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.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

State Senate District 6 candidates grilled about equality issues

The Metro Pulse provides outstanding coverage of issues affecting the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community that came up in a recent forum for candidates running for State Senate District 6 (Knox County) to replace Jamie Woodson.

Marilyn Roddy gave some thoughtful answers. Please, pardon me for quoting at length from the piece, but here are some of the candidates' thoughts about Don't Say Gay, marriage equality, and HB600:

When asked about Sen. Stacey Campfield’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, Roddy pointed out that the amended version that passed the Senate does not actually prevent teachers from saying “gay” but that she still would not have voted in favor of it. (As we have noted repeatedly, the House never took up the bill, which means it is still not a law. We should also note, again, that Woodson was the sole Republican on the Senate Education Committee to vote against the bill.) Massey and DeFreese said that they would have voted for the bill.

They were asked if they would vote to support gay marriage; Massey and DeFreese said no. Roddy was the only one who seemed to realize such a vote can’t even happen in Tennessee—as she pointed out, the state’s voters overwhelming passed an amendment to the state constitution to ban gay marriage a few years ago, and only those same voters can repeal that ban, something highly unlikely to happen anytime soon.

The candidates were also asked about HB 600, the legislation that prevents any locality from enacting an anti-discrimination ordinance that goes beyond the state’s anti-discrimination standards. (The bill was introduced to prevent a Metro Nashville ordinance from going into effect; that ordinance would have blocked companies that discriminate against LGBT workers from doing business with the city, and a lawsuit questioning the legality of HB 600 has been filed.) However, the questioner asked them leaving aside the (gay) issues of HB 600, whether it was ever okay for the state to override local policies in other situations.

Roddy and Massey said no. But DeFreese—who later said that the state shouldn’t have passed a smoking ban that prevented businesses from allowing smoking if they so wanted, and that the state shouldn’t tell you where you can and can’t bring a firearm (“As a mother who regularly frequents parks with my children, I’d feel safer knowing that people with legal permitted guns were there,” because that would counteract the people carrying guns in parks without permits)—said that while generally the state should leave municipalities alone, sometimes it was necessary to intervene, as “certain counties have ways of manipulating votes” so that ordinances get passed that are not “what the people had voted for.”

-Chris Sanders

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