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.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Forgetting the South in the GLBT rights movement

The national GLBT rights movement still doesn't know how to deal with the South. Those of us working in the statewide organizations, like the Tennessee Equality Project, of course, live the challenges of that work every day. But we have largely been left behind, to recall the title of a popular Evangelical novel.

Perhaps we're just not cutting edge enough. No Southern state is positioned for marriage equality in the next 10 years, as far as I can tell.

Some helpful conversations have begun that could suggest the way forward. For example, there's lots of talk about engaging religion, but it's mostly the safe kind of engagement with those who are already our allies, not the Southern Baptist Convention or the congregations of the Church of Christ. And now there is a renewed call to deal with racism in the GLBT rights movement. Consider the words of Rea Carey, the executive director of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force:

Have we done enough as a community to deal with our own racism and to make sure that our movement is one that reflects the true diversity of LGBT people? We sure haven't. But the finger pointing and scapegoating was an affront to the many people of color and others who worked on and with the campaign and to our allied organizations. Furthermore, it avoids the complexity of the work we still have to do to win equality.

She's absolutely right. Some white gay activists blamed the African American community for the passage of Prop 8 in California. It was ridiculous. But a lot of the efforts to deal with race in the GLBT community look like what is described here. No doubt these workshops help, but there's a much more obvious issue and it involves a bracketing of region.

You can't deal with the issues of race, religion, and the GLBT rights movement without acknowledging that national organizations ignore the South. How can you address the issue when you ignore so many states with high African-American populations?

Consider these facts helpfully compiled from Census data:

*States with more than 1 million African Americans include New York, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. 7 of those states are solidly Southern, while Texas and Florida retain significant Southern heritage.
*African Americans make up at least a quarter of the population in these states: Mississippi, Georgia, Maryland, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Alabama.
*The states with the largest growth in the African American population are Georgia, Texas, Florida, and North Carolina.

Out of the states in the lists above, only Florida has received significant national attention recently and that's because of the marriage ballot measure.

I think the problem is that when progressives (including GLBT activists) think of the South, they think of a collection of red states, the recently blue states of Virginia and North Carolina nothwithstanding. They forget that the South is where a large number of Black GLBT people live and an increasing number of Latinos as well. They forget that the South is the home of the religious organizations most opposed to our rights.

It's a lesson that should have been obvious from the results of the November election. The South votes differently. Progress in the South means something different from what it means in California and New York. But guess who's talking about regionalism. Republicans. They are beginning to have conversations about the dangers of becoming a regional party. Will the GLBT movement have a conversation about the dangers of abandoning an entire region of the country?

I'm not holding my breath. Any time there is a hate incident in the South and it gets mentioned on national blogs, you inevitably see something in the comments section like, "We ought to boycott the state of _______." Fill in the blank with any of the thirteen. Never mind that horrible hate crimes occur in states on both coasts and well above the Mason-Dixon Line. The South has been written off.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Mumpower's sweater

Jeff Woods at the Scene draws some comparisons between Al Gore and Jason Mumpower after their losses. Woods may be on to something about both of them growing beards. But the sweater was there before the Speaker election.

Take a look:

Thursday, January 29, 2009

It's on! Adoption ban filed again.

Here's the link. Senator Stanley has filed basically the same bill he filed last year attempting to ban cohabiting couples in a relationship outside marriage as Tennessee defines it from adopting children.

The Tennessee Equality Project will vigorously oppose this bill. It is harmful to children and loving parents, and the cost will be unbearable to the state in a year in which we are facing a severe budget crisis.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

FedEx called out for domestic partner benefits claims

National GLBT blogs are calling out Memphis-based FedEx on the issue of domestic partner benefits in light of the company being named to Fortune's "100 Best Companies to Work For" issue.

The Human Rights Campaign notes that although the company includes sexual orientation in its nondiscrimination policy, it doesn't include gender identity. They also point out that although FedEx says they offer domestic partner benefits, they only offer them to FedEx Office (used to be Kinko's) employees. The post goes on to add that FedEx does not offer partner benefits even in states where the law provides for marriage equality, referencing this communication, which cites the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Good As You includes a heartbreaking story from a FedEx employee who was denied bereavement leave for a partner who died. The blog also adds the detail that FedEx employees in California have partner benefits because it is mandated by state law.

At this point, the pressure campaign seems to be building. There is a great deal of anger about the gaps in benefits, but even more anger about the public recognition for benefits that are not available to all employees.

It is not clear whether any national organizations have been actively negotiating with FedEx to bring about changes to their human resources policies. I do know that the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition has had discussions about policy changes with FedEx. I hope that the effort to bring attention to this story results in policy change for the benefit of FedEx employees around the country.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Man dead after beating outside Johnson City bar

Drawing on Tri-Cities news sources, Out & About Newspaper is reporting that a man has died after being beaten outside New Beginnings, a Johnson City gay bar.

So far, there is no suspect in the death of James Lewis. If you have information about this crime, please, contact the Johnson City Police at 423-434-6166 or anonymously at 423-434-6158.

The incident has already come to the attention of national GLBT blogs.

Update: PFLAG with the news of an arrest made.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Tennessee GLBT community preparing for 5th annual Advancing Equality Day on the Hill

This weekend equality advocates at opposite ends of the state prepared for the 5th annual Advancing Equality Day on the Hill, the Tennessee GLBT community's annual lobby day in Nashville. This year the event takes place on Feb. 17.

TEP Shelby County Vice Chair Latoya Belgrave and Chair Jonathan Cole welcomed Memphians on Saturday to Lobbying 101 at the University of Memphis Law School. The class provides basic information for citizens as they prepare to speak with legislators about GLBT issues.

Today in Knoxville, about 20 members of the community gathered at the Metropolitan Community Church of Knoxville for their Lobbying 101 event organized by TEP Knox County Chair Todd Cramer (third from the left).

Similar events had already taken place in Chattanooga, Murfreesboro, and the Tri-Cities. Another Lobbying 101 is scheduled for this Tuesday for the Vanderbilt community. For more information, check out the Facebook page for the event.

To RSVP for Advancing Equality Day on the Hill, click here.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Report from the 18th--endorsements, yards signs, events

I just left the second fundraising event for David Glasgow in the district. It was held at the home of Joe Woolley and Jim Schmidt. A few event photos can be found here. Glasgow has recently been endorsed by the Victory Fund, an organization that had also endorsed former Council Member Keith Durbin. There are four Victory Fund Campaign Board members now living in Nashville and three of them live in District 18.

Glasgow and Kristine LaLonde have yard signs up. I didn't notice signs for the other two candidates, although they may be up. I heard that Stephenie Dodson had a fundraising event tonight as well. The Nashville Post's Nate Rau confirmed on Friday that she is running. The story can now be viewed without a subscription.

It's becoming quite a competitive race.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Maryland equality organization categorized as security threat

Fellow member of the Equality Federation, Equality Maryland, was once categorized as a security threat, according to the Washington Blade.

The Washington Post reported Friday that the Maryland State Police’s Homeland Security & Intelligence Division gave Equality Maryland the designation and considered the organization a terrorist group. The designation has since been rescinded.

Dan Furmansky, a former Equality Maryland executive director and leader of the organization when the designation was made, said the situation “feels like a throwback to the days when LGBT people were truly silenced by government.”

No kidding. Geesh.

Apparently Equality Maryland was targeted because of some rallies at the State Capitol. Now all the files generated from the surveillance are going to be trashed.

It kind of makes you wonder how prevalent the practice is. TEP has done a few rallies and protests here and there. It's not really our bread and butter. But Equality Maryland also spends most of its time lobbying, organizing, and educating. This news is discouraging because when you play by the rules, you don't expect to win all the time. But you definitely don't expect to be watched like a criminal group.

Quotation of the Day: Stimulation

“How can you spend hundreds of millions of dollars on contraceptives?” [House Minority Leader John] Boehner asked. “How does that stimulate the economy?”

From Politico.

The piece also includes a close runner up from President Obama: "I won."

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The One-Two Punch--Proposed amendments fail

With 162 of 173 precincts reporting, ballot measures one and two have been defeated by large margins.

Well done, Nashville for All of Us! It's been a great experience playing a very small role in this coalition.

But a special thanks should go to Mayor Karl Dean. He put it on the line. He spoke at the Council meeting when the members passed at-large Councilman Ronnie Steine's resolution against English Only. But he continued to use his political capital to fight one and two. That's what moral leadership looks like. At a time when many of us thought the measures would pass, he didn't back away.

The issues of schools, crime, and the budget are still there waiting for you tomorrow, Mr. Mayor. But I hope you celebrate tonight.

A fourth entry for the 18th?

There may be a fourth candidate for the Metro Council District 18 seat at the Vanderbilt University/Belmont University forum on Feb. 22.

Neighborhood advocate Stephenie Dodson is said to be considering a run. It is my understanding that she has been invited to participate in the forum.

House Speaker Williams assigns new committee chairs

House Speaker Kent Williams took a bipartisan approach in selecting chairs for the 13 standing committees in the TN House today. He appointed 7 Republicans and 6 Democrats to chair the committees. The committee chairs selections will impact the success or failure of many bills that affect LGBT citizens of Tennessee. Here's the breakdown from the Commerical Appeal:
For the next two years in the House, Republicans will head the Commerce, Conservation and Environment, Consumer and Employee Affairs, Education, Government Operations and State and Local Government committees, plus the all-important Calendar and Rules Committee, the gateway to the House floor through which every bill must pass and which has authority to kill legislation.

Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, is Calendar and Rules’ new chairman, replacing Rep. Larry Miller, D-Memphis.

Democrats will chair the Agriculture, Children and Family Affairs, Health, Judiciary and Transportation Committees, plus the all-important Finance Committee, where Rep. Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, will continue to preside. All bills that spend money must flow through Finance.

In the last session, a bill that would have prevented any discussion of homosexuality in public schools was defeated in an Education K-12 Subcommittee. I'm not sure if a Democrat was allowed to chair the K-12 subcommittee. If the K-12 subcommittee is chaired by the same party as the larger Education committee, that may make it easier to advance anti-LGBT bill to the floor for a full house vote.

The Children and Family Affairs Committee will again be headed by a Democrat. An anti-gay adoption bill never made it out of this committee last session while under Democratic control. This may be good news if similar legislation is introduced.

Early congratulations to Nashville for All of Us

Turnout for the special election on English Only today was reported to be steady on WSMV's Noon newscast and that fits with what I saw at a couple of polling places this morning.

As others have pointed out, English Only has a good chance of passing. Sunny weather today means the turnout will be heavier than I would have thought for January. WSMV reports that about 13,400 voted early. The Division of Elections office says there are 326,611 active voters and 378,899 registered voters in Davidson County. So 4.1 percent of active voters and 3.5 percent of registered voters have participated so far.

Regardless of the result, I think the Nashville for All of Us organizers deserve thanks and congratulations. The recruiting of coalition members, the commercials, the lining up of civic leaders, the fundraising, and the use of social networking media have all helped turn out their targeted voters. Their efforts have taken the media advantage away from Eric Crafton. I'll be honest in saying that I had serious doubts last fall about whether that would happen.

I have received dozens of emails from friends about early voting. They were sending messages to their entire contact lists. Lots of people with no formal role in the campaign did little things like that along the way. That is certainly the mark of a successful campaign.

Now we wait for the results.

Old Hickory's revenge

WATE citing the Knoxville News Sentinel recounts a truly bizarre set of events, but it's been that kind of run lately for Tennessee political news. Basically a man who was injured at a State GOP event by a falling flag can't sue the party, according to the Tennessee Court of Appeals. But the series of incidents leading up to the accident are entertaining, though the man's injury is not, of course.

The Knoxville News-Sentinel reported portraits of former presidents Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk and Andrew Johnson, all Democrats, had been covered for a Republican party celebration on election night.

During the event, a flag that both the Republican Party and the hotel deny placing in front of a shrouded landscape painting fell onto Elmer Paul Allen, who sued the hotel.

A year later, Allen added the political party as a defendant.

The appellate court ruled Allen's suit against the hotel could proceed, but said he waited too long to sue the Republicans.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

CHANGE has come to Washington

Obama wasted no time posting his new agenda on His agenda includes a platform for advancing the rights of LGBT citizens:
  1. Expand Hate Crimes Statutes
  2. Support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA)
  3. Support for Full Civil Unions and Federal Rights for LGBT Couples
  4. Oppose a Constitutional Ban on Same-Sex Marriage
  5. Repeal Don't Ask-Don't Tell
  6. Expand Adoption Rights
  7. Promote AIDS Prevention
  8. Empower Women to Prevent HIV/AIDS

Visit the site for more details.

Speaking of the 18th, Glasgow celebrates the Inauguration of Barack Obama

Here's the link at Out & About Newspaper:

Even before being sworn in as our President, Barack Obama has shown himself to be different, not in color, but in his ability to see beyond entrenched interests, to reach out to those we thought his enemies and to pull together good ideas without prejudice for where they come from. My hope is that President Obama is the person who will finally cut through the thorny barriers erected by cynical politicians for a generation. That he will bring us together, united in hope, to build a better world with room enough for everyone.

LaLonde online

Kristine LaLonde, candidate for the District 18 Metro Council seat, has a website up and running. Clearly presented and easy to use. Everyone who is in the race so far now has a website.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Bush's last day has come to an end

It's just past Midnight in the Eastern Time Zone. President George W. Bush's last full day in office has ended. The disasters that began eight years ago are still going to be with us, but the element of leadership that created some of them and made others worse has run its course.

While the danger is far from over, I feel the relief. For the next four years, we have an opportunity to change the terms of debate. We have an opportunity to explore different policy options to address the challenges our country faces. We will not be limited by suspicion of science, sexuality, minorities, and blindness masking itself as patriotism.

We will be limited by an economy in decline, debt, and a world weary of our foreign policy.

I don't know what is possible over the next four years, but I am ready to see. Here's to the next four years and here's to you, President Obama.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Post-Prop 8 tactic maps the future of pressuring the opposition

This map allows you to click on little balloons each of which represents a financial supporter of California's Proposition 8. They're calling it a mash-up of Google maps and the Prop 8 donor list. It's got a lot of the donors nervous because they're worried about being subjected to boycotts and the like.

I wonder whether something like it will be coming to Nashville after the English Only matter is settled. Reading this Tennessean story, I think it's possible:

Fearful of the same backlash that followed California’s Proposition 8 vote, supporters of Metro Nashville’s English-only plan not to disclose campaign financing before the Jan. 22 special election, Metro Councilman Eric Crafton said.

More Tennesseans talking about Legislature than the Gospels, TN GOP implies.

Here's the lead up and the quote:

State Republican Chairwoman Robin Smith says 30 members of the 66-member GOP Executive Committee have now signed a challenge to Williams' Republican credentials. The committee already has had one meeting to discuss the matter and Smith says there will be another in a "deliberative process," though no date has been set.

Under party bylaws, the ultimate decision on whether Williams remains a Republican rests with Smith. She has left no doubt about her general sentiments.

"In Tennessee, he has surpassed Judas as a poster child of betrayal," she said in an interview.

Do they really think people in this state are more focused on them than the Bible? Please, tell me there are some Evangelicals in Tennessee who will call them on this. I'm just a gay Episcopalian. I don't think they'll listen to me.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Prophecies of angry Democrats not materializing yet

Among the many spiritual gifts on display this past week at the Legislature, the gift of prophecy was certainly prominent. Rep. Steve McManus (R-Cordova) predicted on the House floor that Democrats would have some explaining to do for voting for a Republican speaker. Clint Brewer has voiced some of the same concerns.

They could both be right, but so far anger isn't the emotion that is coming from Democrats.

In a talk to the Greene County Democratic Women's Club, Rep. Eddie Yokley (D-Greeneville) illustrates where things stand right now--relief, maybe even comic relief.

Yokley said that voting for Williams rather than Mumpower, who he said worked against him during his re-election campaign last fall, was "an easy decision for me."

He characterized his decision this way: "Do I want to support (Williams,) somebody I can talk to as a friend even though he may be a Republican, or someone (Mumpower) who doesn't talk to me, someone who came to Newport and Greene County and said how bad I was?"

He goes on...

Yokley noted that a handful of Republicans were saying Thursday that they would not accept committee assignments made by Williams. "That's fine with us; we'll take them [the committee assignments]," he added, triggering laughter from the Democrats at the meeting.

I don't think, at least for the first year, that this is going to be a hard one to explain to Democratic voters.

Andrew Sullivan notices TN GOP's gay-baiting

Here it is.

20 come out in the cold to protest Brentwood hotel firings

David Hill (above) and Leonard Stoddard say they were recently fired from the Arte Hotel (formerly Holiday Inn) on Old Hickory Blvd. in Brentwood for being gay.

This morning I went to the protest at about 9:00 a.m. and by the time I left at 10:30 a.m. there were about 20 protesters on the sidewalk in front of the hotel. Passersby saluted with frequent horn honks.

David and Leonard said that they had both filed complaints against the hotel with the Metro Nashville Human Relations Commission. I hope those complaints are investigated thoroughly so the public can have a record of what has happened.

More photos from the protest here.

Update: Out & About Newspaper's photos and coverage.

Update 2: WSMV did a story tonight at the 6:00 report. I'll link it if it comes up. They reported a dozen people there, which there may have been after I left. But I made a list, and I can name or identify 22 people who were there when I was.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Faith, Machiavelli, and the Speaker election

How can you wrap a quick thesis around big ideas in a blog post? Why bother? You're bound to get it wrong. But that's a considerably smaller risk than many took in speaking their minds around events at the Legislature this week. So here it goes.

You cannot simultaneously read Machiavelli as a guide, condemn others who have more success implementing his teachings, and wrap yourselves in the mantle of faith. Or maybe I should say, you can, in the sense, that people did that this week, but you can't do it coherently or without becoming a joke.

We should be glad that legislators read political philosophy. Former Lt. Gov. John Wilder described himself as a Jeffersonian Democrat, for example. Montesquieu, Locke, Madison, Hamilton, even a Calhoun wouldn't be surprising in some reading lists. We might even allow for a Dewey (Lord, he puts me to sleep!). But Machiavelli? If we grant--and how can we not?--that he offers calculating advice on assuming and maintaining power, why on earth would a lawmaker admit any affinity? Can any Evangelical be an open partisan of a teacher who says that it is good to APPEAR pious? I'm as perplexed by that question as I am about conservative Catholics, who should know that The Prince used to be on the Index, complaining about Democrats taking extraordinary means to maintain power in the Legislature.

OK, so Machiavelli didn't work...let's haul out the Bible.

As soon as the Speaker's election was over, we shifted into the Maundy Thursday liturgy featuring Judas, an unnamed Messiah, and sermonettes on falsehood and forgiveness, but no foot-washing or communion. I don't recall the word f*c% in the original, but it appeared three times in the updated version.

No plan at the intersection of these two books can succeed. The narratives unravel leaving the actors alternatively shouting "Power" and "Righteousness" in their confusion. Maybe it's better to take the advice of one of the books--"No man can serve two masters." (Matthew 6:24, KJV)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Idolatry spreading across the State

Who would have thought that the setting up and veneration of false gods would become so rampant in Tennessee in a matter of days?

Everyone who is using the imagery of "Judas" and "Thirty Pieces of Silver" should consider well what you are saying. If you're comparing Speaker Williams to Judas, then who's playing the part of Christ? I don't think that Leader Mumpower has been casting himself in that role. He has been remarkably restrained in the face of what must be a painful time.

These comparisons do violence to the passion narratives in the Gospels.

Germantown lawmaker calls for new Tenn. House speaker to resign

It's getting nasty on the Hill in Nashville. Following Rep. Kent Williams (R-Elizabethton) election as House Speaker, Republican Rep. Brian Kelsey of Germantown has called for him to resign:

I do feel that a falsehood was perpetrated on members of this body, to the people of Carter County (Williams' home), to the people of this state. The Lord admonished but selected capable men from all the people, men who fear God, truthful men who hate dishonest gain. . . .And Mr. Speaker, I feel personal ambition was put ahead of the state of Tennessee. It was done by a member of this body. . . .Mr. Speaker, that member is you and I call on you to go back and run as an independent or Democrat.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Potty mouths

From the Commercial Appeal:

As McCormick approached, Williams told him: “If you use the F-word again, you’ll be removed from the chamber.” Williams said at least three Republicans “used the F-word” against him.

James 1:26 If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain.

State Republican Chairwoman Robin Smith gay-baiting

From the TN Republican Party via Mr. Kleinheider:

Upon entering a reception these evening, committee members presented their challenges pursuant to the Tennessee Republican Party Bylaws. “Action will begin immediately to address the actions of Rep. Kent Williams,” responded Robin Smith, TN Republican Party Chairman. “His commitment today was not to Republican Principles, but to the blind and shameless pursuit of personal power. He cast his vote for a Pro-Tax, Pro-Gay, Pro-Abortion, Anti-Gun Liberal Democrat to preside in leadership against all 49 of his Republican colleagues.”

Well, there you have it. I suppose we're now supposed to believe that they intended to focus on the budget and on education this session. How vile! Ms. Smith, there are two alternatives to "pro-gay." One of them is where most voters are--indifference. The other alternative is "anti-gay." Which one motivates you? Please, don't ever say that you have a gay friend. Friends don't work their butts off to make their friends second class in the eyes of the law. A former member of the State Human Rights Commission who attacks minorities. Tsk, tsk.

Reaction to the election of Williams and DeBerry in the House

As Jonathan mentioned in the previous post, I was at the House today for the historic votes. I couldn't get into the gallery. It was already full at 9:00 a.m. It truly was the best ticket in town today. I wasn't able to Twitter what was happening because Verizon doesn't work so well with Twitter, but I did regular Facebook updates that kept some people engaged and probably caused others to ask, "What the Hell?"

Before I arrived with our lobbyist outside the House chamber, I saw Congressman Zach Wamp in Legislative Plaza. I'm sure he was expecting to celebrate with the new Republican leadership, according to the Twitter post picked up by Mr. Kleinheider. Democratic candidate for governor Doug Horne was outside the House chambers as well. I can only guess that he enjoyed himself today.

The battle began shortly after the pledge. When Minority Leader Odom called for recess, we all knew it was on. The Democrats had one last option to press. A large crowd cheered when the motion to table the recess failed. Yes, it turned out that Rep. Weaver misunderstood what was happening and cast a vote she didn't intend to. But it was all confusion for the Republicans after that.

After the recess, the nomination fight for Speaker began. Mumpower was nominated and seconded. And then the fatal act occurred that signalled to everyone that the Republicans did not have their 50. Republican Assistant Leader Glen Casada moved to end nominations. After some back and forth, Speaker Naifeh ruled the motion out of order. Mumpower challenged it. After some huddling and talking, Mumpower withdrew the challenge. I'm still not sure about why he withdrew it. But I can say this. If the Republicans had won in this manner, they would surely have received as much criticism as the new speaker is receiving. How can you have an election with just one candidate? Maybe it was a "proper motion," but come on.

So the nominations proceeded. When Odom started talking about the history-making move of nominating a Republican and a fellow Carter County native, I knew it was over. Looks of bewilderment dotted the faces outside the House chambers and when Odom said the name of Kent Williams there were audible gasps.

There was one wrinkle in the voting that caused some concern. One Democrat seemed to take a pass when called for his or her vote. I can't remember who it was. But when Williams cast a vote for himself toward the end of the long Republican list, cheers and boos erupted.

The boos and the calls of traitor no doubt sealed the deal on the election of the Speaker Pro Tempore. Mumpower called for a recess which was granted. Rep. Steve McDaniel was cast aside for Rep. Beth Harwell as the Republican nominee to oppose sitting Speaker Pro Tem Lois DeBerry. DeBerry got the same 50-49 vote that Williams had received and will continue in her leadership role.

The irony of the day is that the list of 50 that Mumpower trumpeted right after the election was the instrument of his demise. He succeeded in putting a Republican in the Speaker's chair, but not the one he had hoped. The game of hardball that the Republicans have played with Williams backfired today. It's not over, of course. The recriminations will continue, but it's a game with hazards.

Another reflection worth metioning is the question of whether progressives have anything to be thankful for today. I don't know. I don't believe for a minute that the moves today were done on behalf of progressive causes. Perhaps they motivated some representatives. It's a fine theoretical question to ask whether progressives would be better off with a clear opponent to slam and work against. Let me just say that as someone working to protect the rights of the GLBT community, I don't want any enemies. I look forward to the day when matters that are our issues now are no longer...isssues at all. But I can assure you of this, I prefer the non/bi-partisan muddle that prevailed today to having people who present themselves as our opponents in power. I don't want two years of successful attacks on my community's rights. I'd much rather those rights be safe than spend my time complaining about losses until things change in two years. We're not out of the woods yet by any means, but it's a reprieve. I'll take it.

Williams upsets House Speaker race

Today in the State House of Representatives, Republican Kent Williams upset fellow Republican Jason Mumpower to win election as Speaker of the House. Williams signed a pledge in the Republican Party Caucus prior to the opening session that he would vote for a Republican for Speaker. He did. He voted for himself. That's all he needed with the house split between 50 Republicans and 49 Democrats.

I know Chris Sanders will want to add more to this since he was present during the proceedings. Boy, would I have liked to have been a fly on the wall.

UPDATE: The devil may be in the details:
Williams said that legislation Republicans have long sought to pass, including an anti-abortion constitutional amendment and more lenient gun bills, will make it to the House floor for votes under his tenure.

“I’m not going to stack committees against anything,” he said.

I worry about other conservatives bills like anti-GLTB measures on adoption and education will also make it to the House floor.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

$15,000 in pledges announced at Glasgow launch

Maria Salas and daughter Owen were two of over 60 guests who attended the launch party for David Glasgow's bid for the 18th District Metro Council seat at Provence in Hillsboro Village tonight.

Glasgow announced that he had raised about $15,000 in pledges from nearly 100 contributors already--a formidable amount early in the campaign.

One of the volunteers said that about 35 yard signs had gone up this morning and more were handed out at the event.

Half a block away at the intersection where they had been on previous days supporters of John Ray Clemmons were holding signs for their candidate.

See also Out & About Newspaper and this link to more photos from the event.

Who doesn't want to be Governor?

Who will be elected Governor of Tennessee in 2010? My eight ball has a leak, so my predictions would faulty. However, the Commerical Appeal has a story on who's interested:

Running for governor in 2010


  • Bill Gibbons, 58, Shelby County District Attorney General since 1996
  • Bill Haslam, 50, Mayor of Knoxville since 2003
  • Zach Wamp, 51, of Chattanooga, U.S. Rep. for 3rd District since 1994

  • Kim McMillan, 47, Clarksville lawyer and former state representative

Potential candidates


  • Marsha Blackburn, 56, of Brentwood, U.S. Rep. for 7th District since 2002
  • Ron Ramsey, 53, of Blountville, lieutenant governor and state legislator since 1993


  • Andy Berke, 40, Chattanooga lawyer, state senator since 2007
  • Lincoln Davis, 65, of Pall Mall, U.S. Rep. for 4th District since 2002
  • Harold Ford Jr., 38, former U.S. Rep. from Memphis and current chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council
  • Roy Herron, 55, of Dresden, lawyer, state senator since 1997
  • Doug Horne, 63, of Knoxville, president of a real estate development firm, former state Democratic chairman
  • Jim Kyle, 58, of Memphis, lawyer, state senator since 1983

Saturday, January 10, 2009

English Only in the New York Times

Well, here it is. At least readers around the world will see that much of our city's leadership is opposed to English Only.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Council Member Barry says to join her against 1 & 2

Here's the email.

Saying Goodbye to President Bush

Out & About Newspaper is inviting Middle Tennessee's GLBT community to join them in saying Farewell to Bush at Tribe on January 19, the eve of the Inauguration. The event runs from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Donations collected will benefit the Victory Fund and the Tennessee Equality Project. Y'all come.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

You can check out any time you like...

Apparently a Brentwood hotel owner realized he had gay employees and wanted to pull an "out of sight out of mind." WSMV and Out & About Newspaper have the story.

It seems the hotel's own policy covers sexual orientation. That presents a problem for the owner. The other issue is that the hotel is on the Davidson County side of Brentwood, not the Williamson County side. That means that the employees can bring their case to the Human Relations Commission, which can hear complaints based on sexual orientation.

I hope they do that and some resolution can come. But what this incident points to is the need for Congress to pass the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA) in the coming year.

18th District candidates united in opposition to English Only

Mr. Kleinheider posts John Ray Clemmons's press release opposing English Only. Clemmons notes he is campaigning against the amdendments and making contributions to the effort to defeat them. It's an impressive statement.

Candidate Kristine Lalonde is listed as one of the individuals at the Nashville for All of Us website opposed to the amendments. She is the only candidate listed at the site. She was also one of the early supporters listed on the Facebook pages devoted to the effort.

And a Facebook update this evening indicates that David Glasgow is attending an event to raise funds to fight the amendments. Prior to the first day of early voting Glasgow had sent out an email to friends urging them to vote last Friday and attend the Kitchen Cabinet event at 3rd and Lindsley that evening.

Good to see that they're all on the same page on this issue. Given the progressive reputation of the District, turnout in the 18th will be important in securing the margin necessary to defeat these ballot measures.

Glasgow names campaign committee in advance of Jan. 11 launch

Out & About Newspaper is reporting that District 18 Metro Council candidate David Glasgow has named a campaign team.

Kathryn Barnett - Treasurer
Joe Woolley - campaign coordinator
Jim Grinstead - consultant
Van Pond
Maria Salas
Will Cheek
David Taylor
Jim Schmidt
Glenn Swann
Mimi Bliss.

Many will recognize the name of Jim Grinstead of Democracy for Tennessee, a veteran of Metro Council races.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

NYT against Arkansas adoption ban

The New York Times editorializes against the recently passed Arkansas adoption ban:

The new law is undeniably discriminatory. Under Arkansas law, people convicted of major crimes, including contributing to the delinquency of a minor, remain eligible to adopt children or become foster parents. Single people who have no partner — or who have a large number of casual sex partners — are also eligible. Anyone who is in a committed relationship, gay or straight, but is not married is automatically barred.

The new law also interferes with the Department of Human Services’ ability to do its job of making individualized assessments of prospective parents and placing children in the homes that are best able to meet their needs. As the W.H. case suggests, an unmarried couple could be the most qualified parents. And because of the shortage of foster parents, the ban is very likely to make children wait substantially longer for a loving home.

Many of us in Tennessee will watch developments in the Arkansas case with hope that it can be overturned. We are also watching the Legislature in the coming days to see whether another adoption ban appears.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Glasgow campaign ramping up

David Glasgow's campaign for the 18th District Metro Council seat has gotten some big boosts recently. First, there is the beginning of a website.

Nice graphics and great slogan for the 18th District: "Neighborhoods First."

Second, he's got his first campaign event in the district scheduled for this Sunday from 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. at Provence (the 21st Avenue location).

Third, and quite significant, you'll note that his treasurer is attorney Kathryn Barnett. She and husband Will Cheek are well connected in Democratic circles in the district, city, and beyond.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The state of the race for Governor on Facebook

Bill Haslam

Kim McMillan

Andy Berke (general for supporters)

Zach Wamp (general for supporters)

Lincoln Davis (general for supporters)

More as we find them...

With Richardson out, GLBT groups want one of our own in the cabinet

If at first you don't succeed...GLBT groups have been everything from hopeful to puzzled to downright angry about President-elect Barack Obama's cabinet picks so far. Then came the opening. Bill Richardson unnominated himself for Commerce Secretary. According to John Aravosis, GLBT groups are looking at the development as a last opportunity to get an out cabinet member. Aravosis seems to agree and argues that it could help make up for the Rick Warren debacle.

Well, we got close today, but no cigar, with the appointment of Brad Kiley as Director of the Office of Management and Administration. His biographical information is included in the link. Kiley was recommended through the Victory Fund's Gay & Lesbian Leadership Institute's Presidential Appointments Project. Kiley is the second such high level appointment from the GLBT community. He joins Nancy Sutley, who will serve as chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

These appointments represent solid progress and it is encouraging that the Presidential Appointments Project can chalk up some successes. I doubt we'll get an out person in the Commerce position this go round. But the Project shouldn't shut down. There is always turnover within a few years at the top.

Wamp announces. Will he back off his bigoted ways?

Congressman Zach Wamp has announced that he's running for governor. No surprise there to anyone who has seen those billboards up and down the highways. Wamp has a pretty anti-gay record when it comes to voting and of rhetoric.

I hope he cleans that nonsense up as we advance into the campaign.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Queerty makes Memphis prediction

Queerty, a major GLBT blog, predicts that Memphis will reach out to the transgender community in light of the horrifying violence transgender people suffered in 2008:

With three transgendered women killed in Memphis in one year (the most recent, Leeneshia Edwards was shot and killed Dec. 31st), Memphis realizes that it has to do something to stop the epidemic of violence being committed against homeless transgendered people in their town. The resulting dialogue and decision to create work programs specifically geared towards transgendered people becomes a model used across the country.

As far as I know, Leeneshia Edwards remains in critical condition, so they have garbled a detail, but that doesn't make the attack any less outrageous. I hope, however, that their prediction comes true. It would be great if Memphis became the model of outreach on this issue.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Goldberg worried about being called crazy

The National Review crew are making their predictions. Here's the baiting that Jonah Goldberg is starting the year off with:

A New York Times front-page story will report that a panel of psychological “experts” has found that opposition to gay marriage is a mental illness.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Mayor helping get out the vote on English Only

You can find his email here.

I am strongly against these charter amendments and I want you to join me in voting against English Only and Amendment No. 2.

While I do not question the intentions of the proponents of this initiative, I feel a responsibility as mayor to explain the implications such a radical change in our law could have for our city.

First, let me explain what the English Only amendment is not. It is not a vote on immigration reform and it is not a harmless message to office holders. The proposed charter amendment will have absolutely no effect upon efforts to curtail illegal immigration or to reform current national policy. Rather than permitting voters to send a message to the government, the referendum alters our charter in a way that will create legal, political, social and even moral consequences for years to come.

To me, it is the antithesis of hospitality and an unnecessary drain on taxpayer resources. The issue is divisive and will distract us from doing those things that will help us realize our potential as not just a great American city, but a great international city.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Memphis Roundup: Outrage at Warren and predictions of GLBT rights law

Since Jonathan is away (hopefully getting a much deserved break), I thought I would blog these two pieces from the Memphis papers.

First, one of the twenty questions asked by the Memphis Flyer includes thoughts on whether Memphis will pass a nondiscrimination ordinance that includes sexual orientation and gender identity. They talked to Jonathan about this a couple of weeks ago:

The beating brought the lack of a nondiscrimination ordinance to light once again. Jonathan Cole of the Tennessee Equality Project says pushing for a Memphis ordinance is one of the group's top goals for 2009.

The drafted ordinance will protect city employees, anyone using city services, employees of city contractors, and members of boards appointed by the city (e.g., MLGW, the Center City Commission, etc.). Cole says he's currently working with the City Council's personnel and governmental affairs committee and hopes to see the ordinance on a council agenda in the new year.

Will it pass? It's anybody's guess, but new council members seem more open to gay rights issues. Hopefully, they'll give the green light to this long-overdue ordinance. — Bianca Phillips

Second, we have more on the Rick Warren affair from the Commercial Appeal. In an extensive piece, they interview blogger and activist Jim Maynard, Obama campaign volunteer Shauna Wright, and me. Maynard makes all the salient points:

"I think most gay people are upset about it," said Memphis blogger and gay activist Jim Maynard.

After eight years of anti-gay policy under President Bush, Maynard said, many in the gay community hoped Obama would be a beacon for change.

Maynard hasn't given up that hope.

Inviting Warren to give a prayer is not the same as setting policy, he said.