The Memphis Flyer and Out & About Newspaper have published helpful lists of top stories affecting Tennessee's gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community in 2010. So I wanted to take a look at the top 10 political stories affecting us. Here are my views in no particular order:
*The first two are national in scope, but they're important for those of us in Tennessee.
- Equality in Hospital Visitation. In April President Obama signed a memorandum directing Health & Human Services to prohibit discrimination in hospital visitation based on sexual orientation or gender identity in facilities that participate in Medicare or Medicaid.
- Repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell (almost). The House and Senate passed a stand-alone bill repealing the military's outdated Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy this month. It will take effect once a few sign-offs take place.
- Violence. Hate crimes in Tennessee based on sexual orientation were down in 2009 according to a May 2010 Tennessee Bureau of Investigation report. The document still fails to include hate crimes based on gender identity. Despite the 2009 statistics, 2010 brought some ugly incidents such as hate-motivated arson of a lesbian couple's house in Vonore and the Jackson Police Department's treatment of transgender woman Akasha Adonis after she was brutalized at Kohl's.
- Failure of the Don't Say Gay bill. This discriminatory, needless piece of state legislation met its Waterloo yet again this year after a few sneak attacks.
- Failure of the Memphis Employment Non-Discrimination Ordinance TWICE! Sadly a majority of the members of the Memphis City Council couldn't agree that city employees should be able to work in an environment free of discrimination.
- Elections. It would be tempting to leave it at that. But I want to hit some of the low moments. The ugly comments by 8th congressional district candidate Ron Kirkland about gay people in the military, the short-lived almost New York Senate candidacy of Harold Ford Jr. that got derailed in part over his evolving views of marriage equality, a Tennessee House candidate writing children's books against marriage equality, 5th congressional district candidate David Hall's anti-equality push polling, and so on.
- Oak Ridge goes G, L, and B, but not T. One surprise (to me) is that Oak Ridge voters decided to amend their charter in November to prohibit discrimination against city employees based on sexual orientation. It is a lost opportunity that gender identity was not also included in the measure.
- Metro Nashville Human Relations Commission empowered to document gender identity discrimination. Earlier this year, TEP requested that Council Members seek a legal opinion clarifying whether the Metro Human Relations Commission has the authority to document discrimination in the private sector based on gender identity. A 2003 legal opinion had already established similar authority with respect to sexual orientation. We are pleased that the answer is YES. We hope the Commission embraces its authority and that victims report discrimination.
- Nancy VanReece announces Metro Nashville Council bid. Nancy VanReece announced this year that she will be seeking the 4th district Metro Council seat. Go, Nancy!
- Belmont. The termination of Belmont University's soccer coach Lisa Howe has turned national media attention on Nashville and not in a way we would have liked. This event, along with other cases of discrimination against faculty and students that have come to light, has triggered many proposed political remedies. To clarify Metro Nashville Government's position, Mayor Karl Dean called on city boards, commissions, and authorities to update their non-discrimination policies; Council Members Jamie Hollin and Mike Jameson filed a bill to revoke Belmont's Rose Park lease with Metro unless and until they updated their non-discrimination policy (a bill which has been deferred indefinitely); and a bill has been proposed that would require vendors contracting with Metro to include sexual orientation and gender identity in their non-discrimination policies. It remains to be seen whether Belmont will ever get beyond its public assurances and adopt such a written policy.