Grand Divisions

Tennessee Equality Project seeks to advance and protect the civil rights of our State’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons and their families in each Grand Division.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Let's thank those who voted for equality

House vote on the Special Access to Discriminate Act

While last night's House vote on the Special Access to Discriminate Act (HB600) was a disappointment, we do have many members of the House to thank for their support for equality. Many of those voting with against HB600 engaged in spirited debate on our behalf including (click here for video): Mike Turner, Brenda Gilmore, Mike Stewart, Jeanne Richardson, Craig Fitzhugh, Mike Kernell and Sherry Jones.

Please take a moment to send a thank you message to each one of the them:

Armstrong, Joe E. | District 15 | 
Brown, Tommie F. | District 28 |
Camper, Karen D. | District 87 |
Favors, Joanne | District 29 |
Fitzhugh, Craig | District 82 |
Gilmore, Brenda | District 54 |
Hardaway, G. A. | District 92 |
Jones, Sherry | District 59 |
Kernell, Mike | District 93 |
Miller, Larry J. | District 88 |
Moore, Gary W. | District 50 |
Naifeh, Jimmy | District 81 |
Odom, Gary | District 55 |
Parkinson, Antonio | District 98 |
Richardson, Jeanne | District 89 |
Shaw, Johnny | District 80 |
Sontany, Janis Baird | District 53 |
Stewart, Mike | District 52 |
Tindell, Harry J. | District 13 |
Towns, Joe , Jr. | District 84 |
Turner, Johnnie | District 85 |
Turner, Mike | District 51 |
Cooper, Barbara | District 86 |

If you would like to send a message to all of them at once, copy and paste their addresses from below:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,  

The Senate version of the Special Access to Discriminate Act (SB632) will be debated in the Senate this week. Lastly, be sure that you tell Governor Haslam to oppose and veto this bill using this petition:

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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Southern Baptist Church Appoints Pedophile as Trustee: Hypocrisy in Action

If I sound angry in this blog post, it is because I AM ANGRY. This morning I found a blog post on StopBaptistPredators blog that literally made me want to throw up.

Last year I blogged here about a 2006 scandal at Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, where an associate pastor named Paul Williams was kept on that church’s staff for six months AFTER admitting he had molested his teenage son some years before. Steve Gaines, the senior pastor at Bellevue, was finally forced to fire Williams after the story became public. Today I found out that this same Paul Williams has been made a Trustee of Warren Community Church in Somerville, TN, another Southern Baptist Convention church about thirty miles from Bellevue. I am angry for many reasons on a variety of levels.

First and foremost, my husband and I are parents of a six year old son. As a parent, it makes me sick to think that parents at Warren Community Church are entrusting their kids to a church that is honoring Williams with the position of Trustee. Of all places we can send our kids to be safe, church should be at the top of the list. For those of you who did not grow up in the Southern Baptist Church, it isn’t just church members’ kids who could be exposed to this predator. Vacation Bible School is held in the summers, and often kids from the surrounding neighborhoods attend a church VBS program even if they aren’t members of that church. This exposes the community at large to Williams, which is utterly irresponsible and frankly, frightening.

Second, as an advocate for the LGBT community I have sat and listened to Steve Gaines and other ministers here in Memphis repeatedly talk about the immorality of the “gay lifestyle.” I have read the blog posts from the Family Action Council that deem homosexuality a threat to children, flying in the face of the data that shows that child molesters are predominately heterosexuals. I have viewed the unbelievably vile video on YouTube that the Family Action Council produced to support passage of House Bill 600, where they depict a world where granting employment protections to LGBT employees of municipal contractors will result in bathrooms ripe for child molestation. What I have not seen is the Family Action Council standing up for the children in the evangelical community who are being victimized by their own clergy. Not a single word about this at all.

Finally, as a former Southern Baptist, I am angry that the Southern Baptist Convention has done absolutely nothing to stop this horrendous placement of an admitted child molester in a position of leadership in one of their churches. To paraphrase what I was taught growing up, don’t judge your neighbor for the splinter in their eye; worry about the two-by-four in your own eye first. The Southern Baptist Convention, headquartered in Nashville, TN, has refused to create a sex offender registry for their clergy. They have a responsibility to the people that they require to have blind faith in church authority on scripture and morality, to actually require their clergy to adhere to scripture and morality. The SBC is amazingly fast to lobby lawmakers, under the guise of promoting “traditional family values,” to deny the LGBT community the same civil rights as this predator enjoys in his “traditional marriage” and as an alleged Christian.

The hypocrisy is deafening, and sickening.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

House Commerce Committee passes anti-LGBT Special Access to Discriminate Act

Rep. Glen Casada of Williamson Co.
In this morning's House Commerce Committee, Rep. Glen Casada presented his Special Access to Discriminate Act (HB600) for a vote. Full video coverage is available HERE (click the HB600 agenda item to advance to that part of the video). As introduced, Casada's legislation would prohibit municipalities, counties and school boards in Tennessee from extending non-discrimination provisions to employees of contractors beyond the floor level provided by current State and Federal law. Translated, local governments could not extend LGBT-inclusive workplace protections to employees of contractors.

The SAD Act passed along mostly partisan lines, but the sponsor endured some intensive questioning and remarks from Representatives G.A. Hardaway of Memphis and Brenda Gilmore of Nashville. Take a moment to thank them at and

Rep. Hardaway asked the bill's sponsor to explain why the bill was needed:
There has been no substantial ..... or barrage of complaints from business? Nobody's done a study indicating that we're losing businesses out of Tennessee, businesses that are unable to do business with certain cities, or unwilling to do business?
Rep. G.A. Hardaway of Shelby Co.
Casada had no evidence, complaints, or studies to present as support for the SAD Act. He could only say he was hoping to be proactive in addressing "problems" with intrastate commerce. Casada speculated that municipalities that say you "got to hire Baptists who have two kids or you got to have someone who has red hair" would make conducting business chaotic. The sponsor, of course, had no evidence to present that Baptists with two children or red heads are at increased risk of discrimination in the workplace or that any local or state governments had legislated workplace protections for them.

Rep. Brenda Gilmore of Davidson Co.
Rep.Gilmore rose in defense of her city's recently passed Contract Accountability Non-Discrimination Ordinance. She acted on behalf of her community by offering an amendment to exempt Nashville Metro/Davidson County from HB600. Her amendment was tabled by a partisan vote of 21 to 7. Most importantly, she made sure that the legislative record reflected that voting for HB600 would clearly target lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees of Nashville Metro contractors.

Committee debate leaves no doubt that there is simply no rational basis for HB600. There is no compelling state interest in prohibiting local governments from extending LGBT-inclusive workplace protections to employees of tax payer funded contractors. Bias against LGBT people is the sole motivation behind voting for the SAD Act.

The SAD Act is headed to the House Calendar and Rules Committee after today's recommendation for passsage. Tennessee Equality Project will continue to fight this legislation in the House and Senate. At this time, we ask you to take action in two ways:

  1. CONTACT Governor Haslam and his administration to encourage the Governor to oppose and ultimately veto this harmful legislation. 
  2. Make a DONATION in support of TEP's work to defend the equal rights of LGBT people and their families link.

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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Don’t let dirty tricks create a haven for intolerance in Tennessee

David Fowler of the Family Action Council of Tennessee and other radical extremists are desperately trying to pass a lie off as the truth in the Tennessee General Assembly.

Last week, FACT sent a message to supporters claiming that the “Special Access to Discriminate” Act (HB600) would keep straight white male sexual predators from assaulting little girls in womens’ restrooms. The Family Action Council forwarded a ridiculous fear mongering video showing a bearded man follow a girl into a women’s restroom to trick supporters into calling on members of the House Subcommittee on Commerce to vote for HB600. 

The SAD Act will not protect children from assault in public restrooms. Parents and law enforcement do that.

It’s also worth noting the hypocrisy of William Morgan, Board Chairman of the Family Action Council of Tennessee and CEO of Nashville-based industrial equipment manufacturer John Bouchard & Sons. Morgan warned that the Contract Accountability Non-Discrimination Ordinance which passed in Nashville Metro Council on Tuesday night would interfere with the free marketplace. However, the Nashville Scene reports that Morgan’s company has been an approved contractor with Louisville, Kentucky since 2008. Louisville and Jefferson County enacted city- and county-wide LGBT inclusive workplace protections in 1999. Morgan’s company has done business with Louisville since 2008. Workplace equality policies in Louisville have not kept Morgan’s company from doing business there. So why not in Tennessee?

It’s unfortunate that the false witness of FACT gained traction in the subcommittee which voted on Wednesday, April 6 to pass HB600 on to the full House Commerce Committee.

We must act today to protect the Contract Accountability Non-Discrimination Ordinance enacted in Nashville on April 5 and the expansion of equality in the workplace elsewhere in our state by contacting the House Committee on Commerce before it votes on HB600 on Tuesday, April 12.


If you live in or near a district of one of the following House Commerce Committee members, use the numbers below to call them during regular business hours and convey one of the following messages:
HB600 will lead to million dollar losses in tourism and sales tax revenues in Tennessee. I am counting on my Representative to vote NO on HB600! 
HB600 will accelerate the migration of college-educated youth, skilled workers and entrepreneurs out of Tennessee. Vote no on HB600!
HB600 will allow workplace discrimination in our local communities will make all of Tennessee less attractive to the best workers, entrepreneurs and businesses who want to live and work in our communities. Vote no on HB0600!
Be sure to ask your Representative how they plan to vote on HB600. Then contact TEP at to let us know what you learned. Share this post with your friends and family via email, Facebook and Twitter.

Representative           District                 Phone (615)
Montgomery, Richard    District 12            741-5981
Pitts, Joe                       District 67            741-2043
Powers, Dennis             District 36            741-3335
Ragan, John                  District 33            741-4400
Swann, Art                   District 8               741-5481
Curtiss, Charles            District 43            741-1963
Elam, Linda                  District 57            741-7462
Favors, Joanne             District 29            741-2702
Gilmore, Brenda           District 54            741-1997
Hardaway, G. A.         District 92            741-5625
Harmon, Bill W.          District 37            741-6849
Haynes, Ryan A.         District 14            741-2264
Johnson, Curtis G.       District 68            741-4341
Johnson, Phillip            District 78            741-7477
Lundberg, Jon              District 1               741-7623
Marsh, Pat                   District 62            741-6824
Matlock, Jimmy           District 21            741-3736
McManus, Steve         District 96            741-1920
Miller, Don                  District 10            741-6877
Pody, Mark                 District 46            741-7086
Roach, Dennis E.         District 35            741-2534
Sargent, Charles          District 61            741-6808
Sexton, Cameron        District 25            741-2343
Shepard, David           District 69            741-3513
Sontany, Janis Baird   District 53            741-6861
Todd, Curry                District 95            741-1866
Towns, Joe , Jr.           District 84            741-2189
Williams, Kent             District 4               741-7450
Wirgau, Tim                District 75            741-6804