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.

Monday, December 30, 2013

TEP launches Equality Means Business to highlight pro-equality companies in TN

Contact:  Chris Sanders
                (615) 390-5252

NASHVILLE, Dec. 30, 2013— Tennessee Equality Project Foundation (TEP) President H.G. Stovall today announced a new initiative “Equality Means Business” to celebrate business support of equality across the state. The awareness campaign kicks off TEP's tenth anniversary year of advocating equality for Tennessee’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community.

Honorary Co-Chairs for the initiative are entrepreneurs Martha Boggs in Knoxville, Randy Rayburn in Nashville and Ray Rico in Memphis. "We are proud to have the support of so many locally owned businesses as well as the major corporations doing business in Tennessee," said Stovall.

Rayburn said, "Throughout almost four decades in the hospitality industry, I've seen clearly that an open door policy for all customers and employees makes a business grow—period."

TEP is providing a small window sticker for businesses that want to show their support on the front door and asking business owners to add their name to the growing list that will be updated on the TEP Facebook page. "All it takes to win is one more person to stand up for equality," said Stovall.

"We hope to encourage our state’s leaders to stay focused on issues that really affect the business climate in Tennessee.   Allowing truly business-friendly policies to be held captive by those with personal agendas is bad business," said Stovall. "Too many start believing someone else’s talking points and thinking that means they know what's best for businesses and everyone else.”

According to the Human Rights Campaign's most recent Corporate Equality Index, sixty-one percent of Fortune 500 companies include sexual orientation and gender identity in their non-discrimination policies.  Nationwide more leaders are recognizing equality is good for business because it allows them to attract and retain the best employees and better reflect their customer base. 
Businesses interested in “Equality Means Business,” receiving a window sticker, or more information on the Tennessee Equality Project  should contact Executive Director Christopher Sanders at

Sunday, December 22, 2013

End 2013 with a matching gift to TEP Foundation

Keep reading to find out how you can Light a Match for Equality!

An anonymous donor has given $4000 to the Tennessee Equality Project Foundation toward a matching gift campaign. Help us reach a goal of matching this generous donation with a year-end tax deductible gift to the TEP Foundation.

Help TEP Foundation double the size
of a generous donation.
Your donation helps us:
  • Provide LGBT Cultural Competency education to law enforcement, social service agencies, churches and schools.
  • Empower voices  for good public policy throughout the state with Advocacy 101 training.
  • Provide media training to tell the stories of LGBT people living in Tennessee
  • Organize faith leaders who support equality
Can you help us reach our goal? Donate what you can give at the drop-down button below. We'll keep you posted on our campaign progress on the TEP Facebook Page.

Choose to give in one of our new giving circles or give another amount that you choose.

Choose a One Time Amount for the Year

Give another amount that is right for you:


The Tennessee Equality Project Foundation strives to eliminate prejudice and discrimination of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons by promoting and advocating equality through education, collaboration and victim advocacy.

TEP Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization. Contributions made to TEP Foundation are deductible for purposes of federal income tax.

Watch our progress!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

A look back on a year in the politics of equality in Tennessee: Photos from around the state

It's not over yet, but 2013 has been an incredible year in forward movement for equality in Tennessee.  We fought hard and even got some results.  Check out a few of the highlights.

Advancing Equality Day on the Hill brought advocates from East, West, and Middle TN to the Capitol to attempt to stop negative bills like Don't Say Gay and advance positive legislation like the Dignity for All Students Act.  Here we are preparing for a press conference in Legislative Plaza.
On July 22 the Knox County Commission passed an inclusive non-discrimination ordinance for Knox County employees.  Pictured are bill sponsor Commissioner Amy Broyles and supporters in Knoxville in Commission chambers after the victory.
When Rep. John Ragan, House sponsor of the Don't Say Gay bill received an award from Students First, 11-year-old Marcel Neergaard called foul.  As a student who has endured bullying for being gay, Marcel received national attention when he called on Students First to rescind the award, which they did.  Yes, a student really can teach the public about what's going on in our Legislature!  Marcel continues to inspire us all at TEP.  
In order to show the reality of discrimination, couples in Nashville and a couple in Wilson County...

as well as couples in Shelby County applied for marriage licenses.    

Knoxville, Memphis, Cookeville, West TN, Chattanooga, and Nashville held rallies at the end of August to celebrate TN Marriage Equality Day to counter the Legislature's Traditional Marriage Day.  I think we had a better turnout than they did.  
In September the push began for inclusive non-discrimination and anti-bullying policies in Rutherford County Schools after a teacher was told to take down a safe schools poster.  The fight continues today with advocates developing strategy to advance their proposal in the School Board.  
At Olympus TEP honored 8 Champions of Equality--7 from state media outlets and 1 Memphis City Councilman--for their work in advancing equality in Tennessee.  Nothing we do is possible without our allies!
The Memphis community gathered in October to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the non-discrimination ordinance.
Also in October attorney Abby Rubenfeld, other Tennessee attorneys, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights filed suit to have the marriage of couples who moved to Tennessee legally recognized.  TEP identified 2 of the 4 plaintiff couples.
Collegedale detective Kat Cooper (center) led her city to be the first in TN to offer partner benefits.  Knoxville soon followed by executive order of Mayor Madeline Rogero.  In November Chattanooga Councilman Chris Anderson passed his partner benefits and non-discrimination ordinance making it the third city in Tennessee to offer such benefits.  Also pictured is Kat's TEP Hamilton & Bradley Counties Committee co-chair Marcus Ellsworth (viewer's left) and TEP executive director Chris Sanders.

Monday, December 9, 2013

TEP Foundation receives UCC grant for media training in East TN

December 9, 2013

Contact:  Chris Sanders  (615) 390-5252 or

Tennessee Equality Project Foundation receives grant from the United Church of Christ and Justice Witness Ministries for media training in East Tennessee

Nashville, TN--The Tennessee Equality Project Foundation's Tennessee Equality Voice program, which seeks to shape a media message for equality in Tennessee, has received a grant of $1000 from the United Church of Christ and Justice Witness Ministries.  The grant will help fund media training for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and allied community around issues of equality in East Tennessee. 

TEP Foundation Executive Director Chris Sanders notes, "This grant comes at an important time for East Tennessee, as we have seen significant gains in Hamilton and Knox Counties and emerging challenges such as the anti-partner benefits ballot measure in Chattanooga.  We need to train more members of our community and allies how to talk about the values of equality and inclusion when they engage the media.  Thanks to the generosity of the United Church of Christ and Justice Witness Ministries, as well as the encouragement of the Rev. John Gill at Knoxville's Church of the Savior, we will have the opportunity to accomplish this task in the region."

Trainings will begin in the first half of 2014.  The TEP Foundation has begun working with our network of county committees to establish times and locations. 

For more information about the TEP Foundation or to make a contribution, go to .  To contact us about upcoming training events, email us at .


Sunday, December 8, 2013

"Special Rights" argument comes from the Religious Right's attempts to divide minorities on ballot measures

Maybe everyone else knew this, but I didn't until I started reading Gay Rights at the Ballot Box by Amy L. Stone, an assistant professor of sociology at Trinity University.  Basically the argument we so
frequently hear about equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people being "special rights" came from the Religious Right's efforts to divide minority communities during the Right's earlier wave of anti-equality ballot measures.

Here's what Stone says:

Part of this secular argument about 'special rights' was a new image of the Religious Right as supportive of civil rights for 'deserving' minorities such as African Americans but opposed to 'undeserving' minorities such as LGBT activists. The anti-gay Right used special rights political messaging to divide potential allies by exacerbating existing tensions about race and class in LGBT politics. Through this messaging, the Right reaffirms gayness as whiteness, creating divisions between a presumed white LGBT movement and the presumed heterosexual African American community.

It does seem pretty consistent with the playbook, though the language of special rights is now also used to justify majority rejection of equality legislation.  Both the special rights language and the tactic of dividing minorities are items to watch as the ballot measure campaign to overturn the partner benefits and non-discrimination ordinance in Chattanooga gets underway.   

Monday, December 2, 2013

#GivingTuesday with the TEP Foundation

It's #GivingTuesday.  Consider making your contribution to the TEP Foundation at this link

You can also mail your check to
P.O. Box 330895  
Nashville, TN  37203

We are grateful for your support.  Let's advance the values of equality and inclusion in Tennessee.