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.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Anti-equality candidates make the news in Tennessee

As the flood water recede and we all continue with recovery efforts, the work for equality resumes and just in time. Anti-gay candidates are making the news in Tennessee.

Shelby County: A hat tip to Jonathan Cole for the link to this piece in the Commercial Appeal describing the increasingly partisan dynamic we can expect on the Shelby County Commission in August. Republican Terry Roland will be joining the Commission and here's what we know about him:

Roland, from Millington, is well known for his ability to raise the volume on issues, demonstrating it forcefully last year as a citizen during debate over an anti-discrimination ordinance opponents said provided unneeded protection based upon sexual orientation.

"I'm not looking for a fight, but I'm not backing down from one," Thomas said. "I'm not going to lay down and let people roll over us."

His colleague Chris Thomas is ready to fight, too:

But Thomas said, "If we are in the minority and there are things we are strongly opposed to, I am going to sound the alarm and try to put public pressure on them. Sometimes when you are in the minority, it's what you have to do."

The Commission has added social conservatives ready for battle at a time when the Family Action Council of Tennessee has hired a new director of community relations for Shelby County. Given the growth of TEP's own Shelby County Committee and the fact that we'll have two officers and a total of five board members from the Memphis area, the Mid-South will continue to be an important battleground for equality issues.

8th Congressional District: The story of 8th District congressional candidate Ron Kirkland's remarks about violence against gay servicemembers and Don't Ask, Don't Tell has now entered its third week. Kirkland's comments are beginning to become part of the way he is defined as a candidate even as other controversial statements are added to the mix, as the Jackson Sun's Nicholas Beadle points out:

While his comment about gays being "taken care of" in the military has drawn far more attention, another remark 8th Congressional District candidate Ron Kirkland made about illegal immigration at an April Tea Party forum in Paris has also raised some eyebrows.

Equality advocates will keep up the pressure. There were letters to the editor of the Jackson Sun and the Tennessean last week about Kirkland's joke about violence. As of Sunday morning 190 people have clicked through this trackable link to contact the Kirkland campaign to call for him to apologize and to support the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. We're not holding our breath, but we will continue to draw attention to the issue. The summer is looking pretty busy.