Wednesday, April 21, 2010
In a message to members this week, Family Action president David Fowler noted, "While AIDS is an awful disease and we would never wish anyone to suffer from it, we also should not want our young people to be exposed to graphic demonstrations of sexual acts for which our bodies were not designed and which are not healthful." Besides that, the class might "make most people blush or cringe."
Where to begin? The basic false assumption is that the service learning class is teaching students TO use their bodies in certain ways that Family Action considers contrary to design. Teens in Tennessee may or may not be having sex more than teens in other states, but the teen birthrate in Tennessee is significantly higher than the U.S. rate as a whole. Teens in Tennessee are certainly getting STDs. So it's pretty clear that projects like the one Nashville CARES is offering are not teaching students TO have sex. Students are "learning" somewhere else.
Instead of acknowledging these facts, Family Action wants to focus on "propriety" and divert everyone's attention by arguing that the Nashville CARES service learning project is designed to "advance a sexual agenda." That would be the sexual agenda that makes people blush. But I would say that blushing and even cringing beat an unwanted pregnancy or an STD any day.
Projects like the one led by Nashville CARES at Hillbsoro High School help give students the information they need to prevent unwanted pregnancy and avoid deadly STDs. But those concerns only get a dependent clause in Family Action's message. In fact, they've moved way beyond the life and death question of health. Their focus is collecting stories in cities across Tennessee so that they can carry on their fight against information. They tell their members to report more of these stories that make people blush. They ask, "...will you let us know?"
So we can expect more attacks on health information around Tennessee in the name of "worldview." But the health of Tennessee teens is what is really at stake, not a worldview.
No clergy who are women are visible in the video and none are mentioned in the article. Obviously no openly gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender clergy were present. And why not? The agenda was an attack on the rights of women and the GLBT community. Oddly, they're still talking about "gay marriage," which makes no sense since we've already dealt with that in the Tennessee constitution. But Family Action has an odd habit of chattering about marriage no matter what equality issues comes up, as they did when we were working on the successful non-discrimination ordinance in Nashville.
So why is Family Action trying to add racial diversity to its Day on the Hill? It's simple. African-American lawmakers must not be voting with them on a lot of their legislative package. And my guess is that until they embrace an agenda of justice including jobs and education, that's not going to happen.
And until this day on the Hill reflects the diversity of ministers in Tennessee, we'll continue to call attention to the fact that it's really conservative Evangelical Protestant straight male ministers' day on the hill.
Monday, April 19, 2010
More from myFOX Memphis:
Sunday, April 18, 2010
This piece in the Tennessean came from the business section, and it's not an overtly political story. But at the same time, it really is:
Growing up in Middle Tennessee, Jeff Garner didn't feel like he fit in. His friends liked to hunt and fish. He liked to draw in his room.
They played musical instruments; he loved colors and fabrics. He wore his hair long and his dad called him "daddy's little girl." Garner dressed like Abercrombie & Fitch before Abercrombie & Fitch was hip, then discarded the tattered hats and T-shirts when they became mainstream, said his childhood friend and Christian music star Jaci Velasquez.
"He was a cool-looking surfer boy who looked like he should have been in Malibu," Velasquez said.These days, Garner feels more like he fits in. The 30-year-old clothing designer from Nashville is making a name for himself here and abroad — including being one of the few chosen to walk the catwalk at London Fashion Week in February.
I suspect many readers would be tempted to wonder about issues of sexual orientation. Well, the piece goes on say that he was married but is now divorced. Sometimes the story is not sexual orientation; sometimes it's the way people express gender.
Given Family Action's recent hysteria about sexual orientation and gender identity in Nashville, it's important to remember that the way people simply ARE can easily be politicized. But Jeff Garner wasn't taught to express gender the way he does. No subversive group of gay teachers conspired to make him a fashion maven. He went to conservative Church of Christ schools K-college. This is a guy who likes "target shooting, handling all-terrain vehicles, and horseback riding." He's just another stereotypically masculine straight guy, except he's got long hair and he is a fashion designer. Whether it's genes, hormones, or whatever, Jeff Garner is who he is, and not the product of liberal social engineering or the "homosexual agenda."
Thankfully, he's found his fit, his peace with who he is and what he's doing. Doesn't that seem like an odd thing to say about a straight man, though? Wouldn't you expect that sentence to be about members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community? But the way gender is politicized doesn't just affect us. Too often, members of our community have been fired from jobs because of who we love or for being transgender. But sometimes people who are straight and comfortable with the gender into which they were born are also stigmatized because they aren't seen as masculine enough or feminine enough. So instead of focusing on whether people are a good friend, a good mate, a good employee, people around them fixate on the way they express gender and obscure the gifts they bring.
Think of it this way. What would we be missing if Jeff Garner had simply conformed and given up on fashion, and in this case, eco-friendly fashion? What gifts are we missing out on when we project our gender issues onto others and try to make them choose between what is coming from inside themselves and what we expect? In the end, the issues that are at the center of the GLBT rights movement are liberating for everyone, including straight guys!
Thursday, April 15, 2010
President Obama has signed a memorandum directing Health and Human Services to prohibit discrimination in hospital visitation based on a variety of factors including sexual orientation and gender identity. The memorandum affects any hospital that participates in Medicare or Medicaid.
This is huge, especially for people in states like Tennessee where marriage equality is a long way off. It means that wherever you live or travel in the United States, you can be with your partner if he or she has to seek medical attention. You won't have the added worry of being separated when your partner is most vulnerable or even at the point of death. Sadly, even in some cases where partners have all their legal documents in order, staff at health facilities have acted with what can only be described as cruelty in separating loved ones. This memorandum goes a long way toward remedying these horrifying situations.
Marriage equality is the obvious long-term solution, but until we achieve that goal, this directive will give couples in Tennessee another much needed layer of protection. It's a day to celebrate!
Saturday, April 10, 2010
Regardless, the answers are revealing, even when they aren't. Congressman Zach Wamp and Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey give largely similar answers. They both oppose adoption by same-sex couples. Wamp probably through oversight leaves out opposite-sex unmarried couples, but says he sees a role for singles to adopt children.
The answers of businessman Mike McWherter (the only Democrat) and Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam contain a bit more nuance. McWherter prefers married couples, but respects the status quo that in some cases allows unmarried couples to adopt. Haslam also prefers married couples, but pivots to his support of singles who provide good adoptive homes based upon people he knows at Church. He doesn't directly answer the question about unmarried couples. It's pretty clear that the adoption ban bill wouldn't be a focus of a McWherter or Haslam administration.
But would it be a focus of a Wamp or Ramsey administration? Wamp hasn't been tested on the issue, even though he has expressed hositility to homosexuality in the past. Ramsey presides over a State Senate that has not moved SB0078, although that's probably in large part because of the high fiscal note on the bill.
And that brings up the question of what role a governor really plays in an issue like adoption. The governor chooses department heads that help set a tone and the administration's lobbying posture on the issue. But governors in Tennessee typically leave these matters to the Legislature to work out. The question for equality-minded voters in Tennessee is whether we want to take that kind of chance. Quotations from the candidates are reproduced below:
Mike McWherter: “My personal preference is to see children placed in the care of loving, traditional families, but I do respect our current system that allows for judges and other authorities to make the final determination on what’s in the best interest of a child.”
Bill Haslam: “I believe that we should work to find a stable, loving home with two married parents for every child. However, I also recognize — through personal relationships with several single members of my church in Knoxville who have adopted — that there are many single, qualified individuals out there who could also provide the love and support needed to raise a child right and give that child opportunities he or she might not otherwise be afforded.”
Ron Ramsey: “I do not support allowing unmarried couples, including same-sex couples, to adopt children. Adoption is not an arena political correctness should be allowed to invade. It is a very serious matter and requires the highest level of commitment. Adoption is not an abstract policy issue. It is the most critical moment in the life of a child looking for a permanent home. When married couples wish to adopt, the adoption process should include a very high degree of scrutiny to ensure a positive environment for the child’s future.”
Zach Wamp: “As a father, I believe the best environment to raise children is one in which a married mother and father cares for and raises a child, and this is true for adopted children as well. While I do recognize the efforts of single parents to adopt, I do not support allowing same-sex couples to adopt.”
Thursday, April 8, 2010
Candidates covered little new ground during the forum. However, the Mayoral candidates directly addressed a policy question that affects the lesbian, gay, bi and transgender citizens of Shelby County for the first time in the campaign season.
The three candidates were asked if they would support an ordinance that established workplace protections for gay, lesbian, bi and transgender employees of the county and county contractors like the non-discrimination ordinance proposed by Commissioner Steve Mulroy last Spring. The Shelby County Commission approved a much weaker substitute resolution that only protected county employees against discrimination based on non-merit factors instead of the stronger ordinance.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
The Tennessee Human Rights Commission is an independent state agency which investigates allegations of discrimination in housing, employment, Title VI and places of public accommodations. Complaintants may report discrimination based on race, color, gender, disability, national origin, religion, creed, familial status or age (40 and over).
Noticeably absent among the unlawful bases for discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations is sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. Last night, I brought copies of the latest cover article from the Memphis Flyer to the commissioners about the efforts of the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center to provide emergency housing services to lesbian, gay, bi and trangender youth to highlight the fact that these youth are being underserved and actively discriminated against when attempting to access emergency housing and shelter.
I also shared a personal story from a few years ago in which a friend and I tried to find shelter for one of these youth who called the center for help. The center's Youth Empowerment Services were not available at the time. The 18-year-old caller had just been kicked out of her family's home in Fayette County because she was transgender. We tried to find temporary housing for her in area shelters. But she was only allowed to stay over for one night before she was told she could not stay at these shelters. Shelters turned her away for "religious" reasons or told her that they could not ensure her safety. We were finally able to find a place for her to stay at a local church that welcomes all people.
The commissioners present at the listening forum were sympathetic, but they and I knew that they have no mandate under current Tennessee law to investigate or prosecute such claims of discrimination. Commissioner Jocelyn Wurzburg hoped that the commission would be able to investigate such claims in her lifetime, but she felt it would be a difficult task to expand the commission's mandate in the current legislative climate.
There was one bright spot though. The Regional Coordinator for the Memphis office of the TNHRC, Linda Reed, suggested that discrimination based on gender expression may be covered by the commission in some circumstances. Reed stated that similar claims of discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations have been successfully prosecuted under the category of gender. While the mandate of the commission's authority still falls short, such an interpretation may offer recourse to some LGBTQ citizens of Tennessee on a case by case basis.
If you have endured discrimination in the above areas within 180 days of the alleged discriminatory act, learn more about how to file a complaint with the commission on their website.
Friday, April 2, 2010
Rep. Campfield may be confused about what counts as curriculum. He mentioned examples that relate to professional associations, not the curriculum of Tennessee schools. Let's hope the House and Senate education committees will see the truth.
Does lack of LGBT-inclusive workplace protections in Germantown promote dishonesty in the workplace?
The three-member panel ruled Wednesday that the city was justified in firing former Lt. Stephanie Hill because the evidence supported charges of neglect of
duty and truthfulness.
The city fired Hill in July 2007 for violating departmental policies that stem from her accounts of how her unmarked police car was damaged in January that year.
her former roommate, Jamie Baker, had damaged the car at the home the two shared in Collierville. Baker told police Hill knew she hit the car when it happened.
Court records say that the couple ended their relationship "in an acrimonious and tumultuous manner" in mid-March only a few weeks before the city opened its internal affairs investigation.
We should all favor honesty in the workplace. While it was wrong of Lt. Hill to withhold how the car was damaged, it is also wrong for the City of Germantown to promote dishonesty in the workplace. If the City of Germantown as an employer does not explicitly protect employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, it sends the message that employees should fear for their jobs and live their lives in secret. Lt. Hill and other employees of the Germantown Police Department and City of Germantown should not have to fear being "outed" in the workplace.
Thursday, April 1, 2010
Your actions or lack of action have real consequences.
The lead story of the Memphis Flyer released today features the Youth Empowerment Services program of the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center. MGLCC is meeting a need previously unmet by the social safety net, churches and shelters of our community. They are rescuing the lesbian, gay, bi and transgender youth of our community who were kicked out of the homes of their families before they could provide for themselves. These are families who heard and continue to hear the same messages as delivered at last Monday's rally (See here, here, & here).
The moral failing of our society to love and cherish ALL of our children is clear. Any pastor, church, lobbyist, or talking head who calls homosexuality or gender variance sin in our society shares responsiblity for the homelessness of these youth. That message is breaking the lives of children and their families.
Let's give thanks for heroes like Deb & Steve Word, Elokin CaPece, Mark Brown, Mary Parks, Bob Loos, Mike LaBonte, Lisa Kurts-Crume, and Will Batts. They are helping to undo the sins of this cruel world.