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.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Good News: Marriage is Not Dead in Tennessee

On Thursday night, July 25, in Germantown, TN, I was there when the Family Action Council of Tennessee, (FACT) decided marriage was not dead.  However, FACT believes the institution is on life support and within a few months or a couple of years of being declared extinct.  Nate Kellum, self proclaimed chief counsel of the self founded Center for Religious Expression, attempted to, on the one hand, educate the tens of people who attended (28 plus 3 facilitators) on the DOMA and Prop 8 decisions and, on the other hand, scare them into a course of action he could  not clearly define.

But do you know what rang most true during the whole night? He endorsed the allied groups that are bringing us equal marriage.  Nate (I'm going to call him Nate cause it's easier, and because I feel like I should know him.  We were at Ole Miss Law School at the same time) told the gathering that pro-equal marriage advocacy is a success story.  That marriage equality proponents make up a small but affluent group.  That they are passionate and committed because they just brush off defeat and start re-strategizing.  He declared that they will work until there is full acceptance of their "lifestyle."  Well, by this point, I felt like standing up and yelling at the top of my lungs, "Damn Straight!!!!!"  Oops.  I mean, darn tooting!  He then stated that Christians needed to match that effort.  That's when things got scary again.

I.  Marriage is not dead.

Nate's first point was despite the DOMA and Prop 8 decisions, the "biblical" definition or marriage remained intact.  He did a relatively good job explaining the result of the decisions, but I loved his editorial speechifying along the way.  Ask me sometimes for the details, but suffice it to say, he used terms like "serious homosexual activist" in reference to the Prop 8 trial court Judge Walker, "unprecedented," "unconscionable," and "utterly deprived Prop 8 proponents of their voice in court."

II.  However, he said "marriage" is in a fight for its life.

Nate admitted that his marriage had not been "redefined", but his definition was on life support.  He immediately blamed Lambda Legal and the ACLU for wasting no time in Pennsylvania and North Carolina in challenging marriage amendments and laws.  But the worst case scenario for FACT is the Ohio case.  They know it, and they don't know what to do about it.  Ohio residents and twenty plus year partners Jim Obergefell and John Arthur, who has been stricken with ALS, flew to Maryland and got married on July 11 on the tarmac in the airplane in which they arrived.  John's family owns a  burial plot that is restricted to Arthur family descendants and their spouses. Additionally, if John dies as the Ohio law now stands, he would be identified as unmarried on the death certificate, and Jim would not be identified as spouse or survivor.  So, the gentlemen have  filed suit in Ohio federal court to have their Maryland marriage recognized by the state of Ohio.  

Last Monday, the court, relying on the DOMA case, ordered the State of Ohio to recognize the marriages of same sex spouses who married in other states but who live in Ohio. It is a thrilling ruling for same sex partners living in Tennessee, and it has FACT frightened.  Why for Tennessee?  The federal court system is geographically and for purposes of legal precedent divided into appellate court circuits.  Tennessee and Ohio are both in the Sixth Circuit, and when a Sixth Circuit Court decides an issue, it could be binding in all of the states in that circuit.  So, if the Ohio district court case is appealed to the Sixth Circuit, and the Sixth Circuit rules as the lower court did, marriage equality could effectively be brought to Tennessee.  Nate said, and I agree, that the DOMA and Prop 8 cases do not affect Tennessee marriage directly, but this Ohio case could.

Which brings us to the second point FACT made here.  That marriage is under severe attack by cultural influences.  He noted with astonishment how supporting same sex marriage has become not only "not detrimental" but politically advantageous for politicians.  I find this a huge admission from FACT and a bigger victory in the long term battle.

But then . . . 

III.  Marriage is worth fighting for he argued.

Here is where Nate fell down the rabbit hole into apparent untruths, half truths, and undocumented and unsourced scare tactics.  He argued that opening up marriage to other "definitions"  harms individuals, social interests, and religious liberties.

According to Nate, same sex marriage will beget polygamy which will beget polyamorous marriages which will beget adult/child marriages which will beget person/pet marriages.  He then linked the concept of equal marriage to the trigger word "welfare" when he blamed marriage equality in Sweden and Norway for contributing to them being the largest two welfare states in western civilization.

Finally, he finds same sex marriage harmful to religious liberty.  He posited that because same sex marriage  proponents want full societal acceptance of gay people and nothing less, a clash between those who want to live their biblical freedom and everyone else is inevitable.  He told of three arrests in Europe based upon "preaching the gospel" or simply reading from the biblical book of Romans about homosexuality, and he intimated that this type of state action was headed for America.  However, he conveniently forgot to mention the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment guaranteeing free speech and the fact there are no hate speech laws anywhere in any jurisdiction.  See aforementioned First amendment issue.

Nate then took questions ranging from should they sue the Supreme Court justices for tyranny to the best question of the night, "How do we stop this runaway train [marriage equality] headed toward Tennessee?"  He answered simply that they had to pray, had to speak where God put them, had to talk to their friends and neighbors, and perhaps a Supreme Court challenge would go up in a couple of years where the Court would uphold traditional marriage.  FACT, though, is also sponsoring a work session entitled "Stand for Truth" at which they will be teaching what they describe as practical tools for talking to non-Christians about abortion and traditional marriage.

Well, in the long run, I have to agree that marriage is not dead.  Rather, I submit it is  getting a second wind.  A new (and not so new) generation or should a say, a protected class, of people want it, lust after it, desire it, and want to make it theirs.  They want to feel safe, secure, loved, transformed.  They want to rear children together, grow old together, and get buried together.  They want to build families and love each other to the fullest extent of the law, and  I am proud to say that I think Nate would agree with me that it is closer to reality here in Tennessee than ever before.

Now, here is your challenge.  Nate threw it out there when he recognized all of your unwillingness to take defeat.  Can you be as committed, as passionate, and as hard working when success seems to be in your grasp?  Can you show them you mean just as much business when you are winning as when you were being defeated?  The folks at FACT Forum on Marriage are reorganizing and restrategizing, and they believe they can do to equal marriage what they are doing to reproductive rights.  So, please don't let them win.  Work harder.  Work longer.  Reap your rewards, and fight on.  Marriage is close, but let's not stop until Nate's worse nightmare and our dream is realized - full acceptance of GLBT people in our society and under our law.  

- Anne Gullick, TEP and TEPF Board member

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

TEP applauds passage of Knox County non-discrimination ordinance

July 23, 2013

Contact:          Chris Sanders             (615) 390-5252            

Tennessee Equality Project applauds Knox County Commission on passage of non-discrimination ordinance

Nashville, TN—The Tennessee Equality Project (TEP), an organization that advocates equal rights for Tennessee’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community,  congratulates the Knox County Commission on passing an amendment to their non-discrimination ordinance that includes sexual
orientation and gender identity. 

Sponsored by Commissioner Amy Broyles, the ordinance passed its second and final reading yesterday without debate after the Commission named a new County Trustee.  Knox County now becomes the fourth local government in Tennessee to protect its government employees from job discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.  Metro Nashville in 2009, the City of Knoxville in 2012, and the City of Memphis in 2012 made similar moves.

Ben Byers, chair of the TEP Knox County Committee, notes the importance of the ordinance, "With no state or federal job protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender workers, the county's non-discrimination ordinance is vital in guaranteeing fairness on the job.  It means that Knox County won't allow discrimination to get in the way of attracting and retaining talented employees."

Byers, who attended yesterday's meeting, was joined by a group of citizens wearing blue and stickers that said "Same Work, Same Worth" to show their support of the ordinance.
Commissioner Amy Broyles and supporters in blue celebrate victory

For more information on the Tennessee Equality Project and the Tennessee Equality Project Foundation, go to .

Monday, July 22, 2013

JOB ANNOUNCEMENT: Executive Director

At Tennessee Equality Project (TEP), we work to protect and expand the rights of the LGBT people in Tennessee at the state and local level. As a 501(c)(4) organization, we work to shape public policy in city and county governments, school boards and the Tennessee General Assembly. TEP promotes and sustains the equality of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons through the establishment of fair and equitable laws protecting these rights and through the prevention and elimination of laws that would seek to counter this effort. Tennessee Equality Project Foundation (TEP Foundation) is a 501(c)(3) organization with the following objectives and purposes: (1) To encourage the distribution of information to the general public concerning discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender so that knowledge can be gained to help prevent such discrimination; (2) To conduct, finance, and promote educational seminars, conferences, and (3) To develop and promote programs to enhance understanding of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons. (4) To engage in all other charitable, educational, and awareness activities permitted by law. TEP PAC supports the election of pro-LGBT rights candidates and supports the passage of pro-LGBT referenda, including laws, ordinances and resolutions in local, county and state governments.  TEP PAC may also work to defeat such candidates and referenda that would counter this mission.

The Board of Directors of TEP and the TEP Foundation is seeking a dynamic, results-driven Executive Director to lead both of organizations into a new era of growth and success. The Executive Director is responsible for day-to-day management of the 501(c)(4) and 501(c)(3) organizations. This includes staff supervision, program planning and implementation, budgeting, fundraising, financial management, and general organizational management. The Executive Director is the primary spokesperson for the organizations. S/he reports to active Boards of Directors who are committed to the success of the organizations.

This position reports to the 501(c)(4) and 501(c)(3) Boards of Directors.

Full-time, with some evening and weekend work for speaking engagements, events, and public meetings.

In-state for conferences and meetings with colleagues and regional steering committees is required.

Davidson County, Tennessee

  • Develop and maintain sound financial practices by securing operating revenue and ensuring long-term financial stability.
  • Implementing a comprehensive fundraising plan including grant writing, special events, memberships, corporate giving, special events, and as needed, capital campaigns or endowments.
  • Coordinate organizational activities under guidance of the Boards of directors. Give reports of organizational activities to the Boards.
  • Hire, supervise, and evaluate the job performances of staff and contractors (where applicable).
  • Work with staff, committees, and the Boards (especially the Treasurers) in preparing and executing a budget.
  • Develop and implement strategic plans which will grow the organizations’ abilities to achieve their missions.
  • Serve as a liaison to coalitions and partnerships with groups in the private, non-profit, and public sectors.  Promote, cultivate, and sustain positive public relations within the LGBT and allied communities.  
  • Maintain and cultivate relationships between TEP, stakeholders and government officials.
  • Serve as the chief spokesperson and manage the organizations’ campaigns and goals; manage media relations in the development of publications, e-newsletters, web sites, and social media communications for TEP and TEPF.
  • Assist in identification, training, and support of regional committee chairs (particularly in underrepresented regions of Tennessee)
  • Prepare and file applicable reports to regulatory agencies in order to remain compliant with state, local and Federal regulations.
  • Maintain awareness of current events which affect the lives of LGBT people and their families in Tennessee.

  • Requires Bachelor's degree and 3-5 years of related experience.  Master's Degree is preferred.
  • Experience in fundraising from individual, major donors, grant writing, and events (3 to 5 years preferred).
  • Strong political acumen and ability to navigate local, state, and federal politics in a bi-partisan manner.
  • Experience in non-profit or for-profit organizational management (at least 3 years preferred). Either professional or volunteer experience is acceptable.
  • Knowledge of the LGBT community and the public policy issues facing that community.
  • Demonstrated excellence in communication skills, both written and verbal.
  • Proficiency in office software, including MS Office Suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.) and experience with Constant Contact and PayPal applications or similar programs.
  • Experience with traditional, electronic and social media as well as printed publishing desired.
  • Knowledge of IRS regulations regarding 501c3, 501c4, PAC organizations and intersection of the same desired.

Salary commensurate with skills and experience.

Generous holiday and vacation policy.

To Apply:
Send cover letter, resume with three professional references, and salary expectations via e-mail to before Friday, August 16, 2013. Questions can also be e-mailed to or Phone calls discouraged.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

"Gay Brain Drain?" Maybe, maybe not

Hank Plante's piece on a possible "gay brain drain" is getting a lot of reposts and discussion in social media.  He's basically arguing that there could be a flight of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people from states that ban same-sex marriage to those that embrace marriage equality. 

I know people who lived in Tennessee who left because of our discriminatory laws.  We probably all have anecdotal evidence.  And Plante gives some evidence for the possible brain drain in his piece, but nothing conclusive.  There's no real population study or any real statistics to back up his question or his hypothesis about brain drain.  So we're really left in the realm of speculation.  And as long as we're doing guesswork, I'll offer some thoughts of my own.

1.  It's a free country.  If folks want to move and can move, we should wish them all the best in their new lives.  People have to live their own lives where they believe they can make the best of it.  But...

2. There's no perfect state.  Even states like New York that give same-sex couples the freedom to marry can experience outbreaks of anti-gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender violence. 

3. The overturning of DOMA may actually slow the brain drain.  What I hear about more than folks moving are the stories of Tennessee couples vacationing in other states where they can get married and then returning to Tennessee.  They now know that, no matter what Tennessee does, their marriage will be recognized by the federal government and they can access key benefits that they couldn't before.

4.  Flight doesn't take into account gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender children and people who come out later in life.  Even if all the adult GLBTs left Tennessee, there are more of us born every day to grow up here in the anti-marriage equality states and many who came out much later in life. 

5. Not everyone can move and not everyone wants to move.  If your job is here or a sick or aging relative, it may not be possible for you to move.  If you own a business, you may not want to jump ship and have to develop a whole new client list in another state.  Or if you have innumerable ties to a place, you probably won't base your decision solely on that state's laws.  We're multi-dimensional human beings and we make big decisions after weighing several factors like everyone else.

6. Some of us are going to stand and fight right here in Tennessee and other Southern states.  Plante asks, "But are smart gay and lesbian workers going to wait for their states to come around, or are they going to take their lives into their own hands?"

Smart gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people along with our allies are taking our lives into our own hands every day in Tennessee by living our lives openly, fighting negative legislation, working for better policies in our cities and counties, working against bullying, rallying for change, shaping a public message of equality in the media, being good neighbors, educating people about HIV/AIDS, loving our partners and bringing up our children, and running a business.

We're not waiting, Mr. Plante.  We're living our lives and we're making a Tennessee that is more equitable, just, and free.