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.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Leftovers Edition: Davis says, "Repulsive." Oak Ridge drops gay bomb

Whether you're still sluggish from feasting or you got up at the crack of dawn (or before) for Black Friday deals or you're working today, the effects of Thanksgiving have a way of hanging on. I know I'll be eating leftovers for a couple of days at my place.

There are leftovers from Election Day, too. Let's take a look:

Fear and Loathing among the Blue Dogs: Michael Collins took a look at why Congressman Jim Cooper survived this election when so many white male Blue Dog Democrats didn't. We're glad he did because he's been a great supporter on hate crimes legislation, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. But the money quote belongs to outgoing Congressman Lincoln Davis who lost his reelection bid:

"When you champion moral issues that are repulsive to Southern Baptists or to devout Catholics, it's hard to convince them they ought to vote for you."

I'm not sure which issues that Congressman Davis has in mind. He either didn't say or the piece didn't see the need to print the answer. But my guess is that he's either talking about abortion or equality issues or both. Debates have gone on endlessly since the election about why Democrats lost the House in such numbers. There can be little doubt that Davis's district is more socially conservative than Cooper's. But Tennessee voters will surprise you. They may not want gay people to get married, but a big chunk of them like the idea of protecting our community from job discrimination and that brings us to...

Oak Ridge's silent gay bomb went off: I like to think I keep up with news items affecting the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community in Tennessee, but I totally missed this one. On Election Day voters in the City of Oak Ridge voted to amend their charter to prohibit discrimination against city employees based on sexual orientation. (Note: The ballot measure does not include gender identity and on that basis TEP would not have supported it in its present form.)

The sample ballot gives the wording of the question here (see question 7 on p. 2 upper right of the pdf) and the election results (page 3 of the pdf) show that 2/3 of those who voted on that item supported it. There doesn't appear to have been much coverage leading up to the ballot measure. It is mentioned in this August Oak Ridger piece. But it is not singled out as being any more a source of controversy or "acrimonious study" than any of the others.

Despite the fact that the charter amendment is severely deficient in not including gender identity, what happened is pretty amazing. An East TN city's voters decided to make a change in their government's hiring policy to include gay, lesbian, and bisexual people. The conventional wisdom is that these rights shouldn't be put to popular vote and that voters will be far less likely than elected bodies to approve them. But I take it as one small indication that the November election in Tennessee was not about social issues.

I only wish we had had the chance to add gender identity to that charter amendment. That really would have been the Bomb!

Happy Leftovers Day!

-Chris Sanders

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