Grand Divisions

Tennessee Equality Project seeks to advance and protect the civil rights of our State’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons and their families in each Grand Division.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Adoption bill goes to summer study committee

SB3910, which would ban unmarried cohabiting couples is going to summer study. Sen. Paul Stanley (R-Germantown), the bill's sponsor, asked that it be sent off and that seemed fine with everyone on the Senate Judiciary committee.

While we can't be sure the bill is dead until the session ends next month, the state's GLBT community can rest a little easier this week.

A combination of intense contact with legislators and a hefty fiscal note attached to the bill gave it an uphill climb.

Memphis City Schools Principal targets "homo" couples

WMC Channel 5 in Memphis is reporting on an ACLU complaint filed against the Memphis City School system demanding new school policies, a reprimand of a school principal, and money for the two male students who said they were put on a gay list by the school's principal.

The ACLU wants a reply to the complaint by Friday, May 9th. See links to story for more info and video.

Update: The Commercial Appeal also has a story in this morning's paper.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


I missed this story on 20/20 when it originally aired. I found it fascinating. The reporter set two affectionate couples - one gay in Birmingham, the other lesbian in New Jersey - and filmed the reactions of people on the street. The gay couple prompted a 911 call to police. Straight men were quite interested in the PDA of the lesbian couple. I wonder how such scenarios would play out in communities in Tennessee.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Best and worst legislators for business

BusinessTN's May issue is out and with it comes "The Best & Worst Lawmakers for Business in Tennessee." The best are Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh, Rep. Charles Curtiss, Rep. Craig Fitzhugh, Sen. Jamie Woodson. Sen. Bill Ketron gets an honorable mention.

The worst are House Majority Leader Gary Odom, Sen. Michael Williams, Sen. Ray Finney, Rep. Mike Turner, and Sen. Ophelia Ford. Rep. Henry Fincher gets "dishonorable mention."

Explaining their criteria, they write: "As litmus for determining the selections, BusinessTN sticks to legislative stances clearly identified as good or bad for business...Lastly, BusinessTN heavily weights a lawmaker's actual ability to have a positive or negative effect on the state's business climate."

But when you read the individual entries you realize that things are a bit slippery. When discussing Lt. Governor Ramsey, the piece says, "Ramsey and his Senate Republican majority has hiccuped on a pro-business agenda from time to time stemming mainly from their conservative stances on social issues." They cite his opposition to pre-K expansion, which enhances "workforce development." Um, what about his strong support for the marriage discrimination amendment, which makes the state less welcoming to GLBT people? Think that's not an issue? Talk to someone in Nissan H.R. about the kind of questions they got about Tennessee from management employees when it was announced that the corporate headquarters was moving here.

On the other side of the aisle and in the other chamber, Speaker Naifeh is praised for helping get the tobacco tax hike passed even though it's (a) a tax, which is generally a bad word at BusinessTN and (b) a tax targeting a business with important ties to the state. But since it was done in the interest of "the state's workforce development needs," it's all right. Huh? Maybe he did it purely for the health interests of people.

Even more confusing than the descriptions of the "best" are the droppings the piece leaves on the "worst." The only real anti-business tag they can stick to Gary Odom is his interest in regulating for-profit colleges, which the magazine describe as "important to Tennessee's workforce." In fact, they go on to describe him as "previously viewed as unfriendly to business, Odom has repaired that reputation..." The rest of the section on the House Majority Leader is a series of petty attacks on political issues that have nothing to do with the criteria the magazine set out for its picks. It's just character assassination.

Furthermore, this idea of workforce development is used to justify policies that are directly anti-business in the near-term. It's curious how some investments in workers are seen as visionary, whereas raising the minimum wage (their swipe at Mike Turner) and improving the workers compensation process for...yes, workers (those people BusinessTN seems so interested in "developing")...are perceived as anti-business. Besides, there is a legimitate debate as to whether a rising mimimum wage hurts economic growth, as this Wall Street Journal piece points out. Those who directly benefit from it are the ones most likely to spend the money locally.

I think where this piece stumbles in the end is that it starts with criteria based on the common perception of what is and is not pro-business and then loosely applies these criteria while taking detours into issues that are not business related. It would have been more helpful if they had given us their understanding of what is good for the business climate in Tennessee in an introductory essay and then looked at the voting records and power of those legislators they wished to feature.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Former soldier deployed to integrate U of Miss running for TN House

A profile of Larry Bennett, who is running for TN House representing Obion, Lake, and part of Dyer counties.

"I know the people of Obion, Lake and Dyer counties are why this place is the greatest place in the greatest state in the greatest nation on earth."

He sounds like a politician to me.

McMillan exploring gubernatorial bid

Former House Majority Leader Kim McMillan of Clarksville is considering a run for governor. The Democrat has formed a committee to explore a possible candidacy. Other Democrats and Republicans who are likely contenders are also mentioned.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Springfield NAACP reactivating

Clarksville Online provides an extensive report complete with photos on the reactivation of the Springfield NAACP.

...citizens recently have expressed their desire to see the branch once again active and engaged in local affairs as an advocate and watchdog for their civil rights.

Day of Silence at UT-Martin

UT-Martin ALLIES' Day of Silence observances were mentioned in the Jackson Sun today. The event draws attention to the discrimination, hate, and violece experienced by the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community. The Day of Silence came soon after the faculty senate failed to adopt an amendment to the school's nondiscrimination policy that would have included sexual orientation and gender identity.

The event was sponsored by the Tennessee Equality Project Foundation.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Group alleges state and local government waste

The City Paper reports on the Tennessee Center for Policy Research's "pork report" that includes about $260 Million in government waste at the state and local level. The report comes on the heels of an announcement by Governor Bredesen that he may have to find as much as $500 Million in additional cuts to the state's budget.

You can read the entire report here at their site. TCPR is providing a valuable service in keeping a close watch on government spending. At a time when there is inadequate funding for social services, we have to subject the budget to this level of scrutiny. But that doesn't mean the report is without some troubling quirks.

Interestingly, the report attacks funding of the arts, in particular plays and films that deal with sexual themes. This sex-baiting is unfortunate. Even if a few productions or films lacked merit, the report focuses on the ones with sexual themes. They don't mention the ones that apparently (if they liked any of them) possessed artistic merit. The effect is to cast doubt on all state funding on the arts, which is counterproductive to our state's economic development. The North Carolina Arts Council notes that in "2006 arts industry wages alone infused more than $3.9 billion into North Carolina’s economy, according to research by Regional Technology Strategies (RTS)."

It might be helpful if TCPR suggested a review of arts funding criteria rather simply use sex to whip taxpayers into a frenzy about government spending.

President praises Memphis Catholic schools

President Bush held up Memphis Catholic schools today as an example of determined initiatives in inner-city education at a time when many faith-based schools are closing.

"I was struck by an interesting story that came out of Memphis, Tennessee," the president said in his speech. "Ten years ago private donors gave approximately $15 million to the church in Memphis to help revive Catholic schools in the city's poorest neighborhoods. Assets exist; they're worried about them going away. So rather than just watch schools close, somebody -- individuals -- did something about it by putting up $15 million.

"With the seed money, the diocese launched the Jubilee Schools initiative, and reopened Catholic schools that had been shuttered, actually in some cases, for decades. Today, 10 Jubilee schools serve more than 1,400 students. Eighty-one percent of these children are not Catholic; nearly 96 percent live at or below poverty level….

Another County Commission violates open meetings law, says Mayor

The Blount County mayor has accused three members of the County Commission of violating the open meetings law for going with a citizen to Nashville to meet with officials in the State Comptroller's office about financial irregularities in their county government.

A frustrating situation. They probably did violate the law, but in this case it seems to be hampering their ability to provide an effective check on other branches of government. A thousand instances of history provide justification for the sunshine law, but is there a price that we're paying in weakening representative bodies? Then again, there are probably perfectly easy means for dealing with such issues without violating the spirit or letter of the law.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Editorial challenges UT-Martin to work toward fairness

Will York of the UT-Martin Pacer devotes a substantial portion of his editorial to the stalled nondiscrimination policy at the school.

Most of the time, this injustice never directly touched me, and it was easier for me to be fair and emotionally detached from both sides of the story.

But now the Executive Committee for the Faculty Senate - with advice from lawyers in high places - has once again mangled the will of students, and the sexual orientation amendment isn't on the agenda for Tuesday's meeting.

One member of the committee said religious students may be offended by codifying the university's position against discrimination. A lofty and powerful visitor to their meeting said UTM is opening itself up to lawsuits. Others said discrimination against gays is simply not a problem on this campus.

Does this rhetoric sound like a progressive college campus, or is this - despite what I was told as a prospective high school senior - yet another example of the intolerance the South is so noted for?
Campuses should be open and accepting to all viewpoints and walks of life; even if my path of gay vegetarianism offends your frail moral sensibilities, I should still be given human respect.

Fairness also includes keeping your word.

To that end, administrators should not mislead - intentionally or accidentally - students into making decisions with their money, or anything else.

I hope the SGA will continue to effectively challenge administrators to maintain fairness, and I hope SGA will be accountable to itself to be effective.

Sen. Kurita attempts to ban some DUI ads

Sen. Rosalind Kurita (D-Clarksville) is attempting to ban some forms of advertising by lawyers who have DUI defense as part of their practice. Sen. Jim Kyle (D-Memphis) opposed her amendment on federal First Amendment grounds as well as his desire to keep the Legislature out of judicial ethics. The amendment may in part be a shot at her primary challenger, Tim Barnes, a Clarksville attorney who works in DUI defense and other areas.

Phil cutting half a bil

Andy Sher reports that Governor Bredesen may have to cut an additional $500 Million from the proposed budget. Revenue shortfalls are the culprit. The cuts may affect raises for state employees and some funding of higher education.

State of the States: GLBT legislative wrap up around America

The Washington Blade has this wrap up of GLBT legislative issues around the country.

Here's the mention of Tennessee:

Proposed legislation in Tennessee would prohibit non-married couples from adopting children. The Senate committee working on that chamber’s version of the bill has been deferring action on the legislation since it was introduced to the committee. No action has been taken on the House version of the bill since it was introduced to a subcommittee.

At the request of the Tennessee Equality Project, a state gay rights group, HRC has paid for lobbyists to help defeat the bills.

The last sentence is inaccurate. TEP made a funding proposal to HRC to fund our existing activities, which include lobbying. We have one and only one lobbyist.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Speaking of oil...

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Mike Padgett devotes his Earth Day message to alternative energy sources. He hits Senator Lamar Alexander on gas prices and vote on a recent energy bill:

In 2008, the average Tennessee family will spend close to $5,000 on gas.
“A fellow told me last night he spent more than $90 to fill up his pickup,” Padgett said. “Remember when gas was $1.24 a gallon? That was the average cost before Senator Alexander took office.

“Americans expect their leaders to try to fix the problems that make life tough. But when an energy bill came up in the Senate last December to enforce better mileage and develop other energy sources, Senator Alexander, President Bush and other Republicans threatened to scuttle it.

“Why? Because it would have ended some of the huge tax breaks going to the oil industry. Only when that part of the bill – along with some of the alternative energy funding – was taken out did they agree to let it go through."

His opponent Bob Tuke doesn't say a great deal about energy policy on his site, so I've signed up for his email updates. Tuke does mention the rising gas prices but mainly with respect to its impact upon family budgets.

Senator Alexander recently wrote about energy policy from the point of view of TVA's efforts to find clean energy source to reduce our dependence on coal. Yesterday he spoke about the importance of setting aside more land for parks as a viable form of conservation. In particular, he addresses the Gulf of Mexico Security Act of 2006, which takes oil and natural gas production royalties and devotes them to the Land and Water Conservation Fund. I'm not sure how that addresses the price of gas, but I'd be happy for someone to post and make the connection.

So basically, all three candidates have noticed the price of gas is going up. Padgett, so far, has the clearest message on why that should be a liability for one of his opponents. Whether any of the three candidates can match some concrete policy to the "Gee, gas prices are too high" rhetoric remains to be seen.

Populism West Nashville style

Here's my bad camera photo of a piece of protest art on 51st Avenue North in West Nashville with the title "Fat Cat Oil," part of which is cut off by my car window. Neighborhoods like West Nasvhille are really feeling the pinch. We'll see how this sentiment translates into votes this November.

Politics with a side of fries

The Chattanooga Times Free Press surveys the connection between restaurants and political meetings in the area.

“This is business,” said Ed Hearn, owner of the downtown Tallan Cellar, the restaurant where the Democratic JFK Club meets each month. “I’ll take anybody who wants to come in.”

Another sign of the passing of an era in state government

Comptroller emeritus William Snodgrass has died. He held the constitutional office of Comptroller from 1955-1999 and is widely credited for "accountability and good government," in the words of John Morgan, who succeeded him.

Mr. Snodgrass's death has contributed to the postponing of legislative committee meetings this week. Senate Judiciary, which was to have taken up the adoption measure today, is going to meet next week. In theory, the upcoming meeting is the last one and will be a decisive moment in the adoption battle.

Fox 17 Starts Morning News Show

Fox 17 has launched its morning newscast, that airs from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. each morning of the week. In fact the show is so new, there's not a mention of it on Fox 17's Web site. The show was unveiled just in time for sweeps. What's surprising is that the station seems to have missed an opportunity to fill a local niche - local news from 7 to 8 when all of the other network stations must cut away to the network morning shows. Instead Fox airs its "Tennessee Mornings" in that timeslot. The newscast is anchored by long time Nashville TV personality Sharon Puckett (28 years at WSMV) along with Nick Paranjape. Paranjape is originally from Murfreesboro and has worked in TV in Tupelo, MS, Jackson, TN, Knoxville and Memphis.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Premarital sex and adultery shake the House

The Tennessean has posted this video of last week's House Judiciary Committee debate on Rep. Stacey Campfield's (R-Knoxville) paternity bill. Rep. Rob Briley (D-Nashville) peppered Rep. Campfield with questions about whether he believes premarital sex and adultery are wrong. Rep. Campfield replied that he didn't know what those questions had to do with the bill. He didn't directly answer the question about premarital sex, but finally did say that adultery is wrong.

Most commentators seem to be focusing on the testiness of the exchange and Briley's comment that the bill is one of the most "anti-child" bills he's ever seen.

What I think will be of interest to the GLBT community and what may be of interest to conservatives is the pass that premarital (straight) sex gets while some legislators on the Right continue to look for ways to draw bills limiting GLBT rights. Consider Rep. Campfield's HB2997 which would prohibit instruction in human sexuality other than heterosexuality in grades K-8.

How does this pass for premarital sex fit with the cluster of family values and abstinence only education?

Sen. Paul Stanley's bill banning adoption by unmarried cohabiting couples in a sexual relationship is at least more consistent with family values discourse, though no more palatable.

GOPTube coming soon

Republican operative Tyler Owens is urging his party to "loosen up" and start using YouTube and other new media to get their message out.

“Why do liberals have all the good movies?” he asked.

Called the Conservative Media Project, the effort could have its epicenter in Chattanooga.

And it all can be done in Chattanooga, Mr. Owens said.

“We have the resources right here,” he said.

Can we talk?, ask Knox Co Commissioners

Apparently not, according to this article in the Knoxville News Sentinel. Under injunction from a judge regarding the open meetings law, the Commissioners considered asking the judge to come before them and answer questions, but decided they'd better not. They can't even contact one another to set up meetings.

Chilly forecast for the summer as Rove approaches

The City Paper's Rex Noseworthy tells us that Karl Rove will speaking at the Statesman's Dinner, the TN Republican Party's big annual event, this summer. Although the piece calls him the "former Prince of Darkness," it also mentions the positive reviews he's getting as a commentator.

Message on wheels come through Nashville

WKRN ran this story on a documentary filmmaker whose car was spray-painted with anti-gay slurs in Albany, New York. She decided to leave the vandal's words on her car to make it everyone's issue. Unfortunately, when she came through Nashville, she found her windows smashed upon returning to her car one evening. Volkswagen and the Sundance Film Festival are sponsoring her journey across America. Now that's creative activism!

Hat tip to H.G. for this one.

"Memphis deserves better"

Wendi Thomas provides insightful commentary on the Herenton - Memphis City Schools drama in Sunday's Commerical Appeal.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Legislative week in review: Democrat and Republican

It's time again for the weekly legislative update at Clarksville Online. You'll find the House GOP update here and you'll find the Democrats' update here .

Interestingly enough, neither side is talking about the adoption bill--perhaps because the main movement has been in the Senate Judiciary committee over the last few weeks. The Republicans lead with discussions of the death penalty ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court, while the Democrats are focused on economic issues. Both updates address the issue of long-term care legislation.

County Commission members need more info on Bible Park

Many members of the Rutherford County Commission say that they don't yet know enough about the proposed Bible Park USA to announce their votes at the upcoming meeting next month. About a third are either opposed or leaning against it. The developers have not finished their proposal on tax breaks and other details. Earlier this month, the Regional Planning Commission voted 8-7 against the park's rezoning proposal.

Objectively, it looks pretty bad for the park. But why does something tell me the developers have a miracle in their pocket and will end up getting the deal? Stay tuned.

Alexander and his shadow

The Knoxville News Sentinel includes a good profile of Tom Ingram, Senator Lamar Alexander's chief of staff and staff director of Senate Republican Conference. As Alexander's influence has risen, so has Ingram's.

Alexander said Ingram is a good manager who hires talented people, assigns them to jobs that fit and then creates an environment in which they like to work. "That leaves me free to focus on being a good governor or senator," he said.

Ingram has never tried to act like he's the one who was elected, Alexander said, but "we work side by side. I don't consider him in a subordinate role. And I think people who work with us understand that, and it makes us much more effective in what we do."

Judicial selection: from bad to worse, says Daughtrey

Larry Daughtrey walks us through the maze of judicial selection in Tennessee. The current method is pretty bad, but the spectre of direct judicial elections and the campaigning that would come with it would probably be a lot worse.

"In states that permit partisan elections, like Texas, Wisconsin and Mississippi, the process can be appalling. It is so bad that John Grisham has written a novel about it.

Special interests line up on each side, usually with doctors, big business and insurance companies on one, and plaintiff lawyers and unions on the other. It becomes a spending donnybrook full of misleading and negative advertising. It forces judges into the uncomfortable position — for some — of raising money from those who appear in their courts.

If ordinary citizens think justice goes to the highest bidder, they may be dead right."

Ethics Commission shifting from explaining to enforcing

This piece in the Tennessean discusses the shift from the largely educational role the Tennessee Ethics Commission has played in its first year to the enforcement role it is moving into. Fines are coming for those who haven't filed their November reports.

What does Herenton want to do with Memphis City Schools?

It's not clear what Mayor Herenton's intentions are with regard to the Memphis City School system or whether or not he intends to remain at his post as Mayor. He appears to be seeking a variety of solutions to solving the woes of the ailing school system. More after the jump.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Liz, what are you thinking?

The Nashville Scene's Liz Garrigan writes a hard-hitting, fun, thought-provoking column called "Commentary with the Breaks Off." I believe we've run across an instance in which she might want to get those breaks checked. Today while writing about the new political blog at Nashville Post produced by A.C. Kleinheider, she compares her bloggers to him mockingly mourning their comparative age and his relative freedom since he "doesn't have to get his hands dirty with ink or worry himself with having to put out a newspaper." All kind of funny and true, so far.

Then she addresses the Scene's blog readers with this nugget: "Just because Jeff Woods looks like a mean Asian trannie and doesn't listen like ACK and look deeply into your wordpress or whatever doesn't mean we can't have a meaningful relationship."

We'll be the first to admit that a sense of humor helps us all navigate the waters of Tennessee politics, but "a mean Asian trannie?" With comments like that coming from progressives, it's no wonder we can't get the birth certificate change bill passed in Tennessee. That bill has otherwise been admirably covered by P.J. Tobia in the pages of the Scene and in its blog.

It's not political correctness; it's called not piling on a group that gets kicked all the time as it is.

CP legislative wrap up: Judges, more judges, and DCS

The City Paper has a wrap up on some state level issues that is helpful in keeping up to speed. The first part deals with an argument between Rep. Rob Briley (D-Nashville) and Governor Bredesen about the openness of a screening panel for judges. Briley moved to keep them closed, while Bredesen wanted to shine some light on them.

Briley says if Bredesen wants the Judicial Selection Commission to have open meetings, then the governor should allow his personal deliberations and interviews when picking a judge to be open as well.

“My point was — the governor can’t have his cake and eat it too,” Briley said. “If it’s open, it’s open.”

The piece also covers the role of the Lt. Governor and the Speaker of the House in developing judicial nominees.

Finally, there is a summary of the Legislature's move to change civil service rules to protect DCS caseworker jobs in light of federal funding changes. The Governor thinks some layoffs may be needed, but primarily in the administrative ranks.

Birth certificate bill a security issue, fantasizes Mumpower

Apparently Rep. Jason Mumpower (R-Bristol) is taking the war on terror to the transgender community of Tennessee. The House Minority leader told the Nashville Scene that his opposition to the birth certificate change bills in the Legislature as originally presented stems from security issues.

Jackson Sun backs Herron's Bible course

A Jackson Sun editorial calls on the Legislature to pass Sen. Roy Herron's (D-Dresden) proposed non-sectarian Bible course for public schools. In the Sun's view:

"What makes Herron's bill appealing is that he already has answered the constitutionality question. He has gotten an opinion from the state attorney general confirming the bill's constitutionality. That means school systems should be able to offer the course, using the guidelines to be developed, without fear of being sued.

Another good thing about Herron's bill is that it provides clarity to an often murky and emotional issue. It would create a workable framework for talking about the Bible in school, something people in Tennessee want to do and have been trying to do with mixed results for years.

There's no doubt the Bible is a valuable education tool, even outside of church. Herron is right in his assertion that it is one of the most important books in history. It has influenced countless people for two millennia in areas as diverse as art, music and philosophy. Students deserve to learn about that influence."

State NAACP calls for Sudan divestment

Despite opposition from the Governor and the State Treasurer, the NAACP is backing Sen. Tim Burchett's (R-Knoxville) bill that require the state pension plan to divest in companies that have business ties to Sudan.

"Cesspool of partisan politics," says City Paper

Rep. Brenda Gilmore (D-Nashville) was surprised to find out that her sceptic tank bill was amended to include a provision allowing small businesses to require their employees to speak only English. Democrats voted down the move by Republicans, but not without a few volleys being traded back and forth on the House floor.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Padgett knocks Alexander's flat tax

Here's what Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Mike Padgett had to say about Sen. Lamar Alexander's advocacy of the flat tax in a press release today:

Take the few folks who make more than $350,000 a year. A flat rate would cut their tax bill in half,” Padgett said. “What do the folks in the middle get? A slight change in their taxes and an easier form to fill out.”

Senator Alexander said earlier this week that he liked the idea of an optional 17 percent flat tax on individuals and businesses, and he touted the simplicity of having only a one-page form to fill out.

“If Senator Alexander were serious about lifting some of the load off of the working class, he would not have voted at least a dozen times to block tax cuts that were targeted for middle- and lower-income taxpayers,” Padgett said.

“What about tax cuts that would really make a difference in the working family’s budget – a tuition tax credit equal to 50 percent of college costs, for example, or a first-time homeowner tax credit? How about doubling the tax credit for child-care expenses?

“How do you pay for them? You REDUCE the tax breaks we are giving the biggest earners instead of EXPANDING them, as Senator Alexander’s flat tax would do."

Padgett doesn't mention his Democratic primary opponent Bob Tuke in his release. He's clearly running against Alexander already. This allows him to show contrast without increasing Tuke's name recognition.

On his website, Tuke, says, "I will vote to repeal parts of the Bush tax cuts that favor wealthy Americans, and sponsor legislation that will give tax relief to middle-class Americans. I will remove existing tax incentives that make it too easy for American businesses to ship American jobs overseas." Additionally, Tuke has this piece on Alexander's flat tax proposal at Huffington Post. He pulls no punches with this section:

"Senator Alexander this is your chance to put me in my place. Prove to me this isn't an election year gimmick.

Better yet, let's schedule a public meeting to discuss it. Bring your plan. We will invite the media and have a calm chat about your plan.

I'm calling your bluff. I want to see your hole card."

I didn't find much about the flat tax on Alexander's candidate site. That doesn't mean it's not there. It's just not one of the obvious features of how he's identifying himself on the site. But his press release about the proposal is easily found at his official Senate site.

Tuke's strategy is interesting. Having a piece at Huffington Post will help his name recognition nationally and perhaps in Tennessee's urban areas and may even help national fundraising. But the race is in Tennessee, after all. Padgett's focus on Tennessee media and plain spokenness should be an asset with voters. I have to give Tuke credit, too, for the forcefulness with which he raised questions in his piece. If Padgett's release and Tuke's piece are a preview to what might happen in debates with Alexander, then I think either Democratic candidate will score some points.

Still, either will have to be careful because Alexander is well loved in Tennessee and his pleasant, calm demeanor can be disarming and make an opponent look angry. We've seen the dangers of the word "bitter" in the presidential debate. While it's hazardous to classify voters as bitter, it's a good word to tag your opponent with if it sticks.

Adoption bill delayed

SB3910 was not heard yet again in the Senate Judiciary committee. It's not clear what Sen. Paul Stanley's (R-Germantown) strategy is, but the new delay could be attributable to the combination of the high fiscal note for the bill, the state budget crunch, and now the prospect of losing some funding for DCS case workers. Read about that last element here .

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Haslam Family Giving

The Haslams of Knoxville have been some of Tennessee's largest backers of Republican candidates. The Metro Pulse has the numbers here.

UT-Martin nondiscrimination policy stalls

Look here for the UT-Martin Pacer story. Basically, the move that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the school's nondiscrimination policy, that passed easily in student government, has stalled in the executive committee of the faculty senate. Some of the members say they aren't aware of any problems.

I suppose that they can't remember this hate incident last year on campus in which anti-gay threats were written on the West Tennessee campus sidewalks during the Day of Silence.

The policy change could still come up at the faculty senate meeting on April 22.

Here is a list of colleges and universities that have inclusive nondiscrimination policies.

Anti-gay legislator in OK affects state's business climate

Interesting story out of Oklahoma about how Rep. Sally Kern's anti-gay comments are giving a company second thoughts about relocating to the state. This is the kind of argument we've got to make clearer to Tennessee's Legislature. It provides an additional compelling reason to kill negative bills and set a more inclusive climate.

Blackburn admits FEC filing violations

U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., has admitted to several unreported campaign financial disclosures to the Federal Election Commission that go back 2002.

The District 7 Republican Primary for this seat will be interesting to watch this election year. Blackburn faces a serious challenger - Tom Leatherwood, Shelby County Register of deeds. Bad news like this will put Blackburn on the defence.

Nashville City Paper - GLBT community seeks to be included in nondiscrimination program

The Nashville City Paper reports that Nashville's GLBT community seeks to be included in nondiscrimination program in this story. It's true the GLBT community didn't actively seek to be included in this bill, but isn't it odd that one of the co-sponsors of the bill, who campaigned as openly gay - Keith Durbin - said he didn't include the GLBT community in the bill because he wasn't approached by the community. I'm guess its not fair to expect some leadership on this issue, but if you were drafting legislation wouldn't you, as a gay legislator, think about including your community - or even having discussions with leaders of that community about it?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A good night for incumbents in Murfreesboro

The Post reports that incumbents were easily reelected to the Murfreesboro City Council with some new members of the city's school board. Earlier reports in the Daily News Journal indicated a low voter turnout.

Adoption bill update--rolled for a couple of days

This evening Sen. Paul Stanley (R-Germantown) rolled his bill banning adoption by persons living in unmarried, cohabiting relationships. It should be heard at 8:00 a.m. Central on Thursday in Senate Judiciary...unless he rolls again, of course.

Metro Council votes for Predators deal, against school board term limits

The meeting moved pretty fast lasting about an hour. The Predators deal was approved 30 to 8, I believe. It seemed to come down to the point that Council member Emily Evans made that there was no backup plan for a Sommet Center tenant without the Predators. All members who spoke thanked the Mayor's team for the work that they did whether they supported the deal or not.

Term limits for school board members failed 21 to 14. The discussion about the connection of terms limits to the will of the people of Davidson County, campaign spending, and different aspects of democracy actually wasn't too bad.

Overall, the tone of the meeting was jovial. Vice Mayor Neighbors only once had to remind a member not to make things "personal," which the member assured everyone he wasn't doing.

Close vote in Rutherford Co on Bible Park

In an 8-7 vote, the Rutherford County Planning Commission rejected a zoning change that would pave the way for a proposed Bible Park.

The proposal will still go before the Rutherford County Commission in one month. I've heard a rumor that the City of Murfreesboro may try to annex more land if the County doesn't approve the move.

No word yet on the Attorney General's opinion that Rep. Donna Rowland (R-Murfreesboro) has requested.

UT Professor implicated in passing military secrets

This one is pretty serious. A Colorado man is pleading guilty to passing "sensitive military data" to the Chinese and he was apparently conspiring with emeritus UT Professor J. Reece Roth.

UT isn't saying much at this point.

The "transplant" candidate

Profile of Gregg Juster, who is running for Hamilton County Board of Education.

Dean signs Metro contracting non-discrimination law

Yesterday, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean signed into law the non-discrimination bill for minority contracts. The bill's goal is to give women and racial and ethnic minorities more access to Metro contacts. There will possibly be a follow-up story as soon as tomorrow in the City Paper on the omission of GLBT businesses from the law.

Adoption bill--will they run it or not?

I was just at Legislative Plaza sitting outside room 12 where the adoption bill is supposed to be heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee. There are dozens of bills on the calendar tonight and the meeting could go until 7:00 p.m. I've heard that Sen. Paul Stanley (R-Germantown) may not run the bill tonight. I'll try to have an update later. Any number of reasons could be behind that if it's true. We know that members of the committee got hundreds of emails last week and hundreds more this week.

Higher Taxes on the Horizon for Memphis and Shelby County

Budget proposals for the city and county include increases in city property taxes and a new county privilege tax.

The privilege tax would only affect those who work inside but live outside Shelby County. To sweeten the deal, Shelby County residents would see a decrease in county property taxes. The privilege tax would have to be approved by the General Assembly.

These new taxes are sure signs that citizens and governments are feeling the pain of economic downturn.

Monday, April 14, 2008

"Cable companies don't get much," says Joe White

Joe White discusses the cable compromise bill for WPLN in this audio file . He does say, though, that it slows down AT&T. Public access interests don't get much out of the bill. Low-income neighborhoods get some protections.

Metro Council analysis for April 15 meeting

Here it is:

Inside you'll find some interesting items such as an extended discussion of the Sommet Center/Predators deal. There's also a resolution on the date of the Mayor's State of Metro address and several resolutions on Metro's acceptance of a variety of grants. Two of the more curious entries are resolutions allowing the "Trial Lawyers Institute, Inc., doing business as Riverfront Tavern" (huh?) to put in a neon sign and a resolution letting the police department accept a Tennessee Walking Horse named "Superior Candidate." Will the "neighs" have it on that last item? You'll have to tune in to find out.

Padgett hits Alexander on new GI bill

In a press release today, Mike Padgett asks, “So, why hasn’t Senator Alexander signed on – like 10 other Republicans in the Senate – to support it and give our heroes the benefits they deserve? Maybe he follows the twisted logic of the White House, which says the better benefits will hurt recruitment and military regiment. If you can make sense of that, please explain it to me.” He's referring to the newly revised GI bill proposed by Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va) and Sen. John Warner (R-Va). .

Padget may have found the one place where it's almost universally accectable to talk about class--the needs of our troops and veterans. Evoking Jim Webb is a smart move, too, given that unconventional Democrat's ability to win in the conservative Commonwealth of Virginia. I wonder whether such connections will have resonance in upper East Tennessee along the Virginia border where Webb commercials no doubt flooded the airwaves during the last senatorial election.

I am a little surprised that Bob Tuke, the other Democrat in the race, hasn't made more of the issue. As a veteran, he'd surely agree with Padgett, but it appears Padgett got to it first (as far as I can tell) and staked out the ground.

Tri-Cities PFLAG chapter on the move! . I missed this one yesterday, but John Shuck deserves a hat tip for passing it on to me. Nice coverage for the state's newest PFLAG chapter. Here's how one member describes the group's hopes.

“What I would really hope is that several years down the road, we wouldn’t need to have a PFLAG Tri-Cities,” she said. “I don’t think that’s particularly realistic, given the time in which we live in. But I really would like to see a larger, vibrant organization that would be able to advocate in the community for all people; that perhaps we would not just be focusing on creating a supportive community, but we might be able to advocate for change in how things are done in the community and perhaps some legalized discrimination could be made illegal.”

I think that's exactly right. Creating a supportive community lays a good foundation for legislative change. They're on the right track.

Frist acting like candidate for governor

John Rodgers tracks Bill Frist's travels around the state to community events like Columbia's Mule Days (we don't know whether he was at Rep. Tom Dubois's notorious party) and Republican fundraising events. Yes, he's acting like he's running for governor in 2010.

The state's GLBT community will remember Frist as a strong proponent of the Federal Marriage (Discrimination) Amendment. He also declared marriage a "sacrament" even though he's Presbyterian and that Church teaches that only Baptism and the Eucharist are sacraments.

Budget issues and the new revenue numbers

The Commercial Appeal provides a good overview of the major legislation pending in the Legislature and discusses the chances for some legislation in light of lower March revenue. There is no mention of the adoption bill with its $4.5 Million fiscal note. It's a shame, too, considering that the two sponsors are from the Memphis area.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

State budget compared to a turnip

That's what the Murfreesboro Daily News Journal says. They include a little advice for the Legislature: "At this point, they'd better think about dramatic cuts or tapping into the rainy day fund that Bredesen forced them to build up last year."

"I'm more conservative than you." District 26 Senate race

A Jackson Sun profile of the candidates running to replace John Wilder in the Senate (D-Mason). Whoever wins may tip the balance between Democrats and Republicans in the closely divided Senate. A big turnout by Democrats in the presidential election may help Democrat Randy Camp, who was Wilder's chief of staff.

So far the rhetoric is about who is more conservative...or at least conservative enough for the district. Camp and a possible Republican opponent Rep. Delores Gresham (R-Somerville) have weighed in so far.

Here are the relevant quotations:

"I'm a conservative Democrat," Camp said. "I don't think being a Republican or a Democrat makes that much difference to people if they've got good conservative representation."

Gresham, a former Marine, said her experience will show she is capable of bringing strong representation to the district. She promised to work to improve education and battle against legalized abortion.

"Conservative principles and voting record will resonate with those who look into it," Gresham said. "I look forward to the campaign, I look forward to building a relationship with the people of the 26th district, and I look forward to a great summer."

GOP division over House District 31

Andy Sherr reports that Rep. Richard Floyd (R-Chattanooga) is supporting former Rep. Jim Vincent for a House seat.

Floyd's nod to Vincent puts him at odds with the House Republican leadership who are backing Rep. Jim Cobb (R-Spring City) in the race. Rep. Jason Mumpower (R-Bristol) and Rep. Glen Casada (R-College Grove) are among those who wrote to the Chattanooga Times Free Press in support of Cobb.

With all the members of the General Assembly retiring and with contested primaries, we should look for huge changes in the 106th session.

State workers and the Wikipedia scandal

The AP has picked up a story that originally ran as a WSMV I-Team report. I had the misfortune of seeing the original on the news. Basically, we're being whipped into a frenzy because a few state workers are spending a lot of time editing Wikipedia entries.

In a year with budget shortfalls, there certainly is at least an appearance issue here. And it also looks as if some of the employees did violate state internet use policies. However, I think it's important to ask in specific cases whether the violators were getting their work done well and on time. The other question is whether the work of state employees is being adequately managed. Are there departments that don't have enough work to do? And aren't there probably departments that are overworked?

All this is troubling in a year in which we face the spectre of no raise or almost no raise for state employees. But I think the issues would be present even if no state employees ever visited Wikipedia.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

I nearly missed the green...

Based on a look at the archives section of the Nashville Business Journal, it appears that their parent company launched in January. Here's what they say they do:

"We track the deals, people and innovations that are making the green industry the phenomenon of our age. We aim to help entrepreneurs, growth-company executives and the business community in general understand green trends, identify up-and-coming companies and, ultimately, be more successful."

Additionally, one of their bullet points will appeal to political watchers. They tell us we can "count on" this section to: "Keep an eye on government debates, legislation, regulation, court decisions — anything green-related that affects business."

It should prove to be a good resource and it shows that at least talking about the greening of industry is unavoidable even if the practices can be circumvented.

A candidate with style

Stylist Rhonda Thurman is running unopposed for the Hamilton County school board. She is profiled here:

Friday, April 11, 2008

Density and conformity...

Not much of a battle cry, is it? But that's what's on the minds of some Metro Nashville Council members who want to reexamine the duplex boom in Nashville. Read about it here:

Bridging the gap: sports and GLBT fans

The Atlanta Dream women's basketball team were doing some face-to-face marketing among Lady Vols fans covered in orange at a midtown Atlanta lesbian hangout. It's refreshing to see in the South. Can you imagine the Titans or the Predators showing up at Tribe or Play? Hey, maybe it's already happened. It's great to see the recognition of a GLBT fan base in sports. With former pros like John Amaechi coming out, maybe we're getting closer to bridging the gap between men's sports and gay male fans.

The GLBT community has to keep a large part of our focus on the political process so long as we experience legal discrimination. But we'd be foolish to deny that the cultural arena shapes our political possibilities. Until it's no longer an issue to be out in sports, ministry, country music, the military, or whatever area of life, we will be playing catch up politically.

Living Wage connection to homelessness

Opinion piece in today's Tennessean from the Homeless Power Project on the connection between a living wage and the ability to afford basic shelter. A day's pay should be able to pay for three days of shelter if a person is going to be able to get by, argues Patricia Bryant.

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force released a study in late 2006 on GLBT homeless youth and found that of "the estimated 1.6 million homeless youth, between 20 and 40 percent identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender..." . The realities of coming out and discrimination coupled with substandard wages creates a deep pit for GLBT youth from which few emerge with the start they need as they begin their adult lives.

Remembering a tragedy

Tri-Cities news site asks readers what their plans are to observe the anniversary of the murders at Virginia Tech.

School safety is becoming such a broad, multi-faceted issue across the country. At times, it seems to unite conservatives and liberals. Consider the anti-bullying bill that was debated in the Georgia Legislature this year that was introduced by a conservative but backed by Georgia Equality. At other times, it brings out widely different perspectives. A prime example is the bill that was debated this year in the Tennessee Legislature that would have allowed some to carry weapons on college campuses. The Virginia Tech murders were explicitly cited. And while these acts of brutality touch all Americans in some way, it seems that the impact was particularly felt in East Tennessee.

We should welcome the growing focus on the safety of students, whether in our elementary or secondary schools or in higher education institutions. It is the kind of substantive issue that is worth the debate, the time, and whatever funds we can allocate.

Profile of Joe Dumas

Dr. Dumas is a candidate for Hamilton County school board.

TN Democratic Senate Primary: Gone to the Dogs

Matt Pulle's hilarious "interview" with Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Mike Padgett.

From one House to another House?

Rep. Joe Towns (D-Memphis is running for the 9th congressional seat. But why? His petition had some discrepancies, but they've been cleared up. Apparently he didn't campaign too hard for the seat last time he ran, and he is unopposed for his state House seat.

The GLBT community around the state mostly knows Rep. Towns as the chair of House K-12 that has handed two defeats to Rep. Stacey Campfield's bill banning any instruction in sexuality other than heterosexuality in grades K-8 in our state's public schools.

Get your papers in--District 1 still open

You can still be a candidate for Metro school board in District 1--the race in which school board member George Thompson just dropped out.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

It's minority health month, but not for all minorities

There's a whole month of activities surrounding minority health, but the state doesn't seem to recognize that the GLBT community has specific health issues.

Granted, there are events and activities focused on the HIV/AIDS crisis which has profoundly affected our community. But that is not the only health disparity we face and it is not one that only affects our community.

I think we pretty much got erased again.

Thompson and Summers have dropped out

School board member George Thompson is no longer seeking reelection and former Metro Council member John Summers has dropped out of the race. A field that started out fairly wide is steadily narrowing.

Lt. Governor wants a change in judicial selection process

I think there are two issues. He wants his picks actually picked, rather just part of pool from which others make their selections. And, of course, he'd like to see more conservatives on the bench. Not surprisingly, Democrats largely think the process is just fine.

A late word of congratulations to the Lady Vols

Today's Knoxville News Sentinel editorial praises the NCCA championship win of the Lady Vols.

What great representatives of Tennessee!

Public funds for M'Boro Bible park

Rep. Donna Rowland (R-Murfreesboro) has asked for an Attorney General's opinion on the proposed Bible Park in the Murfreesboro area.

Developers argue rather strangely that the park is not religious in the sense that anyone--religious or not--can visit the park. Um, the last time I checked, almost anyone can visit a worship service about anywhere in the state. I've certainly attended worship services in cases in which I was not an adherent of that tradition. Does that mean they're not religious?

The park will feature scenes of the Crucifixion, the "Rapture," etc.

Term limits in Jackson?

That's what one member of council is proposing.

Implications of the City Paper sale

Former Metro Council member and former Nashville Scene publisher Chris Ferrell is buying the City Paper. His company also owns Nashville Post. The plan is to beef up the web presence of the City Paper and publish a print edition on Mondays and Fridays. The obvious questions about whether the new model can make money have been raised. The Scene's piece in Pith in the Wind also raises important political coverage questions. The City Paper and Nashville Post provide some of the best political coverage in the state (along with the Chattanooga Times Free Press). There are no plans to axe the editors of either who are highly focused on state and local political news.

The City Paper has been a reliable source for coverage of publicly relevant GLBT stories over the last few years. Their editorials have also been generally supportive of our community seeing negative legislation for what it is--a diversion and divisiveness.

Nashville's GLBT community will remember Ferrell as one of the champions of the failed non-discrimination ordinance that would have protected Metro employees on the basis of sexual orientation, though not gender identity. Chris has been a reliable friend to the community and his support goes back at least to the early nineties during his days at Vanderbilt Divinity School where he and I were both students at the same time.

I admit that I will miss picking up my copy of the City Paper every week day, but a heftier version on Mondays and Fridays will certainly be welcome. Best of luck, Chris!

A hat tip to Jerry Jones for making me aware of the story.

Is Love in Action on Its Way Out?

The Memphis Flyer notes that John Smid has resigned as President/CEO of the Memphis-based Love in Action - a "reparative therapy" program. LIA drew national attention and criticism for admiting an unwilling Memphis teenager into its youth program. LIA faced scrutiny from the Tennessee Departments of Health and Children Services. The program was eventually discontinued.

Here's hoping that the LIA "ministry" struggles to survive without Smid.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Do liberals and Democrats get a pass on GLBT issues?

I read two pieces on this topic today. One was a national assessment in The Advocate found here: The piece recounts in painful detail the heterosexism and transphobia of national politicians who are classified as either liberals or as Democrats. The author is careful to point out that " by no means do the instances of liberal homophobia cited above amount to the same sort of organized campaign of intolerance that is a sustaining principle of the religious right." But he goes on to say that the left overdoes its claim to have been helpful in passing GLBT rights legislation and whatever role they have played certainly doesn't excuse their frequent indifference and their occasional hostility to GLBT issues. I guess the question is whether liberals think they have the right or whether it is the GLBT community that gives liberals a pass.

The other piece is Liz Garrigan's column in this week's Nashville Scene titled "Phil, We Need to Talk: A public breakup with Tennessee's governor."

She specifically mentions his silence on the adoption bill in the Legislature. She has called him out on this issue before.

It's one thing for a journalist to call out an official, of course. It's another thing for a minority community trying to win friends or at least not make new enemies. That still doesn't absolve us from being confrontational sometimes.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Natural Areas Week: Who Knew?

The Tennessee Environmental Council notes that this week has been proclaimed Natural Areas Week: There are activities planned in each of the state's Grand Divisions. It's been a great week to get out, except for a little rain. One wishes that the state had come up with a title a little more exciting than "Natural Areas Week." Rather clinical, don't you think? Or perhaps bureaucratic. One shudders to think of what places would be classified "Unnatural Areas" or maybe "Artificial Zones."

Regardless, support TEC if you can. They're doing great work. Their annual Green Tie Affair is coming up and you find out more here:

Girls will continue to go wild on TN television

The bill attempting to ban those notorious commercials seems to have died again. No one ever mentions the Guys Gone Wild Commercials on Logo. Oh, well.

Equally distasteful to all--the cable compromise

It advanced in the House today. We're not promised lower rates, as the AT&T commercials have been advertising would come with competition. But we may get a slower growth in rates. I guess that's right up there with those rare days when gas goes down a penny a gallon.

Here's what the Governor had to say: "Gov. Phil Bredesen called the bill 'equally distasteful to all parties, which is always a good sign.'" Equally distasteful to all...I suppose that's the new standard for legislation. It's not exactly the compliment that Speaker Naifeh was probably looking for.

TN's budget woes worse than expected

Tennessee experienced a major shortfall in revenues in March. This is terrible news. It will affect thousands of families across Tennessee who desperately need state programs to get by in our steadily worsening economy. It means that state employees probably won't even get the less than cost-of-living adjustments to their wages.

In light of the deepening budget crisis, it is baffling that some in the Legislature continue to push an adoption ban with a $4.5+ Million fiscal note. Here it is. Read it and hope it sinks into the minds of the members of the Senate Judiciary committee:

Adoption bill on hold for now

The Senate Judiciary did not hear the adoption bill today (SB3810). And they won't hear it tomorrow when they meet at 8:00 a.m. Tennessee Equality Project members sent over 1300 emails to committee members on the bill. Stay tuned for more.

Bruce Barry blogs about the bill here:

And here's a link to the WSMV story on the bill in which our own Marisa Richmond is interviewed:

Monday, April 7, 2008

Mules Gone Wild?

Apparently Rep. Tom Dubois (R-Columbia) throws one Hell of a Mule Days party. An underage drunk driver told police he had been served at Dubois's party, but the legislator, who is sponsoring tough drunk driving legislation, is getting out of this one with just the public embarrassment.

Tight TN budget killing popular bills

An Associated Press story on the effect of the TN budget crunch on legislation this year:

The Scene has WKRN's number

Interesting piece by Bruce Barry in the Scene's Pith in the Wind. He discusses the "softball" questions that WKRN's Bog Mueller threw to the Family Action Council of TN's David Fowler (the former state senator). Barry takes Mueller to task for not drilling Fowler on FACTN's positions on adoption, abortion, and other issues in the culture war. Most embarrassing is Mueller's recent panel on the anniversary of the King assassination in which all the guests were white. Hmmm.

Read it here:

"We're not there yet."

More reflections on the 40th anniversary of the King assassination in today's Knoxville News Sentinel:

Cable compromise announced

It looks as if we might see an end to those awful and constant commercials about the cable bill. Lawmakers announced a compromise today that includes stiff penalties for violations. The bill should be heard tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Go, Tigers

Amazing win this weekend over UCLA. Good luck in the final game, Memphis!
(Photo from the Commercial Appeal)

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Adoption bill to be heard Tuesday or Wednesday

Since the Senate sponsor, Sen. Paul Stanley (R-Germantown), sits on the Judiciary Committee, there is a good chance the bill will pass in that committee. But the Tennessee Equality Project is still urging our members to contact the members of the committee and urge them to oppose the bill. With a high fiscal note, the bill will probably stall in the Senate Finance, Ways & Means Committee. And there remain opportunities to stop it in the House, but let's stop it sooner than later.

The bill doesn't just affect the GLBT community. It affects any unmarried, cohabiting couple.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Bordering state update: GA bully bill doesn't make it to the floor

The Georgia anti-bullying bill didn't make it to the floor of the House for a vote on the final day of the session.

"What we're hearing is they are definitely playing politics with each other and not getting much done," Georgia Equality Political Director Kyle Bailey said. "They’re just not going to let it go the floor, and it's not because of an association with Georgia Equality. It is just because it’s not a priority for them. They're working on tax cuts, education, and other issues, and our issue just isn't a priority for them."

Horsefeathers: A Profile of Rep. Frank Buck

Great profile of retiring Rep. Frank Buck (D-Dowelltown) in the Metro Pulse.

Response to hate in Cleveland

Here's part of an interesting piece in the Bradley News Weekly by Daniel Brantley:

Whatever it takes to walk down the road to hatred, Cleveland came face to face with the outcome recently, and it's left the community sick at their collective stomach. The spray paint on the side of those homes is a disgusting sight that could be a sign that we've shot backwards a good 100 years or so. Or it could be a sign that ignorance has hit a select few right between the eyes. Is there any other way such an act could have come to fruition?

The worst part is what an incident like this could do to a weak community. One group of people suddenly becomes afraid of the other, and both begin to look over their shoulders a bit more. Whereas trust in one's neighbors used to exist in full bloom, it has now been replaced with fear and skepticism. No one can trust anyone else, because that someone else could be out to get you. for the rest.

It's an important reminder that hate crimes are not merely acts of vandalism committed by individuals against individuals. Hate crimes target minorities and affect an entire community. They sew distrust and fear. And they can happen anywhere, from charming small towns to cosmopolitan, "progressive" cities. They provide opportunities for communities to come together across differences and say, "This is not who we are or want to be."

An easy path to re-election for some in Memphis and Shelby County

The filing deadline passed this week and many candidates will run unopposed for their offices this year. Check here for details.

Cops on steroids continued

The Murfressboro Daily News Journal reports that a local bodybuilder has been arrested and more than 300,000 doses of steroids have been confiscated in a scandal that is connected to Middle Tennessee police departments.

I'm amazed that police officers can afford it given how little they are typically paid. But then again the stress of their jobs and the pressure to stay fit is intense, too.

The obvious problem, of course, is that police are charged with enforcing the laws on illegal substances. This sort of scandal can only raise questions about integrity, but it should also raise questions about the drug war and a culture that drives mainly men to seek these enhancements.

Profile of Linda Mosely, candidate for Hamilton Co school board

Piece includes a full list of candidates a thorough profile of Ms. Mosely.

Knox Co Republicans look at future: Family Values?

A piece discusses their annual Lincoln event. Health care, energy, and immigration are mentioned. Where's the discussion of the wedge issues? Where's the emphasis on "family values?" To read the article, you might think the GOP has moved past all that. Of course, the topic could have come up and the article failed to mention it.

Perhaps it didn't come up. Maybe someone who was there will post and answer the question. One hopes that Knox County Republicans are realizing that the strategy of using the GLBT community to divide the state is running out of steam. Then again, it may be that they are continuing to refine the rhetoric in a way that makes it publicly tamer.

Also absent in the article is all the controversy over open meetings and secrecy that is raging in Knox County now. Just yesterday, the Knox County law director issued a new report on whether commissioners violated a judge's ruling on the matter:

9th Congressional District Race Heats Up

The Commercial Appeal has a thoughtful editorial today about Jake Ford's run for the 9th Congressional District. He's filed as an independent and will likely face Steve Cohen or Nikki Tinker (whoever emerges from the Democratic Primary) in November.

Friday, April 4, 2008

New overview of same-sex marriage in the U.S.

The Pew Forum has released a new, thorough overview of the same-sex marriage debate in the U.S. You'll find maps, polling numbers, and summaries of the arguments of both sides. It's about as unbiased a treatment as you're going to get. Highly recommended!

Upper East TN races

Cable/AT&T compromise may be announced Monday .

I certainly hope so. Those constant commercials about the legislation are tiring.

Metro school board candidates .

John Summers is running, but not Eric Crafton.

"Rachel Ray" runs for TN House! Kind of... .

Interesting. Rep. Campfield has two opponents in his primary. Sen. Woodson does not, but has an opponent in the general election. "Rachel Ray" is running against Rep. Joe Armstrong. Wouldn't it be great if the food diva Rachael (notice the different spelling) Ray moved to Tennessee and ran for the House?

Rep. Harry Tindell and Rep. Harry Brooks have no opposition.

Southeast TN voters satisfied?

They must be, says the Chattanooga Times Free Press, because there aren't many challengers in this year's contests. See the list of candidates in the area here:

McCain admits King holiday error on Memphis visit

It's the 40th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis. There have been a number of good pieces in papers around Tennessee.

GOP presidential hopeful John McCain has been in Memphis today and actually admitted that he was wrong in opposing the King holiday.

His words are both encouraging and frustrating. He's largely gotten a pass in mainstream media for his opposition to the holiday. And yet his remarks (if more people made them whose past actions were discriminatory) would help move the conversation and hopefully policy forward.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

April Fools Day at the Legislature

In tonight's post, Rep. Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville) imagines yesterday's newspaper headlines. Some are pretty out there, but they're all pretty funny.

Take this zinger: "Rep. Frank Buck introduces 'Casual Friday/leather Speedo day' in his office..............Legislature is evacuated."

Go to for the rest. You never know, the Colbert Report might need writers. We'd consider giving a letter of recommendation.

Borges to challenge West again

P.J. Tobia reports that Juan Borges will challenge Rep. Ben West again:

He also mentions the video of Rep. West questioning what an Hispanic Republican is. Sean Braisted, who shot the video, apparently didn't give anyone permission to use it. The video is currently posted at Borges's site. Hmmm.

Maybe Borges will make a lot of the comment, but as Tobia points out, Borges didn't exactly endear himself to the Hispanic community with some of his policy positions the last go-round. Furthermore, even if Rep. West's words were not as aptly chosen as they should have been, isn't it legitimate to ask which party does a better job of representing a minority's interests? Similar questions certainly get raised about gay Republicans. To raise the question, even dismissively, should not preclude someone stepping up and saying, "Well, I'm a Republican for tax issues or national defense issues" or whatever. But I don't think it's wrong per se to raise the question.

Politics is a contact sport and the tough questions are going to come. Why is it that when a question of rhetoric is raised, we lose the policy question that it touches on? If the GLBT community slapped every supportive legislator who called homosexuality a "lifestyle," then we wouldn't have many allies. What I care about is how they vote in committee meetings. We can work on the correct but ever changing terms later.

Blunder favors Favors

Stuart James ended up not qualifying to run against Rep. Joanne Favors (D-Chattanooga) in the Democratic primary. He used photocopies as part of his petition and that's against the rules.

And they're off...

Exceptionally high interest in the school board races this year in Metro Nashville.

The Power 100

BusinessTN has just released its Power 100 issue. As far as I know, no one who is out made the list. Draw your own inferences about that. There were 26 elected or appointed public officials. Governor Bredesen tops the list. Attorney General Bob Cooper comes in at #41 with the piece noting that he "wrote an opinion in support of child adoption by same-sex couples." Thank you, Bob. Now if the Legislature would just back off its adoption ban bill, we'd be in good shape.

Sen. Williams running for re-election as Independent

Looks like a couple of interesting years ahead in the Senate.

Meet our newest legislator: Karen Camper

Here's the Commercial Appeal's profile of her from Tuesday's paper:

Speaker appoints new rep to committee and kills bill

Rep. Karen Camper (D-Memphis) is the newest member of the Tennessee House, replacing the late Rep. Gary Rowe. Not long after being sworn in, she was appointed to the House Judiciary committee and the Criminal Practice subcommittee which heard a bill closing the records of those with gun permit. The Speaker and Rep. Camper gave the subcommittee enough votes to kill the bill.

The Jackson Sun's editorial page has the Speaker's back on this one:

Jeff Woods has the GOP response:

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Sen. Woodson "gives them fits."

A piece in Knoxville's Metro Pulse on the effort to find someone Republican or Democrat to run against Sen. Jamie Woodson (R-Knoxville).

Love in the Branches (of government): Dean and the Council

P.J. Tobia describes the rebound relationship between Metro Council and Mayor Karl Dean. And Internal Service Fees figure prominently in the story. What a surprise! Councilman Charlie Tygard's remarks are priceless.

Open records changes

The state is about to make an historic change to the open records law after a process of reaching consensus. Here's how the City Paper describes the essence of Sen. Randy McNally's (R-Oak Ridge) bill: "The open records bill requires all records open to the public to be made available within five days. If the requested record were closed, the governmental agency would have to give the citizen an explanation on why the record is not public. Or, if it’s going to take longer than five days to fulfill the request, the governmental agency must tell the citizen how long it’s expected to take."

Here's the full story:

Birth certificate bill advances

The House Public Health and Family Assistance subcommittee voted to send HB3907 to the House Health and Human Resources committee where it has been placed on the calendar for April 8. The companion bill, SB4052, was heard in the Senate General Welfare, Health & Human Services committee. No vote was taken, but the bill may be heard again in the next two weeks.

This bill would allow a person to change the sex designation on his or her birth certificate upon receiving a sworn statement from a medical professional indicating that a person's gender has changed.

We'd like to send a big congratulations to our ally, the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition, for all their hard work on lobbying for the bill. We would also like to thank TEP members for generating almost 1000 emails to members of the House and Senate committees charged with deliberating on these bills. The teamwork has been outstanding.

"It tears me up,.." says Crafton

Metro Councilman Eric Crafton will not be running for school board.

Complaint against Knox Co Mayor

As if there weren't enough drama in Knox County government, a citizen has filed a complaint against Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale for a reimbursement from his campaign funds. Charles Bowers filed the complaint with the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance, but the Registry says it hasn't received the complaint yet.

Favors gets a challenger for her House seat .

Stuart James, the former chair of the Hamilton County Democratic party will challenge Rep. Joanne Favors (D-Chattanooga) in the Democratic primary. James had previously run against former Rep. Chris Clem in another district. But he just moved from his Signal Mountain home into a new district.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Assessing the Purcell legacy

The City Paper takes a look at the Purcell years. Unfortunately much of the piece focuses on Internal Service Fees (yes, the phrase is capitalized in the story) in Metro government and how tough that made it for Council members to follow spending. Yawn. Do the presence or absence of Internal Service Fees make or break the greatness of a city?

If one were to talk about Purcell's legacy, why not talk about the growth of the neighborhood focus that he either tapped into or unleashed? The number of neighborhood forums that the mayoral candidates had to endure alone should be evidence that something is different and ought to be analyzed.

What about diversity issues? During Purcell's two terms, Nashville saw an amazing increase in our immigrant population--Latino, Kurdish, North African, etc. Did the city put in place structures to make that transition easier or more difficult?

Why not mention a couple of courageous stands he took in his last years like vetoing the English only ordinance or blocking the law that would have restricted the display of niche newspapers in the name of some vague notion of cleaning up clutter? Purcell ended up being something of a First Amendment Mayor. But to talk about that would mean we would have to focus on the substance of policy instead of the Byzantine world of procedures and processes. Ugh.

Of course, in the GLBT community, the debate continues about his legacy on equality issues. On the one hand he appointed staff and members of commissions (including Human Relations) who were out. To his credit, he also didn't try to hinder then Law Director Karl Dean from issuing the opinion that the Human Relations Commission could investigate charges of discrimination based on sexual orientation (the issue of gender identity was not addressed) without the need for a non-discrimination ordinance. But there are also many in our community who maintain that he offered no leadership when the ordinance was being debated in Council, even though he campaigned and raised money vigorously in our community. And I suspect that we will continue to debate that legacy whether the media decides to mention it or not.

Warden not running for school board

That's what Amy Griffin reports in The City Paper. It's already a heavily contested seat. Will Eric Crafton go for it now? If so, he can't simultaneously serve on Metro Council. Interesting days ahead.

Tennesseans reluctant to become Georgians

The border battle is still going. Check out this story with elaborate maps: .