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.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Gone but not Forgotten: The General Assembly Adjourns

An amazing five-month run has come to an end. The Tennessee General Assembly stands adjourned until January 12, 2010. It appears that none of the negative attacks the GLBT community endured this session advanced in the last days. They're all still alive in some form, of course. We'll be dealing with the adoption ban, the Don't Say Gay bill, and some version of the embryo bill next year. We may also face a ban on civil unions. We'll work with our allies on the hate crimes and birth certificate bills in 2010 again as well. But we finish another session with our rights no more diminished than they were when we began in January.

I'll never forget how it began. Our lobbyist Jenny Ford and I watched in amazement as Rep. Kent Williams was elected Speaker of the House. I'll also never forget all the people from around the state who drove to Nashville on a cold February 17 for Advancing Equality Day on the Hill. They were forceful advocates for their rights as you can hear from the Liberadio interviews conducted by Mary Mancini. Lots of East Tennessee lawmakers had a first-time visit from GLBT constituents this year. Another highlight of the session for me was getting to meet and debate my rival, David Fowler, on the proposed adoption ban.

There were some bright spots in terms of legislation. Sen. Diane Black and Rep. Bill Dunn did great work in passing a good bullying bill. Rep. Jeanne Richardson and Sen. Beverly Marrero deserve our thanks for their work on the hate crimes bill, which advanced with bipartisan support in a House subcommittee. Truly amazing in a year like this! A big congratulations to the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition for their work on the bill.

While I'm in retrospective mode, I can't help but note that TEP celebrates birthday number 5 this month. Starting out as TEP's public relations chair, I've watched the Legislature closely since we began. 2009 is a lot like 2005 in terms of the legislation we've faced. But in five years, we've built a solid presence on the Hill with the help of GLBT and allied people all over the state.

We'll be ready to fight again in January with a new leadership team. On July 1, H.G. Stovall will become TEP's new president and he will be in charge of all our operations around the state. He will do a great job of building our ground game into an even bigger force to fight for our rights. As chairman of the board, I'll continue to work with Jenny Ford and public policy chair Pete Westerholm on state policy development as well as our effort to advance a non-discrimination ordinance in Nashville. I want to thank everyone around the state who has been a part of our movement. As I look back on the last five years, I am moved by everything our volunteers have accomplished. I know you will continue to work hard.

A final thanks to Jenny for her exceptional work of developing strategy and keeping our members informed this year, and to Shelby County chair and incoming Secretary Jonathan Cole who put in countless hours on state issues while rallying the community for the Shelby County non-discrimination ordinance. I leaned very heavily on both of them over the last five months and they gave everything they had.

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