other best-selling books. His basic claim in his writing is the cities with high concentrations of high-tech workers, artists, musicians, lesbians and gay men, and a group he describes as "high bohemians", correlate with a higher level of economic development.
Florida argues that a strong creative class promotes an open, dynamic, personal and professional environment that attracts more creative people, as well as businesses and capital. Attracting and retaining high-quality talent, instead of infrastructure projects like sports stadiums, iconic buildings, and shopping centers, is a better primary use of a city's resources for long-term prosperity.
Florida uses his own ranking systems that rate cities by a "Bohemian index," a "Gay index," a "diversity index".
People of the creative class do not linger for very long in Memphis. They move to cities that have learned to embrace diversity like Dallas or Atlanta - cities that have passed employment non-discrimination ordinances that protect people regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. The way GLBT people are treated in a community is one method for measuring social, political and economic success.
The City of Memphis can leave the past behind by moving into the future. Enacting a non-discrimination ordinance that protects all people regardless of religion, race, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, creed, political affiliation or other non merit factors will send a message to creative people looking to call Memphis home.
Among the things Tennesseans should be most proud of:
• Kids are no longer shuffled between dozens of foster families.
• The caseload of social workers has gone from 40 kids on average to 20. When the mess started in the late 1990s, caseworkers sometimes had 60 kids under their care.
• There are now 7,500 kids in state custody, from a high of 11,000 in 2004.
• The state has placed 90 percent of children in foster care with families instead of group homes or institutions. It's kept 85 percent of siblings together.
We're already hearing rumblings, though nothing definite, of renewed legislative efforts to prevent gays and lesbians or unmarried couples from becoming foster and adoptive parents. Obviously, we would oppose those efforts regardless of whether the Department were making progress. But at a time when the Department is doing such a good job and when the State budget can't bear added expense, I think a good neutral argument can made for scuttling restrictive legislation. Let's continue to focus on getting more children into loving homes.
Friday, December 19, 2008
1. The GLBT community in every city in Tennessee with over 50,000 people setting a political goal that they would work to achieve within 3 years. It could be any number of things--passing a nondiscrimination policy for their city government, electing an out official, or endorsing and electing a candidate who is honored to have the endorsement.
2. A governor who would support a nondiscrimination policy for all State employees. Think it can't happen in socially conservative state? Just look a few miles to the North at Governor Steve Beshear of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
3. Politicians whose votes were informed by the needs of their family and friends. What? Aren't they doing that already? Sure, some of them are on some issues. But I could name you some who either have gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender immediate family members or whose "best friends are gay" but aren't voting for equality at the federal and state level.
4. An epiphany for every high school student who is a member of a Church youth group. What if every one of them woke up one day and realized that if writing an interpretive paper on a 21st century novel is hard, then it might be even harder to interpret the Bible, which was written a few thousand years ago in other languages? I'm not saying everyone would or should change his or her mind about issues of gender and sexuality. But it would nice if there were a pause before they jumped from the pages of the Bible to opposing my rights. Fortunately, some Church youth groups do a good job at making teens realize that interpreting and applying the Bible is no easy task.
5. One major company that is considering relocating to Tennessee from out of state to tell the Governor, legislative leaders, and local officials, "We have a lot of GLBT employees and we hope they'll move with us, but they've heard about the hate crimes and the lack of government protections for their families. What can you say to convince us that our diverse workforce will be valued if we move to Tennessee?" Something like that happened in Oklahoma.
6. An openly gay coach of UT's football team who led them to a record number of victories. That would probably do more for the cause of equality in Tennessee than about anything I could think of. And if not the coach, a quarterback or a linebacker would do just fine. In some ways, the late Jackie Walker has already opened that door a little.
7. And speaking of Tennessee celebrities, how about more support from the country music industry? A few more interviews like this one with Toby Keith would be welcome.
Seven is a good number for now. I'm not expecting a Christmas miracle this year. It's a wish list, after all.
Domestic partner registration allows the right of partners to visit each other in Phoenix hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers and other health-care facilities.
The Tennessee Equality Project hopes to pursue similar legislation on hospital visitation and medical decision making in the 2009 Tennessee General Assembly.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
There's a lot of back and forth inside baseball on whether a congressional committee made the decision or whether Obama had the final say even if the committee did suggest Warren. I don't think that's the point.
We have a president-elect who will not be scripted by the divisions in the culture war. For those of us on either side, that's not going to be pleasant. It's going to be a constant effort at interpreting what Obama's choices mean. We may be guessing for quite some time if we try to follow the semiotics of the words and events surrounding him.
Public presentation and rhetoric matter. And I think a president's rhetoric has to try to stretch to include every group. Obama could take the clear and easy road by either picking one side or speaking in such generalities that what he says is meaningless. Instead, he may be charting a new course of simultanteously embracing aspects of the two sides in the culture war. That will provide plenty of occasion for both sides to be insulted.
I admit I'm not quite sure what to make of the pattern that is emerging. And while necessary from the point of view of GLBT advocacy, the condemnations do not begin to explain what is at work in these paradoxical choices that Obama is making.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
The Knox County Commission voted Monday to go forward with appointing a replacement for ousted Commissioner Scott Moore.
The panel will accept resumes for Moore's former seat through Dec. 31, hold a public forum in Halls in mid-January, and vote at the monthly commission meeting Jan. 26, when candidates also will have an opportunity to make their case.
Moore gave up his right to hold office when Special Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood ruled Oct. 14 that he lied under oath during testimony in 2007 about violating the state Open Meetings Act.
The County Commission has been a mess for quite some time. It will take a reformer with patience not to get drawn into all the legislative body's drama. It will also take someone who is willing to come in under a cloud of uncertainty. Moore could win an appeal and his seat."This body is required to act within 120 days to fill the vacancy," [Law Director Bill] Lockett said, adding that the deadline is Feb. 12. Lockett explained that under the law Moore could regain his seat immediately if he wins his appeal, which is scheduled for oral arguments in January.
Monday, December 15, 2008
The parallels between Durbin and one of the candidates are hard to ignore. Like Durbin, Glasgow, the public information officer for the state Rural Development agency, is openly gay. Like Durbin, Glasgow said he would make accessibility to his constituents the centerpiece of his potential campaign.
Rau also quotes me, but it looks as if an extra "is" was added. Maybe it was just a typo or maybe it's because I was doing the interview over the phone while having lunch at Cinco de Mayo.
Regardless, it will be interesting to see whether sexual orientation does become an issue in this race. Considering that the precincts in the 18th Council District voted against the marriage amendment in 2006, I would be surprised and disappointed if it became an issue. Basic district issues and willingness to put in the time to serve will probably loom large.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
One of the first bills Mumpower sponsored after his election was a 1997 measure to prohibit gay couples from becoming foster parents. It didn't pass, and later incarnations of the bill with other Republican sponsors also have failed.
The piece follows up on the lottery and tax positions with quotations, but they don't come up with anything on foster parenting. So it's not clear where foster parenting and adoption fall in his list of priorities now.
Milk, the film that portrays the life of San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk starring Sean Penn, opened to a large audience in Knoxville on Sunday afternoon. Todd Cramer of the TEP Knox County Committee and Knoxville Human Rights Group and Robbie Arrington of the Regal Entertainment Group (pictured above) organized the event. A packed theatre watched the film and stayed for a discussion. Among those attending were Knoxville City Council members Bob Frost and Bob Becker as well as State Rep. Harry Tindell. Becker talked about running for office and encouraged those in attendance to consider a run for Council. Seats will become open since members are term limited. He indicated he thought a candidate who is out can be elected in the City of Knoxville.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
“It’s hard to look citizens in the eye and say you are smart enough to elect me and not smart enough to elect him,” Sen. Bunch, R-Cleveland, said at a meeting with Cleveland and Bradley County school board members to talk about the Tennessee School Boards Association’s 2009 legislative agenda.
That's right up there with electing sheriffs as the top law enforcement officer in counties around the State. Oh, wait...we do that. The executive management of our schools requires professionalism and a buffer, however slight, against politics. Do we really want superintendents campaigning?
If it's hard to look voters in the eye and say that, then buck up and find the words and tell us.
Friday, December 12, 2008
According to Anderson, "There was a discussion and a consensus that his credibility as spokesperson for the NAE was irreparably compromised. It was out of reporting that discussion to Richard Cizik that he and I discussed together and mutually concluded that his resignation was appropriate."
It's not a puff piece. It's a hard-hitting interview and Anderson's answers are not very strong at points. Anderson refuses to say, for example, whether the NAE has seen a spike in negative emails in reaction to Cizik's remarks. What I wish they had asked was whether the NAE had seen a high volume of criticism of the NAE for pressuring Cizik to leave.
Another example of how ill-prepared Anderson was for the interview is this exchange:
Has the rise of the Religious Right made it more difficult for the NAE to try to represent evangelicals?
I don't know. I've never thought about that.I'm sure the interviewer had to bite her tongue or restrain her facial expressions after that answer.
While not backing full marriage equality, Cizik is to be commended for the courageous stand he took. There are many Evangelicals who are with him on this point. Obviously there are still many who are not.
The Cizik resignation signals to me, despite setbacks like California's Proposition 8, that Evangelicals know they are losing on this issue. When you're losing, you can shift your position or dig in. You can also keep using the same tactics or change your methods. While the continuing leadership of the NAE may dig in on their position, the fact that someone at the highest levels of the organization is shifting is probably indicative that rank-and-file Evangelicals may be more receptive to civil unions.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
But were I a candidate or a voter, I would hope that some other words were on the tip of Mr. Brewer's pen. I would want to know who has the platform that is most relevant and comprehensive with respect to neighborhood issues. I would want to know who has the experience and record of delivering on promises.
Perhaps youngish, intriguing operatives make good copy in People magazine or maybe as cocktail party guests, but let's hope the candidates reveal a bit more of themselves to the papers soon. If I were a candidate, I would certainly be glad for any media attention, but if all they can come up with are these three words, then the candidates have some work to do in defining themselves.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
The Shelby County Committee of TEP hopes the Memphis City Council will enact a Non-Discrimination Ordinance that promotes fair and equal treatment of citizens regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity in 2009.
It's a good thing that the proposed legislation is budget neutral.
You can join the cause for a Memphis Non-Discrimination Ordinance here.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
In terms of the local reaction, Out & About has a story that mentions a business that plans to close for the day. But they are also running a commentary piece that calls the whole thing into question, and it is receiving a lot of hits.
The Tennessee Equality Project gave our local committees around the State the option of organizing something for the day, but they decided not to because they didn't think that it supported the political goals of their communities. Advising people to call in gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender is a recipe for getting fired in many parts of the State since we lack federal, state, or local protections for sexual orientation and gender identity.
I think to be effective boycotts like this have to be focused. Having led a successful business-related action when Kroger and Harris-Teeter pulled Out & About Newspaper from their racks, TEP prefers to advise action that is locally adapted and focused on positive action. By urging volunteering, Day Without a Gay actually has a lot of potential. There ought to be a day of service when GLBT people are visible serving causes in their communities. But connecting it to calling out of work simply isnt effective in some of the redder regions of the country.
But what about the visibility argument? Don't these nationwide actions give us visibility? TEP supported the Prop 8 rallies in Tennessee, but we also recognize that they probably had no impact on the opinion of any elected officials who have the power to influence state and local laws. There was plenty of media coverage, but the coverage provided a momentary glimpse of our community to an intedterminate audience.
In our experience, what works is getting lots of GLBT people and our allies to have focused conversations with lawmakers about specific legislation. It makes them rethink their support of negative legislation and in some cases gains us allies who find the courage to defend the rights of their constituents.
Day Without a Gay can become something powerful, but it needs some revisions. The series of actions planned after the Prop 8 rallies may quickly become a "flavor-of-the-month" approach if they are not locally adapted and focused on persuading federal, state, and local officials who can help us make real progress toward equality.
Update: Here's the Tennessean's piece.
No need to run against Senator Lamar Alexander, we heard over the last year and a half. And then there were those comments predicting failure as Speaker Naifeh worked out the cable bill this year. When asked to opine about Barack Obama, we were sent on shopping sprees to Wal-Mart followed by a feast at Waffle House. But it didn't end with the election. In fact, it just brought new opportunities to snipe at the House Democratic leader.
With two years left, the Governor may well be on his way to being the last one standing before he walks off the stage.
Monday, December 8, 2008
“It doesn’t surprise me. Newsweek has been so far in the tank on the homosexual issue, for so long, they need scuba gear and breathing apparatus,” said Richard Land, who heads the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. “I don’t think it’s going to change the minds of anyone who takes biblical teachings seriously.”
Tony Perkins, president of the socially conservative Family Research Council, agreed, calling Newsweek’s cover story “yet another attack on orthodox Christianity.”
“I hardly think that Newsweek is a credible venue for theological discussion,” said Perkins. “I mean, I thought it was just full of holes.”
Of course, they really are worried about the piece. It bypasses their pronouncements and lands in the mailboxes of hundreds of thousands of people around the country. It will spend a week in waiting areas of barber shops and doctors' offices for anyone to pick up. You won't be able to browse the magazine section of Kroger without seeing it. And it hits them where they believe they're strongest--religious authority. It adds another jolt of momentum in public opinion that is gradually shifting in favor of some kind of state sanction for same-sex relationships.
And best of all, it highlights the irony of the names of the organizations opposing same-sex marriage that include the words "liberty" and "research."
The problem that the Religious Right has is that it has no end game, except holding onto the status quo. While there can be little doubt that their hardcore adherents would like to see a return to sodomy laws, there is almost no chance of that happening. So we're in the purgatorial situation of not being able to go backwards. The GLBT genie is out of the bottle. More and more people are going to live their lives openly and lawfully and form relationships, and they have straight friends and family members who love them. So if we're not going to go back to sodomy laws and we've got hundreds of thousands of people forming relationships, doesn't the state have an interest in recognizing and ordering those relationships in order to secure the status of children and protect the partners involved? If that is the case, the only solution is a state sanctioned means of entering and dissolving committed relationships. The arrangement society knows best is marriage.
Getting the most ink in the piece is David Glasgow:
And a serious dark horse candidate is David Glasgow, who serves as a public information officer for the Tennessee Rural Development office. Glasgow is involved in his neighborhood association and worked on Durbin’s campaign a year ago.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
If passed, English-only would contradict the hospitality and welcoming nature of our city. It would also negatively affect members of the GLBT community whose first language is not English.
We are pleased to join the Nashville for All of Us coalition.
Friday, December 5, 2008
Well known in federal and state government circles, Glasgow has years of public service and a thoughtful approach to neighborhood issues so important to the 18th District. He also makes a strong statement about the amount of time the position would require and his ability to take on the responsibility.
The special election for the seat is expected to take place in March.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
With years of experience in the field, Durbin will bring expertise and leadership to the position. TEP congratulates Keith in his new role. The appointment demonstrates Mayor Karl Dean's commitment to professional excellence and diversity.