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, February 28, 2009

Photo of the Day: Outing Equipment at Sewanee

I went to Sewanee for a conference on GLBT equality today. Before the session I was leading began, I passed by this door and laughed. Who knew there was special equipment for outing and that you can keep it in a closet? I just thought you needed a loud mouth and indiscretion.

It was a good session. I was particularly glad to learn that Maryville College has a Gay-Straight Alliance that was granted formal status last year. Thanks to the Sewanee Gay-Straight Alliance for inviting me.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Fightin' Friday Music: I Won't Back Down

Sewanee conference on equality

The Sewanee: University of the South Gay-Straight Alliance, in conjunction with the Peace Coalition and Young Democrats is hosting the 2nd annual Southeastern Conference on Human Equality. All events are free and open to the public.

Friday, February 27

5:30-7:00 Opening Reception/ Dinner: Kappa Sigma

7:00-8:30 screening, For the Bible Tells Me So: Gailor Auditorium

Saturday, February 28

9:00-11:00 TN Equality Project Workshop: BC Hearth Room

1:00-2:00 Panel Discussion of implications of Proposition 8: Womens Center

2:30-3:30 keynote, Elizabeth Birch- former executive director of Human Rights Campaign: Guerry Auditorium

For more information, contact Lexi Namer at


This year we invite Elizabeth Birch, former President of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), to speak with the Sewanee community. Birch revolutionized the HRC in her nine year stay. Along with her work with several political administrations, Birch has also been a significant influence in the current debate on the Defense of Marriage Act. Recognized for her powerful prime-time speech at the 2000 Democratic National Convention, we greatly anticipate Birch’s presentation at Sewanee entitled On the Razor’s Edge: LGBT Progress in an Obama Era. This presentation will take place in Guerry Auditorium, Saturday February 28th at 2:30pm.

For the Bible Tells Me So (2007)

This documentary explores the experiences of five very normal, very Christian, very American families who exemplify how some insightful people of faith handle the realization of having a gay child. Informed by such respected voices as Bishop Desmond Tutu, Harvard's Peter Gomes, Orthodox Rabbi Steve Greenberg and Reverend Jimmy Creech, For the Bible Tells Me So offers healing, clarity and understanding to anyone caught in the crosshairs of scripture and sexual identity. A public screening of For the Bible Tells Me So will be shown in Gailor Auditorium at 7:00pm Friday, February 27th.

The Battle for Equality in Tennessee: How to Fight at the State Level

This workshop, lead by the Tennessee Equality Project’s Chris Sanders, discusses the attacks on the GLBT community's adoption, foster care, relationship, and educational rights in the State Legislature as well as successful strategies for advancing equality at the State level where many of the most important battles in GLBT rights are fought. Discussion includes citizen lobbying, traditional media strategies, new media tools, and organizing. This workshop will be held in the BC Hearth Room at 9:00am Saturday February 28th, 2009. A light breakfast and Blue Chair coffee will be provided.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Shelby County lawmakers take lead on transgender equality in TN General Assembly

State House Representative Jeanne Richardson and Senator Beverly Marrero are sponsoring two bills that seek to make Tennessee a safer and fairer place for transgender citizens. The Memphis Flyer has the story here.

Each lawmaker is sponsoring bills that would add gender identity or expression to the current hate crime law in Tennessee. Another bill would overturn a law that prevents changing the gender on birth certificates in Tennessee.

Sen. Marrero explains the reasons for the the birth certificate legislation:
"A transgender person who has been through a surgical procedure to go from male to female or female to male cannot change their birth certificates, and that makes it difficult to travel or obtain a passport. The current law also makes it difficult for transgender people to obtain driver's licenses and Social Security cards, since both documents require a birth certificate. It seems mean-spirited to me that there are people who would be concerned about denying somebody the ability to have this stuff straightened out and make their lives easier."

Rep. Richardson is already encountering resistance from her fellow lawmakers:
"Some of my colleagues from the more rural areas don't see the world in the same way as people from Memphis or Nashville do. The first couple of people I talked to said they wouldn't support [the hate crimes amendment]. A lot of people up here are very afraid of pro-gay legislation because there's a whole lot of judgment still going on about sexual orientation."

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

TN Chapter of Foster Care Alumni of America statement on adoption ban

The Tennessee Chapter of the Foster Care Alumni of America have put out a strong statement opposing SB 0078 (the adoption ban bill). These are adults who spent time as children in foster care. And the vast majority of them are not GLBT.

The questions are really poignant when asked by those who grew up as children waiting for permanent homes:

SB 78 supporters state that they want to protect children, and our Chapter accepts their statements as sincere. So we ask them these questions:
  • Is it better for our brothers and sisters in care to have no parent than to have parent who is in a relationship you think is wrong or improper?
  • Is it better for a child or youth to have no home than to have a home you think is imperfect?
We assume that SB 78’s supporters agree with us that the answer to these questions is “no.”
Therefore, until or unless there are enough qualified and available adoptive parents to promptly meet the needs of every child and youth in care, this bill should be tabled.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Sen. Black's bullying passes Senate

Sen. Diane Black's (R-Gallatin) bullying bill has passed the Senate. The bill standardizes the procedures for dealing with bullying in Tennessee schools. While we don't always agree with Sen. Black on matters of policy, this is is a good bill. TEP congratulates Sen. Black on the unanimous passage of this important bill. We urge the House to take it up quickly and do the same. Our public schools ought to be places that are safe for all children to pursue their education without violence or intimidation.

Fundraising in the 18th race

Out & About Newspaper just published a helpful piece on fundraising in the 18th District race. David Glasgow held a slight lead over John Ray Clemmons based on the disclosure of contributions made by January 15. Both candidates report $11,000 cash on hand. Clemmons has upped the ante a bit by setting a goal of $25,000 while Glasgow pursues a total of $20,000, which would go up in a runoff. Clemmons reported only one PAC contrtibution with the rest of the funds coming from individuals. Out & About notes that some of the early contributions came from out of state while Glasgow had raised most of his money from smaller, local contributions.

Kristine LaLonde, who has actively been fundraising, plans to release more information with the next financial disclosure on March 19. Out & About notes a Nashville Post story by Nate Rau indicating that LaLonde is in the same fundraising ballpark as Glasgow and Clemmons. Her recent endorsement by Women in Numbers should certainly be an additional help as she attracts contributions. I could be wrong, but I think Out & About broke that news. I don't recall seeing it before, but it's a notable endorsement.

Clemmons indicated that he has not yet received any endorsements, but then again, most groups have not yet made their decisions.

The big question mark in terms of fundraising is in Stephenie Dodson's numbers. The Out & About piece indicated that she had not replied to questions.

For four people to be in a race in which they are all trying to raise between $15,000 and $25,000 for a district Metro Council seat in a bad economy and right after a presidential race and the English-Only ballot initiative is pretty amazing. They could all be on track to achieve their fundraising goals. That's either one index of how interested the voters are or how much pressure there is going to be to take outside money/PAC money, etc to make the goal.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

What's going to happen this session with four bills of concern to the GLBT community?

The flashy titles of Jeff Woods' blog posts notwithstanding, the 5th Advancing Equality Day on the Hill actually did advance equality a few steps. Difficulties in maintaining appointments with four legislators while 47 meetings took place is not a bad record. I've read through the written reports that were provided by the participants and here's a little bit of what we learned.

SB 0078/HB 0605 (the adoption ban)--At the beginning of the day, many legislators had not heard of the bill. What they consistently said, regardless of party and regardless of whether they supported or opposed the bill, was that anything with a fiscal note like the one the bill carried last year, would either be dead on arrival or have a tough climb. One senator, however, said that if the Senate Republicans wanted to run it, it would pass on a floor vote. That would obviously increase the pressure in the House. Considering the bill managed to hang on until May of last year, even in the face of revenue shortfalls, I think that it's too soon to be optimistic. So TEP will continue to be active in working against the bill.

SB 1250/HB 0821 (Don't Say Gay)--The broad opinion among legislators we talked to was that the fact that Rep. Campfield's name is attached to the bill should be enough to insure its demise. However, the bill will probably get a spirited hearing in the House K-12 subcommittee. Last year when Rep. Les Winningham was chair of the full Education committee, he opposed it. This year, he chairs the K-12 subcommittee where it should be heard first. While many legislators get concerned at the thought of "teaching homosexuality," whatever that means, the bill is written so broadly that many of them can be persuaded that the bill is a bad idea. TEP will continue to work against the bill in a support role. Our assumption is that TEA will be the lead because it deals with a curriculum matter.

SB 0252/HB 0334 (birth certificate change)--Tennessee is the only state that prohibits by statute gender changes on birth certificates. From conversations with Republican lawmakers, the responses varied. Some were sympathetic after meeting with transgender constituents; I wouldn't say that will be enough to change their votes in many cases. Republicans indicated possible objections on the grounds of insurance issues. One Republican frankly admitted that he was tired of dealing with the bill every year and wanted to see some kind of compromise that would include putting MtF (male to female) of FtM (female to male) on birth certificates to indicate a gender change. The transgender community would not view this option as a true compromise because they now identify and live as a gender different from their birth gender. And since birth certificates are now widely used as a form of identification and not merely as a record of what took place, it causes problems for them when dealing with employers, etc. In a heavily Republican Senate and an almost evenly divided House, the bill continues to face an uphill climb. TEP will continue to support the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition in advocating for the bill.

SB 0253/HB 0335 (hate crimes sentencing enhancement for gender identity)--Tennessee hate crimes sentencing enhancement currently includes sexual orientation, but not gender identity or expression. Given the rash of violence against the transgender community last year in Memphis, the need for the bill is clear to the GLBT community. This bill unfortunately will probably not move very far this session for a number of reasons. First, the scope of the problem is largely unknown to legislators across the state. Many had not heard of the bill or the problem when our Day on the Hill participants spoke with them on Tuesday. The bill will also carry a fiscal note and that will hamper its chances of advancing. TEP will continue to support TTPC in providing education about the problem.

There are several other bills that we are monitoring this session, but those are the big four. Check here for regular updates.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Ministers Day on the Hill: If you're male and against the GLBT

Jeff Woods links to and mocks the Family Action Council's upcoming Ministers Day on the Hill. Watching the video, I noticed some diversity--white and African-American ministers. But you'd be hard pressed to find many women. I'm not sure how many priests (Orthodox, Catholic, or Episcopal) were in the crowd. Oh, um, rabbis and imams? Next question.

I'm not sure whether to be troubled by or just merely dismissive of the speaker who is being brought in to help the ministers respond to the "Gay Theology Movement." I have an M.Div., and I'd be lying if I said I'd never heard of something called "Gay Theology." But I can tell you that it has almost nothing to do with most GLBT Christians in Tennessee. In my view, theology is the systematic consideration of God's nature and how God relates through the process of redemption to the creation. A question in the vast sweep of the discipline relates to how we interpret the place of GLBT people in God's redemptive work. You can look at that question from the point of view of Biblical interpretation, social ethics, and the implications of the core doctrines. But I've never thought of myself as holding, following, or teaching a "Gay Theology."

I think the way this seminar will try to frame the question is one of "Gay Theology" vs. true Christianity, which means some form of Evangelical theology whose pedigree definitely doesn't go back further than the 16th century and probably not much further back than the late nineteenth. Truth be told, there's a lot of late 20th century innovation in it. And in my least charitable moments, I'd say whatever gets said will have been thought up 5 minutes before the seminar begins next month.

Of course, most troubling is the fact that the speaker is trying to respond to a movement that has little relevance in Tennessee, but he will ignore the lives of GLBT people in Tennessee. And this response will then be used to advance policy that makes life difficult for real families. It will be a clean, discursive procedure free of the body count. No muss, no fuss...all to the background of happy hymn singing.

Onward, Christian soldiers!

Fighin' Friday Music: I've Got You by Melange Lavonne

Though it's too cute for a fight song, it still has some fight to it. So I'll dedicate it to all the parents and parental hopefuls who lobbied against the SB 0078 at the Legislature this week during Advancing Equality Day on the Hill:

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

The Shelby County Committee of Tennessee Equality Project invites you to celebrate Mardi Gras at Pearl's Oyster House and promote LGBT equality in our local community and state.

Enjoy fun, merriment and the tasty flavors of New Orleans cuisine while promoting a worthy cause. TEP will provide a spread of tasty treats with cash bar. Mardi Gras beads and attire are encouraged. The festivities begin at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 21, at 299 South Main Street in Downtown Memphis.

TEP is moving forward with plans to promote Non-Discrimination Ordinances in Memphis and Nashville and fight anti-LGBT legislation at the state and local level. Citizens from Shelby County and all over Tennessee just completed another successful Advancing Equality Day on the Hill in Nashville. We engaged lawmakers on several bills affecting the LGBT community including an adoption ban bill that would "prohibit any individual who is cohabitating in a sexual relationship outside of a marriage that is valid under the constitution and laws of this state from adopting a minor."

Help us fight this bill and other anti-LGBT legislation! Your support is needed to advance and protect LGBT rights in our state ($25 to $50 suggested donation). If you can't attend the party but want to support TEP's efforts in Memphis and elsewhere in the state, take a moment to donate online.

Contributions to TEP's 501(c)(4) lobbying organization are not tax-deductible.

For more information contact TEP at 901.301.3306 or

Let the good times roll!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Endorsement of David Glasgow in Metro District 18: Full text

The news has already broken at Out & About and at the Tennessean, and picked up by Mr. Kleinheider, but here is the full text of TEP PAC's endorsement of David Glasgow from TEP PAC Chair Jenny Ford:

On Tuesday in the presence of the statewide community gathered for the 5th annual Advancing Equality Day on the Hill, I had the pleasure of announcing that TEP PAC has endorsed David Glasgow for the open Metro Nashville Council seat in District 18.

David is a strong neighborhood advocate, a quality prized highly by the people of District 18. Also impressive is how hard David has worked in this campaign. David has knocked on countless doors and, according to the first financial disclosure, he is the leading candidate in fundraising with an impressive number of local contributors. He has consistently demonstrated his commitment to put in the time needed to serve his neighbors, and the residents of his district are responding enthusiastically.

David is the third openly gay candidate that TEP PAC has endorsed. In 2007, we endorsed Shane Burkett for Metro Council District 12 as well as Keith Durbin, who served as the District 18 Council Member. David has expressed a strong commitment to equality that stems not only from his personal story, but from his desire to represent one of the most progressive areas of the State. He understands that there is not a separation between the task of serving all his constituents and advancing equality. For these reasons, he has received our endorsement.

We would also like to acknowledge the clear commitment to equality articulated by candidates John Ray Clemmons, Stephenie Dodson, and Kristine LaLonde. In particular, we are grateful for the longstanding and active work for equality exhibited by Kristine LaLonde. It is obvious that District 18 is fortunate to have so many good candidates running for this seat.

If you live in District 18, we ask you to vote for David. We ask the entire statewide community to support him in his bid for Metro Council. You can find out how by clicking here . If you live in Nashville, we ask you to consider volunteering in the campaign. Learn more by clicking here .

Let’s all do our part to help David get elected.


Jenny Ford

Chair, TEP PAC

Where's G.A. Hardaway?

When GLBT constituents and their friends from all corners of Tennessee arrived for Advancing Equality on the Hill last Tuesday, a few had difficulty meeting with their Senators or House Representatives. Liberadio and Pith in the Wind documented that Senator Diane Black (R-Gallatin) canceled her appointment with her constituents because there was really no reason to meet since there was nothing new to hear and there were no common stances with anything her GLBT constituents had to discuss. Despite the cancellation, her constituents did report to Black's office at the appointed time and were able to talk with her for a few minutes.

Rep. Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville) "stood up" his constituents twice after missing scheduled and rescheduled appointments on Tuesday. Campfield is notorious for filing bills that border on the absurd that have never made it to the floor for a vote. His proposed legislation includes bills that would prohibit discussion of homosexuality or bisexuality in public schools, call for issuing death certificates for aborted fetuses, and deny birth certificates to immigrant children.

Shelby County constituents also had difficulty meeting with a few of their lawmakers. I phoned several times to schedule an appointment with Rep. G.A. Hardaway (D-92) during the weeks before Advancing Equality Day. I finally reached him last Friday. He apologized that his office had not responded with an appointment for Tuesday and apologized for not calling to cancel a scheduled appearance at TEP's Lobbying 101 training in Memphis on Jan. 24. Hardaway asked that I call his office early Tuesday morning. He was certain he would have time to meet.

I called Rep. Hardaway's office at 8:15 a.m. last Tuesday and was offered a meeting with Hardaway at 12 Noon. When my fellow constituents and I arrived at Hardaway's office at Noon, we were told that he would not be available for the rest of the day. I found this curious since many in our Shelby County group had seen Rep. Hardaway several times in the halls of Legislative Plaza earlier in the day.

Most people who know me will tell you that I am a patient person. I try to accommodate elected officials because I understand they have many demands and responsibilities. Their time is valuable. But a pattern of avoidance seems evident here.

Rep. G.A. Hardaway represents the Cooper Young Neighborhood which includes a high number of GLBT residents and business owners, GLBT-friendly businesses, and the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center. Hardaway's constituents deserve to know where he stands on legislation that affects our community. Hardaway has demonstrated an interest in GLBT voters of his district when he is campaigning for office (He made the rounds at the Midsouth Pride Festival last June). But I have never heard him state a position on legislation that affects his GLBT constituents.

So, where is G.A. Hardway? Where does he stand on the adoption ban bill, the birth certificate bill, and the "Don't Say Gay in Schools" bill? If you are lucky enough to catch him, be sure to ask him and let me know.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Is karma catching up with Sen. Paul Stanley?

Shelby County Senator Paul Stanley, the sponsor of the Adoption Ban Bill (SB 0078) which would prohibit any individual who is cohabitating in a sexual relationship outside of a marriage from adopting a minor, is not just the focus of child welfare and LGBT advocates.

Apparently, the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating Stanley's employer, Standford Financial Group, for fraud. The SEC froze company assets to investigate international bank certificates of deposits sold by Stanford Financial Group that paid far more than typical rates of return on U.S. bank CDs. Civil charges against Stanford allege he lied about the safety of investments he sold as "certificates of deposit."

Stanley claims he is dumbfounded:

State Sen. Paul Stanley, R-Germantown, said he was amazed and dumbfounded when he got the call in Nashville from his assistant in Memphis on Tuesday morning that federal authorities had raided the Stanford Financial Group's Memphis office where he works as a wealth manager.

"It's unbelievable. I'm just dumbfounded," he told reporters in his legislative offices in Nashville. "I did not participate in any type of activity nor have any knowledge of it. If justice needs to be served, it needs to be served."

Stanley, first elected to the legislature in 2000, has worked at Stanford Financial Group for 3 1/2 years as an individual wealth management adviser and was in public finance before joining the firm.

Stanley said he has not been contacted by any investigators. "I have no knowledge of this. I don't believe any of my colleagues that were around me or that I worked with or that do what I do were involved in anything. We're wealth managers. You come in with your investments -- stocks, bonds, mutual funds -- and we help manage money for our clients."

The SEC has presented no evidence that Stanley is responsible for any of the malfeasance described in the charges.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Liberadio Interviews from Advancing Equality Day on the Hill

Here they are. I'm blown away. First, Mary Mancini deserves a big thanks for talking to all these folks. But I'm so impressed with the personal stories of everyone who was interviewed.

Advancing Equality Day on the Hill round up

Another Advancing Equality Day on the Hill has come and gone. The last appointment of the day started at 4:30. Despite some rescheduling and one confirmed no-show, my count is that our members visited 15 senators and 32 representatives today.

Most of the meetings were informative in nature, both for the legislators and for the participants. Legislators have such busy schedules that they can't possibly read all bills and today was the first that some of them had the chance to discuss the bills of concern to our community. Likewise, the experience was educational for our community. Some were pleasantly surprised by the positions of certain lawmakers; others got confirmation of positions they suspected that legislators held.

Participants came from Bristol, Knoxville, Oak Ridge, Chattanooga, Cleveland, Cookeville, Crossville, Murfreesboro, Nashville, Jackson, Memphis, and other cities. It was the most geographically diverse group we've ever brought to the event. The strategy of planting committees throughout the state, particularly in East Tennessee, paid off big.

I didn't have time to take a lot of pictures, but here are a few.

Coverage was good. Some of it will appear later in the Commercial Appeal, in the Tennessean, on Liberadio, and on NewsChannel 5 in Nashville, but here is a sampling of what is already available.

Terry Frank and I square off in the pages of the Tennessean on the adoption bill.

Out & About Newspaper's coverage.

Jeff Woods of the Nashville Scene and also here.

Post Politics on the appointment with Sen. Black; see Mary Mancini's comment.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Today's Liberadio Interview: Advancing Equality Day on the Hill

Find it here. Thanks, Mary and Freddie.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

TEP Tri-Cities Committee in the News

The Johnson City Press did a feature on our Tri-Cities Committee today.

Committee Chair Joe Rhymer explains the challenges of organizing in Northeast Tennessee:

“As far as a community for GLBT individuals, there’s not a whole lot of it,” Rhymer said. “In the Tri-Cities it’s not something that’s looked fondly upon.”

That should change, Rhymer said. He said tolerance of GLBT individuals is good, but more accepting attitudes need to be realized. The culture needs to change, which is the direction gay rights groups are moving across the country.

Rhymer said he sees unnecessary anxiety placed upon GLBT people, and some in the community lash out in hateful manners toward the gay population. He said some members of the local gay community feel compelled to hide their sexual orientations out of shame, because the consequences of discovery can be devastating.

“Honestly, in the time that I’ve lived here, I’ve heard of three or four suicides because of the fact that someone found out, or someone’s family found out,” Rhymer said.

Senator Paul Stanley wants to know what's going on in your bedroom

Wendi Thomas tells the story of two of my favorite people in today's Commercial Appeal: Will Batts and Curtis Petty. If their Senator has his way, Will and Curtis will lose their right to adopt children.

I spent 7 years working in child welfare in Tennessee. I've witnessed horrible cases of abuse and neglect of children. These children deserve good homes like the one Will and Curtis can provide. It's amazing to me that Paul Stanley has such contempt for my friends by sponsoring this bill again for the second year in a row.

Sen. Paul Stanley's adoption ban bill would do nothing to protect children or increase the likelihood of being placed in a loving and nurturing home. It's about pushing a narrow theological and ideological agenda on the citizens of Tennessee. Political conservatives used to believe that government has no place in the private lives of its citizens.

On Tuesday, Feb. 17, I'll be in Nashville for Advancing Equality Day on the Hill to tell Paul Stanley and other lawmakers that the Adoption Ban Bill has no place in Tennessee. Come with us or write your legislators if you oppose this bill.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day

I went to the Tennessean's website today and saw this picture with the caption "Looking for Love? Check out the best places in Nashville to find love."

There is, indeed, a long unwritten history of people finding love (or fleeting things somewhat like it) at the Capitol, but it would not be my first thought.

But while we're talking about finding love at the Capitol on Valentine's Day, it seems like a good time to remind everyone what we're fighting for in the Legislature this year. It's love. I know some people want to reduce our community to sex, and sex they're not comfortable with, even though some of their best friends are G, L, B, or T. But we're in it for love. You can't build a life with a partner or raise children without love. You can't spend hours advocating for your community's rights without love.

To our friends on the Right, we wish you the best in your marriages. We hope your children grow up to be strong, healthy, smart, active members of their communities. We wish you wanted the same thing for us. But until you do or whether you do, our love will sustain us. Love is at the heart of our movement and our persistence is proof that love conquers all.

Happy Valentine's Day to everyone!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Fightin' Friday Music: Fight the Power

The Don't Say Gay bill is back

Well, we knew it was a matter of time. Sen. Bunch and Rep. Campfield have reunited for their duo performance of last year's hit "Don't Say Gay," also known as SB1250/HB0821. This year's digitally remastered version is sure to be on all the club mixes this spring.

OK, back to earth...thanks again, gentlemen, for attempting to erase our existence. No matter how unspeakable you think the love that dare not speak its name is, it's not going away. And it's going to get talked about, and honest curricula in science, health, social studies, and literature will deal with it as part of the overall subject matter. So middle school students won't be allowed to discuss the battles over marriage when they're learning to write essays? Are we going to encourage them to stop reading the news? Unworkable foolishness.

Update: Minnesota's largest school district is dropping its Campfieldesque policy.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Back to the Future: Rep. John DeBerry files companion adoption bill

Rep. John DeBerry (D-Memphis) has once again signed on as the House sponsor of the adoption ban bill. He filed HB 0605 today. He and Sen. Stanley were the sponsors of a virtually identical bill last year.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Naifeh Retrospective

The Tennessean's Theo Emery takes a trip through the years with former House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh. One of the early reader comments on the story is that Emery should get a spine because it's basically a p.r. piece. It never takes the haters long to emerge.

But you have to admit, Naifeh's is a great American political story. Who would have thought that a man of Lebanese descent would rise to preside over the TN House of Representatives for 18 years? He even indicates that he would be open to seeking the position again. He's not one to be counted out.

The griping about Naifeh usually centers around how he maintained power, was married to a powerful lobbyist, or that's he's partisan, or that he killed a lot of bills. Why don't people just come out and say it? You don't like him because he stood against your agenda. The other charges usually lack a lot of specificity and amount to piling on. It's either that, or you just don't like being outfoxed in your own power plays.

Well, I'll come clean. I'll always be a fan. I remember that day in 2005 when the adoption ban went down in the Children and Family Affairs Committee by a vote of 11 to 9. Speaker Naifeh went to the committee meeting, rallied the Democrats, and personally cast a vote. I am convinced that his leadership is the reason why adoption in this state is still based on what is in the best interests of the child. For that, I will always be grateful, no matter what happens with the adoption bill this session.

And I have no doubt that there are a hundred other stories like that where the Speaker helped kill a bad bill or advance good legislation. You don't read a lot of defenses of him on the blogs, but that's all right. He's always been able to manage just fine. A word of gratitude now and then doesn't hurt, though.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Tennessee contributors to Florida's marriage ban revealed with handy map

Based on this map of residents of Tennessee who contributed to the effort to pass Florida's marriage ban, persecuting GLBT people in other states isn't a very high priority. The dollar amounts aren't very high either. Maybe no one told Lee Beaman about the Florida amendment because his name doesn't show up.

But if you click on the balloon around Franklin, you'll see that one of our friends at the Family Action Council of Tennessee did his part. Disney may be too pro-gay, but at least it's still safe to go to the beach without running into married same-sex couples.

Bone-headed quote of the day

In response to a story about Tennessee's proposed adoption ban, here's what one commenter had to say:

  • Casey Cameron Said: February 5th, 2009 at 4:30 pm
    • I wish the entire south would succeed. The rest of the country could do without their pro-slavery values.

Yes, this daft person wrote "succeed" instead of "secede," but the substance of the point (if substance is the right word), confirms last Saturday's post.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Fightin' Friday Music

Have a good weekend and get ready to start fighting for equality again on Monday.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Glasgow campaign releases financials

18th District Metro Council candidate David Glasgow has released his first batch of financials.

Also, last Friday we filed our first campaign financial statement with the Election Commission. The report covered cash and in-kind donations made before January 15. At that time we already had 35 donations totaling $5,168. Right now we have over $11,000 cash-on-hand for the next stage of the campaign, and we still have pledges out and are receiving contributions every day!

So there were a few scoffers when he announced $15,000 in pledges at the January kickoff. But the number is looking pretty good now. 35 donations by January 15 isn't too bad either, considering that the presidential race just ended and the English Only ballot measure was coming to its conclusion.

The email also indicates some upcoming events that will likely bring in more contributions.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Richardson introduces gender identity as sentencing enhancement factor for hate crimes

Rep. Jeanne Richardson (D-Memphis) has filed HB 0335, which would add gender identity and expression as a hate crimes sentencing enhancement factor. Tennessee law currently includes sexual orientation. Given the vicious attacks on the transgender community in Memphis last year, this bill is a welcome signal. Although it faces an uphill climb, it should provide the occasion for more statewide discussion of hate crimes against transgender persons.

The Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition is the lead organization in advocating the bill.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

No clout

That's what Pete Kotz says over at the Nashville Scene about "gays" in Tennessee in his discussion of the proposed adoption ban legislation filed by Sen. Paul Stanley (R-Cordova). But before we get to that, let's give thanks.

First, I'm glad the Scene noticed the bill. I'm not surprised. They've consistently paid attention to GLBT issues. But I don't take it for granted because they don't have to cover these issues and lots of outlets won't even notice the ban until it comes time for a committee vote, if then. Second, I'm glad they're on our side. They don't pull any punches about nonsensical legislation like this. They're probably a lot more direct about these matters than even those of us at TEP are. Lobbying organizations, after all, are tempted to be too nice. So it's always a little gratifying when someone says aloud what you're thinking.

So what about this issue of gay clout in Tennessee? First, let's not lose the fact that while we're probably the most obvious group opposed to this legislation, it affects straight people too. It's about all couples cohabiting outside marriage. I don't think unmarried straight couples have much of a lobby in Tennessee, but I confess I haven't looked at every record at the Tennessee Ethics Commission. Maybe they should get one, though. Second, if this bill is defeated, child welfare clout and budget clout will come into play. Large numbers of children waiting to be adopted and the hefty fiscal note the bill carried last year should give everyone pause. Those two factors certainly were in play last year.

But let's deal with the issue of clout head on. Like just about anybody's clout, the Tennessee GLBT community's influence is regional and occasional. It's a political presence in the larger cities alongside several other interests. The results make the point. Other than the marriage amendment, no discriminatory legislation has passed the General Assembly since 2005. Lots of bills have been proposed, and you don't beat them without having a few friends. On the other hand, the influence required to pass positive state legislation is clearly lacking.

At the local level in Memphis and Nashville, it hasn't been hard finding candidates who seek and value our endorsement. In many ways, we've become just one among dozens of other interest groups that vet and support candidates. We're not king-makers, but we are a piece of the puzzle in some districts. The real test is the advancement of legislation. There are steady advances in Memphis and Nashville, but nothing concrete yet. I believe that if nondiscrimination ordinances pass in these two cities this year, you'll see a steady increase in our community's political activity around the State. Clout is something you build, but we're not starting from zero.