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, March 31, 2008

Bordering state update: GA Equality gets new E.D.

Hopes high for a $500,000 budget. Good luck, Jeff!

A confident Steve Cohen files for re-election

His take on the role of race is an intriguing spin. We'll see how it plays out. Maybe some Memphians will weigh in on this one.

See Jonathan's earlier post on one of his opponents, Nikki Tinker here:

Investigate big oil, says House

The House passed a non-binding resolution "urging" investigation and study of price gouging by BIG OIL. John Rodgers gives us the highlights:

My Old Tennessee Home

Sorry, I'm a native Kentuckian, and the state song of my homeland is all I could think of. Nice piece in the City Paper on the battle over capping lawsuits against nursing homes.

In search of an ending: Joe White on the Legislature

Nice audio file of this morning's broadcast segment on how things might end up in the Legislature.

Interesting Republican House primary heating up

The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports that former Rep. Jim Vincent will seek his old seat against fellow Republican Jim Cobb.

District 31 includes northern Hamilton County and Rhea County. Yes, that Rhea County that tried to ban gays.

"Mr. Vincent said he conducted a poll of Hamilton and Rhea counties and found conditions favorable for him to run. He declined to share the poll results with the media." Hmmm. One can only wonder what those favorable conditions include.

Tuke troubles: eVites and phone calls not returned

Matt Pulle is relentless in dogging Bob Tuke for not getting back to him on any number of things. He starts with the fact that Tuke won't attack Lamar Alexander over the Gus Puryear affair. But then the issue turns to modes of communication. Tuke used eVite to invite folks to his fundraising event. Hey, we used it at TEP too, but, um, our parties aren't usually in the $1000 range. But back to the story... Pulle notes that as a result of using eVite, Tuke "outed" those who couldn't be at the soiree. Ouch!

It's hard to say why Mr. Tuke won't return Mr. Pulle's calls. Matt, to use a well worn phrase, maybe he's just not that into you.

More secrets in Knox County?

A Knox County Commissioner is shocked that the Mayor wants the file of her constituent correspondence after she said that she had received numerous complaints and expressions of concern about an audit of the spending in the Mayor's office. Touche! The Commissioner has requested an Attorney General's opinion on the matter.

Isn't this all going too far? It seems as if government secrets are being hunted down like deer this month.

Editorial: Missed opportunities

The April 3 filing deadline for state House and Senate races is approaching and it looks as if we won't have any gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender candidates running--or at least no candidates who are openly so.

It is a missed opportunity. A number of incumbents are not seeking reelection. This is the time to have people ready to run, and this time we're going to have to sit it out.


Maybe we haven't developed the "farm team." Perhaps we're just at the point of being able to identify and field viable candidates for local office who can later run for the Legislature.

Maybe we're too focused on the GLBT thing and not politics as usual. Understanding politics as usual, even if candidates from our community represent something of a departure from it, is essential. We could do a better job of scanning the field of opportunities and lining people up to take a risk and run if we were always looking at the electoral map.

Maybe it just never occurs to us to run. We're still in the mode of getting behind "progressive" candidates in Tennessee and hoping they'll at least help us beat negative legislation. Rarely do we ask them to advance any positive bills on our behalf. It happens, but it's rare.

There's an additional point buried in the previous point. We're stuck in defensive mode. We've learned how to draw on allies to help us beat negative legislation and maybe that's all we can see in our future. More negative bills and more cliffhanger battles with tough victories, but at the end we're still at 0.

We've got to pivot over the next two year starting now. Notice that I didn't say we've got to pivot IN two years.

The possibilities that GLBT candidates bring are impossible to ignore if we'd just open our eyes. First, their very presence has a way of deterring the introduction of negative bills and of making it harder for negative bills to pass. Legislators will occasionally attack their colleagues, but they are reluctant to do so because they may need them on another piece of legislation.

Second, GLBT legislators can gauge the pulse of their colleagues and build alliances in a unique way. They cause the guild of legislators to look at all GLBT people differently. They cause them to look at us as actors and not merely a constituent group that comes begging for protection from January to May every year.

Third, they have almost nothing to lose in introducing positive legislation. If they are "out" and they got elected, their constituents aren't likely to second-guess them for introducing, say, a non-discrimination policy for state employees.

None of this is to discount the courageous stands of straight allies in the Legislature. But allies coupled with elected members of our community is the true representation we need in the Tennessee General Assembly.

Let's get to work and be ready for the April filing deadline in 2010.

Openness riddled with secrecy in TN

The Tennessean complains (kind of) about the exceptions to the 1957 open records law in Tennessee. .

After crowing about the 250 exemptions, we learn that Florida has 1000 exemptions and one commentator says it should be the model because all of Florida's exceptions are "microscopically narrow."

So What Does Nikki Tinker Think about GLBT equality?

Don't miss my article featuring an interview with Nikki Tinker in this month's Triangle Journal (p. 5).

I asked the candidate about her views on hate crimes legislation, her opponent Steven Cohen, ENDA, the Federal Marriage Amendment, and civil unions.

The quality of the Triangle Journal is improving with each issue. Congratulations to Co-Editors James Cox and Len Piechowski, the Editorial Review Committee (Will Batts, Jamie Griffin, Alan Herbers, and David Mabury), and all contributing journalists!

Could Herenton be plotting to put Memphis City Schools under city government?

The latest conspiracy theory from Blake Fotenay of the Commercial Appeal.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

PFLAG chapter forms for Tri-Cities

Congratulations! We need you up there.

Bordering state update: GA bullying bill advances

A Georgia House committee passes an anti-bullying bill that Georgia Equality has been lobbying for. The Tennessee Legislature is also working on a couple of bullying bills.

Wealth distribution and race

The Commercial Appeal's editorial takes on the tough issues of race and poverty. It's an interesting piece about the elusive goal of creating financial success in the African American community.

Call me

No, I'm not referring to that race-bating commercial used against Harold Ford, Jr. in his Senate bid. This time it's Matt Pulle of the Nashville Scene calling on Senate candidate Bob Tuke to return his calls:

Jim Hammond to be GOP candidate for Hamilton Co Sheriff

Pictures and all! I'm assuming the picture of the man being interviewed is Ol' Jim.

Call for putting Knox County Charter amendments on ballot

Today's Knoxville News-Sentinel's editorial:

Legislature or Waffle House?

Larry Daughtrey shows the connection between legislators waffling on bills and getting money for campaigns:

"As is," says Fred Cloud

Compelling letter in today's Tennessean:

Friday, March 28, 2008

Wiped out for a few days

The short story is that I've had a massive adware, trojan, and virus attack on my computer. So it may be a few days until I'm back on here posting, which I hate. But early next week, count me back in. See you then.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Blackburn to Face Leatherwood in Republican Primary

Jackson Baker of the Memphis Flyer reports that Marsha Blackburn, Republican representative of Tennessee’s 7th U.S. Congressional District, will face an opponent in the Republican primary this year. The most gerrymandered Congressional district in Tennessee, District Seven stretches from eastern Shelby County to the southern and western suburbs of Nashville and is thought to be a safe seat for Republicans.

Blackburn is known for opposing fairness and equality for GLBT citizens. Perhaps, Leatherwood will offer an alternative to District Seven voters.

More here after the jump.

Attorney General caging tiger pride?

A University of Memphis fan is basing a furniture store promotion on speculation that the Tigers might win the NCAA. The owner says the Secretary of State's office gave him the OK, but Attorney General Bob Cooper says it's illegal.

One of Cooper's degrees is from Princeton whose mascot is also the Tigers. But apparently that's not enough to sway the opinion.

23-year old running for Hamilton Co. school board

Profile of candidate Kevin Burke here:

Knox News-Sentinel welcomes new school chief

In an editorial today, the Knoxville News Sentinel welcomes new school superintendent James McIntyre of Boston.

They seem to like his interest in getting to know the community and finding ways to get the community involved. His budgeting expertise should also come in handy. Practically gushing, they even admitted that his desire to be the chief "learner" brought a smile to their faces.

Gee-whiz! I wonder how long the honeymoon will last.

A new place on the web for Tennessee GLBT voices

So happy to be a part of TEP's new blog! There's a lot happening in this election year and Tennessee's GLBT community is engaged on many fronts. I'm looking forward to expanding my knowledge of the issues, meeting new friends and sharing my experiences as a lesbian, a step- mom, a new member of the board of TEP and an activist fighting for media reform. Great job putting this together Chris!

Sour Power: Gay TN man spreads the good news of fermented foods in PA

See this profile in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette of Sandor Katz of Short Mountain: .

Dean's first budget

No time for an analysis now. If numbers put you to sleep, take a look at the presentation WITH PICTURES, no less, in this pdf: .

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Replacement for Judge Kurtz named

It's Joe P. Binkley, Jr., not Councilman Mike Jameson. .

I know. I'm getting to this late, but I actually heard about it at dinner tonight. Just couldn't get to the blog until now. Since Jameson will not be vacating his seat, the speculation can end about all the names who might enter the race. Many thought, given the makeup of the district, that it would have been a plum spot for an openly gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender candidate. But there will be other opportunities.

Birth certificate bill explained

The Nashville Scene's P.J. Tobia does a pretty good job of explaining the bill before the General Assembly that allow people to change the sex designation on their birth certificates.

The piece quotes the president of our ally organization, Marisa Richmond of the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition. As we have noted, Marisa is also a member of TEP's executive committee.

Rinks not running again, says City Paper

John Rodgers has a posting that reveals Rep. Randy Rinks (D-Savannah), the Democratic caucus chair, will not seek reelection. Word is that he is considering a run for Secretary of State.

Ethics or Drama in Knox County? . I didn't know whether to laugh or throw my hands up in despair.

I'm getting so frustrated with procedural politics rather than substantive politics.

Wouldn't it be great if we spent a little more time on the content of policy rather than the purity and personalities of politicians? We've become so distracted by secrets and "openness" that we have gutted any focus on whether our laws are actually helping people have a better life.

Herenton ran in 2007 to protect the city...

from Carol Chumney and Herman Morris. How could we have missed that?

The reactions of Morris and Chumney to the remarks are pretty good.

By way of disclaimer, I should note that TEP-PAC endorsed Herman Morris for Mayor.

Gowan off the hook for now

John Rodgers in the City Paper reports that by a vote of 3-2, a panel of the Tennessee Ethics Commission did not rule that Robert Gowan was engaged in lobbying during his cooling off period. Their ruling seemed to firm up the distinction between strategy development and direct lobbying. Final action requires 4 votes, though, and since one member of the panel wasn't present, that wasn't possible.

The Siegenthaler p.r. matter was delayed.

Secret guns

There's a move afoot in the Legislature to close gun records, according to the Tennessean.

One opponent argues thus: "This is information about who is being licensed to have a special permit in your state, through an agency paid for with your taxpayer dollars," said Lucy Dalglish, executive director of The Reporters' Committee for Freedom of the Press, based in Virginia. "Why wouldn't you want to know that?"

I'm no fan of guns, but his appeal to the use of taxpayer dollars doesn't mean anything goes. If I'm treated at a public facility for chest pains, that doesn't mean reporters have the right to my health information. I think the stronger argument would be over public safety. But it seems as if publishing the names and addresses of everyone who takes out a permit for a gun might increase gun theft, which is a huge problem itself.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Former Rep. Kenneth Crocker passes

The first Republican elected to represent Gibson County in the Tennessee House, Kenneth Crocker, is profiled in the Jackson Sun.

Wacky headline alert: "Alleged police steroid use hits donut counties"

I owe a colleague at work a hat tip on this one. Get it? Police...donuts. Heh heh. And what's up with calling the counties surrounding Nashville the donut? Are they sweet, doughy, and glazed, or are they really the sprinkles kind?

If you want to read the story of the buff cops in the counties outside Nashville, click here: .

More candidates for school board Amy Griffith has the names. She points out that there are no run-offs. The winner just has to get the most votes.

Chris Crocker: "It's just a Southern part of me..."

Tennessean Chris Crocker interviewed in The Advocate online: .

Warning: This interview is pretty frank and the naughty bits are not edited out.

He discusses all the hate in the "homophobosphere" and how he responds.

The Guv's in Chattanooga talking about long-term care

Gov. Bredesen was in the Chattanooga area today leading a panel discussion of the proposed Long Term Care Community Choices Act. Others on the panel included the mayor of Chattanooga and the mayor of Hamilton County.

In particular he was focusing on caregiver concerns about long-term care issues. I keep hearing Tennessee is 20 years behind most of states in this area. It's a frightening prospect as I head toward 40 and beyond. I really like Tennessee and can see myself retiring here.

Interestlingly enough, a friend of mine has been "out West" looking at a gay retirement community. Yes, they exist. It would be nice to believe that either (a) we might have one by the time I retire or (b) that it won't be an issue by then. I'm not holding my breath, though.

Wine-in-grocery-stores bill rolled...headed for summer study?

Count Liz Garrigan eye-rollingly annoyed.

With friends like these...

Disagreements and misunderstanding among allies are far harder and more painful than the arguments we have with our sworn opponents. That's certainly true in the movement for GLBT rights. I had two experiences this month that just made me question briefly what the point of activism is if you're going to get second-guessed by your allies at key moments. These allies happen to be straight, so that adds another layer to the mix.

I'll relay one of the incidents. An official with a candidate called me and said, "I hear you're not on board yet." And, of course, these words were said in the strangest combination of forced sweetness and aggression you've ever heard. So I'm shouting inside my skull: "Who do you think you are? The great straight hope?" but I calmed down, silenced the inner drama, and said, "I don't recall being invited on board." That seemed to make the point without cutting off the conversation. It's not our obligation to get on board anyone's ship without asking a few questions.

I think it's hard for progressives who happen to be members of majority groups to deal with it when minorities decide to make up their own minds about which candidates to back, choose their own methods of advancement, or, God forbid, run for office themselves instead of rely on some pre-approved progressive stand-in. I think it's the type of difficult conversation we're going to have more and more in Tennessee.

The Po Po is looking for join them . That's what Out & About Newspaper says any way. The Citizen Police Academy begins on April 15. It's for "Nashvillians keenly interested in the inner workings of their police department." Ridealong and fire arm instruction offered. Who knew?

Herenton only intends to resign

The Commercial Appeal reports today that Mayor Herenton will not leave office if he's not offered the Superintendent position with Memphis City Schools.

This drama is just getting started.

More here.

GLBT delegates going to Denver

A piece in Out & About Newspaper discusses two Tennessee delegates to the Democratic National Convention--Dr. Marisa Richmond of Nashville and Sara Kruszka of Cookeville. Dr. Richmond is the first transgender delegate from Tennessee. .

Find the full list of delegates from Tennessee here:

Congratulations, Marisa. And by way of disclaimer, we should point out that she's a member of TEP's executive committee.

More on those ethics violations

The piece provides a few quotations on the Gowan matter and an extensive discussion of the role of Siegenthaler P.R. in the wine-grocery stores debate. A Siegenthaler official raises constitutional questions regarding the focus of the probe.

Senate bills seeking to shelter information about public officials opposed

The Jackson Sun urges defeat of two Senate bills that would cloak the information of public officials--their personal contact information and whether they had filed a complaint about a business hiring illegal/undocumented immigrants.

Give us an immigration judge, say officials

Apparently the local, state, and federal officials who represent Nashville can agree on something--Sheriff Daron Hall's proposal for an immigration judge to process the cases of more than 3000 immigrants.

Editorial in Knox News on Long-term care

An editorial in the Knoxville News-Sentinel discusses a bill in the Legislature that would cap punitive damages in lawsuits against nursing homes and the two sides in the controversy. Also discussed is Gov. Bredesen's proposal for long-term care.

The pieces urges a "go slow approach on the nursing home bill and compromise in other areas.

Hamilton County GOP Sheriff candidates won't run as Independents...

...if they don't win their party's primary nod, that is. Ah, party unity!

No deal on sup job prior to resignation for Herenton

That's what Memphis school board members say, at least.

William F. Buckley, Jr., HIV, and memories of Hendersonville

A Boston man recalls a gay Hendersonville, TN couple with HIV in the 1980s and the hate they endured. He connects some of the hate discourse on the Right to the late William F. Buckley, Jr. The title of the publication where his letter is posted--Workers World--immediately tips you off that conservatives won't get much of a sympathetic hearing. But it's still useful to remember the sheer terror faced by those struggling with HIV and horrible response they received and still receive in many quarters in this country. . (third letter on the page)

Monday, March 24, 2008

Governor's energy task force gets 2 1/2 stars in Cleveland

David Davis of the Cleveland Daily Banner gives an "attaboy" to Gov. Bredesen for establishing an energy task force that includes a number of leading lights, but notes the lack of representation from Southeast Tennessee: .

For a list of task force members and their bios, go to .

Knox County Commissioners admit non-public meetings/conversatons

Members of the Knox County commission admitted tonight that they had had conversations that run counter to the state's open meetings laws. Courts have apparently put Knox County under rules "more stringent than any other legislative body in the state," according to Commissioner Mike Hammond.

There's a Ford back in the Senate

Sen. Ophelia Ford (D-Memphis) has returned to the State Senate. She told members that she has been suffering from a bleeding ulcer. With 16 Republicans, 16 Democrats, and 1 Independent, expect some closer votes now that she's back.

Knox schools update: Winner by a nose

Knox County school board announces that James McIntyre has been named superintendent by a vote of 5-4.

Bordering state adoption ban update . A group trying to pass a constitutional ban on adoptions by unmarried, cohabiting couples in Arkansas is begging for cash. A bill attempting to do the same thing by statute recently died in the Mississippi Legislature. A similar bill is still alive in the Tennessee General Assembly.

Some evangelicals shifting attention from gay marriage to other issues

A piece in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution mentions a recent Pew Forum poll on the views of evangelical voters in Tennessee: .

Leslie Jordan "...growing up gay in...Chattanooga, Tenn"

Palm Springs paper profiles comedian and Tennessee native Leslie Jordan:

Jordan did a benefit for TEP's Vote No on 1 campaign against the marriage amendment a few years ago.

Review of TN House Dems and GOP

Clarksville Online summarizes what the TN House has been up to from different points of view.

For the Dems, click here: .

For the GOP, click here:

New life for downtown Johnson City development plan . City and county officials had been at an impasse for a year, but it looks as if things are moving again.

Two views on John Wilder

The Memphis Commercial Appeal includes a largely positive assessment of Sen. John Wilder, the former Lt. Governor . Last week Jeff Woods of the Nashville Scene offered his own "celebration."

Herenton resignation? Not so fast

Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton says he will stay on as mayor if he isn't named superintendent of Memphis City Schools: . The Memphis Flyer isn't impressed, comparing Herenton to one of Gild Radner's SNL characters:

Education leadership is experiencing unprecedented flux at the local level in Tennessee. Herenton isn't the only Tennessee city official thinking of jumping to the school system, though. Nashville Metro Council member Eric Crafton recently announced he's considering a school board bid. Today the City Paper reports he wants term limits for school board members: . Such a move certainly gets people used to hearing his name coupled with the school board slot.

Lawmaker can raise money during session (for his local race)

The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance says that Rep. Vince Dean (R-East Ridge) can raise money for his campaign for sheriff even though legislators are normally prevented from fundrasing during the legislative session. Andy Sherr has the goods:

Church-State questions raised during Chatt. budget discussions

A proposal by a local ministry for public funds of $60,000 is raising Church-state questions for some members of the Chattanooga City Council: . Reporter Michael Davis promises more tomorrow.

Knox County Schools nearing end of super search

Nashville isn't the only big city in Tennessee looking for a new schools chief. After 3 months, it looks as if Knox County is winding up its search, but school board members keeping mum on their choice: .

Ex-aide to the Gov and a p.r. firm in the wine-in-groceries battle may have violated ethics rules

The Knoxville News Sentinel is reporting some possible ethics violations for a former aide to the governor (Robert Gowan) and Siegenthaler Public Relations, a firm involved in the battle to change Tennessee law to allow the sale of wine in grocery stores.

Here's the TN Ethics Commission document prepared for their meeting tomorrow:

Speaker praised for leadership on gun bills

In a Jackson Sun opinion piece, House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh is praised for exercising his prerogative as Speaker to participate in committee and subcommittee votes--specifically on some gun bills in the Legislature: .

No doubt many in Tennessee's GLBT community will remember when he used his prerogative to stop a ban on gay and lesbian adoptions during a 2005 committee vote.

Don't fence me in, say Gallatin neighbors

The City of Gallatin is attempting to annex more land, but the objects of the plan are up in arms about the huge rise in property taxes that would accompany such a move. . Lawsuits are in the works and the City of Hendersonville is getting in on the act.

The Guv changing his tune on Speaker's AT&T/Cable compromise

Rex Noseworthy of the Nashville City Paper notes a change in Gov. Bredesen's tune on House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh's efforts to broker a compromise in the Comcast-AT&T cable dispute that has nagged the Legislature and local communities. . Previously somewhat dismissive of Naifeh's efforts, the Governor is now saying, "Basically, I think if the speaker puts his mind to something, he's likely to get it accomplished." Well put!

Bullying feature in today's NYT; TN working on bullying laws = a compelling profile of a child in Arkansas who has been bullied for years at his school and his family's struggle to get the school to do something about it.

The Tennessee Legislature is currently considering two bills related to bullying. SB2561/HB2894 would require local school districts to notify the Commissioner of Education of any policy changes to their bullying policies. And SB0781/HB0583 deals with death threats against school personnel and students.

Judge who overturned TN sodomy law retiring

The Tennessean featured a profile today of 5th Circuit Judge Walter Kurtz, who is retiring. .

Judge Kurtz recalls being told he would burn in Hell for his ruling that overturned the TN sodomy statute. He's taken a number of tough cases in his time, but says that public opinion really hasn't played a large role in his decisions: "People may think judges are more sensitive to public opinion than I believe we are," he said. "We took oaths. We are legally bound and committed to carry out our obligations."

He is married to Ellen Hobbs Lyle, a Davidson County chancery judge. If you remember, she is the judge who ruled against the challenge brought to the marriage amendment by the ACLU.

Welcome to Grand Divisions

Admittedly, the title is a little comical. The three stars on the Tennessee flag stand for the three "grand divisions" of our state's geography. But "grand divisions" also strikes me as a way of describing the debates currently confronting Tennessee. We've seen growing partisanship in the last few years and there's no sign of a reversal. Nevertheless, there is a strong tradition of community and an effort to establish consensus and cohesiveness in Tennessee's political culture. I suppose that's the "grand" part.

This blog will explore the divisions both grand and not so grand that confront Tennessee politics today. While this effort is produced by members of the Tennessee Equality Project, the state's largest GLBT organization advocating for equality, we will deal with a variety of issues at the state and local level. Occasionally we will post about national issues that either shape Tennessee or have a Tennessee angle.

We welcome you here and hope that you will find yourself informed and provoked to further thinking about the future of Tennessee.