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.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Governor Haslam on Don't Say Gay bill

The City Paper's Jeff Woods has done it again. He has managed to get Governor Bill Haslam on the record about the Don't Say Gay bill. And while I'm giving credit, I should say that the administration is not and was not a fan of the bill during the legislative session. That was evident in some of the committee debate on the nationally despised legislation. Here are the Governor's words:

“The ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill didn’t pass and probably is never going to pass. At the same time, we hired Chris Barbic to run the Achievement School District, which is a huge deal. That got this much attention,” the governor said, holding his fingers an inch apart. “ ‘Don’t Say Gay’ got 100 articles. Well, something’s wrong with that picture.

“ ‘Don’t Say Gay’ is real sexy and yada yada yada. It’s not going anywhere. Who runs the Student Achievement District is huge. But you’d be lucky to find two paragraphs on that.

First, it's good to know the Governor doesn't think the bill will pass. It did, however, pass in a modified form in the Senate. I hope the Governor shares his views with Rep. Bill Dunn in the House. Second, the Governor's right when he says that "somethings wrong with that picture." But it's not the media coverage. It is a public outrage when Tennessee lawmakers try to disappear an entire group of people in our public schools and make life more difficult for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students. The media is naturally going to cover that. What's wrong with the picture is legislative leadership that won't rein in their extreme members who push such bills. Third, it's kind of cool that the Governor calls the bill the same thing that we call it.

-Chris Sanders

Gratitude for some departing Metro Council Members

We don't know what's going to happen on Election Day yet, but we do know that some Council Members will not be returning either because of term limits or because they chose not to run for their seat again.

I want to single out five of them for a word of thanks:

Greg Adkins: Councilman Adkins represents District 26 and served a term as pro tem of the body. Though he had to recuse himself from the Contract Accountability Non-Discrimination Ordinance votes because of a conflict of interest, he supported the 2009 non-discrimination ordinance. His knowledge of state government no doubt came in handy on many occasions during his term. I am grateful for his support for equality.

Erik Cole: Councilman Cole represents District 7 and was masterful in word and strategy on the floor of the Council during debates. A sponsor of the 2009 non-discrimination ordinance, he led the fight against a substitute ordinance by amending it to include gender identity. His action saved the day. He was also a supporter of the Contract Accountability Non-Discrimination Ordinance. In Erik's case, I have to say "Damned term limits" and that I hope he'll seek office in the future.

Jamie Hollin: Councilman Hollin represents District 5 and pound-for-pound packs more fight than just about any elected official in the state. There is no telling the number of hours he spent as a sponsor working for the Contract Accountability Non-Discrimination Ordinance and fighting against HB600. The battle for CAN DO was always uphill, but Jamie made sure we ran. Even if he doesn't ever seek office again, I know he'll continue to be an ally, as we've seen from his encouragement to the students protesting the Don't Say Gay bill.

Mike Jameson: Councilman Jameson represents District 6 and really stood up for his constituents as sponsor of the Contract Accountability Non-Discrimination Ordinance and as a sponsor of the 2009 non-discrimination ordinance. Mike made it very easy for TEP to support CAN DO because he considered us a partner in helping pass the bill. His communication style allowed us to adjust strategy at several points as discussion of the bill developed. As a plaintiff in the lawsuit against HB600, he continues the fight for equality.

Kristine LaLonde: Councilwoman LaLonde represents District 18 and has been an ally from way back. Before she was even considering a Council bid, she reached out to our community and sought ways to be involved. And I'll never forget that after TEP PAC endorsed David Glasgow for the seat she now holds, she reached out again during the race and personally reiterated her commitment. As a Council Member, she followed through, signing on as a sponsor of the non-discrimination ordinance and supporting CAN DO. She has also worked on the inside at Belmont to bring change to the university's policies for a more inclusive environment.

On behalf of the Tennessee Equality Project, I want to thank them all for their support of equality during a critical time in Tennessee's history and for their service to Metro Nashville. History will look back on this Metro Council as one of the most important and they helped make it one of the most progressive ever.

Chris Sanders

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Mysterious anti-everybody mailer in Nashville District 8

Some people just don't like the person or group who sent out this mailer in Metro Nashville Council District 8. Click on the picture to get a clearer view (we hope):

It will be interesting to see who owns up to printing and sending it.

-Chris Sanders

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Metro Nashville Council District 28: A reminder of what's at stake

Elections have consequences. If you live in district 28 in the Antioch area, you should be well aware. If not, here's a reminder.

Back in April, Bill Tedder emailed Councilman Duane Dominy, who represents him, about the Contract Accountability Non-Discrimination Ordinance. Despite the overwhelming volume of email in support of the bill compared to those opposed, Councilman Dominy appealed to an imagined majority in Nashville in his response and based his justification on the view that some religious groups don't like some sexual practices:

Dear Bill,
Thanks again for sharing. Even with the duplicates from proponents, those that oppose this ordinance far outnumber supporters. While I agree "our tax dollars should support workplace fairness and not discrimination," this ordinance did not reach that goal. It blatantly violates the religious liberties protected in our constitution. It uses tax dollars to promote a sexual practice that is considered morally wrong by most mainstream religions and the majority of residents of this city and district. As a result of the two issues above and limited suppliers within the state for a few departments, it also endangers some essential city services.While we differ on this issue, I appreciate your input and willingness to share it. Again, I welcome you to sign-up to receive the District 28 email newsletter. These are sent a few times per month and include district events and news of interest as well as a direct link for resident to communicate with me. And best of all, they cost $0 tax dollars to communicate with hundreds of district residents with little environmental impact. You may simply reply to this email to request being added.

Respectfully, Duane
Duane DominyDistrict 28 Councilman

I don't fault Councilman Dominy for his tone. While his meaning is quite offensive, he is at least polite and responsive to Bill's email. But the fact remains that he has no problem with the job discrimination endured by some Davidson County citizens.

It's been a consistent theme during his term on Council. Consider this exchange with a former constituent, Bill Newsome, on the 2009 non-discrimination ordinance that protects Metro Government employees.

Advocates of sensible measures to address workplace discrimination need to be aware of his record and turn out to vote.

-Chris Sanders

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Forces of Reaction at Work in Metro Races: District 25

Nashvillian Earl Lamons sent an email to Metro Nashville Council District 25 candidate James Kaminski about the Contract Accountability Non-Discrimination Ordinance. Here's the reply he received last week:


Thank you for your message. I would have voted against it. I think it is inappropriate for a businesses to comply with this. Its implementation will serve as a deterrent to potential businesses in the future. I am tired of all the attention this gets, and will be voting against any future bills which are similar to this anti-discrimination bill. I hope I have adequately addressed your question. Please feel free to contact me with any more questions or suggestions.


James M. Kaminski

If you ever doubted whether these elections are important, this email should clear up any confusion. There is definitely a battle for sensible, progressive government in Nashville. We have a choice between candidates who are thoughtful about moving Nashville forward like District 25 incumbent Sean McGuire and people who are "tired" of tackling the issues that face our city like Mr. Kaminski. We have a choice between candidates who know what really affects the jobs environment of our city and candidates who mistakenly believe that valuing talent and merit in an environment free of discrimination is somehow a barrier to attracting great companies, many of which already have inclusive policies.

Let's turn out the reality-based vote for candidates who aren't tired of moving Nashville forward.

-Chris Sanders

(Note: The image is from and here is a link to the product listed above if you're interested in purchasing it.)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Equality voters are turning out in Nashville

I got the list of voters from the Davidson County Election Commission today. 245 people voted at the Howard School today and 28 of them (about 11.4% of the total) are on the TEP list. A few of them are pictured at right. I took out any names that I knew were voting at this location for another reason (for example, because they are a candidate or because they came as part of the group from the early vote breakfast this morning). If we were to count some of these other folks who hold equality as a value, the number would be higher.

I haven't looked at the other locations, but it appears that our community and equality-minded voters in general are turning out the vote and could make a difference in this election.

The motivation is strong this time for many reasons--the attacks in the Legislature, the realization that having a pro-equality Metro Government to stand against them is important, and the opportunity to elect openly gay candidates.

Early voting continues through July 30 with Election Day on August 4. If you haven't voted, you can find out details about where and when at the Election Commission's site.

-Chris Sanders

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Woods interview with Haslam exposes lack of public justification for HB600

As I mentioned in the previous post, Jeff Woods of the City Paper has conducted one of the most important interviews on equality in our state's history--a lengthy conservation with Governor Bill Haslam that includes lots of follow up. If you think that's an exaggeration, do you recall any reporter getting a previous governor of Tennessee on the record on this topic at such length?

Jeff Woods's relentless pressure exposes the lack of real public justification for job discrimination and HB600, the new law that protects such discrimination. I want to underline that word "public." By it, I mean, what can be articulated in some kind of justifying way to the whole citizenry of the state. I would contrast that with private and communal sorts of justifications. The private kind is what bigots say to themselves when they think no one else is listening. Communal sorts of justification are often based in some (but not all) religious strictures. Base bigotry and appeals to a particular faith community's understanding won't do in the public sphere. Woods knows that, and, if you read carefully, the Governor knows that, too. He resists trying to get into Rep. Glen Casada's mindset, for example.

The Governor's approach in the interview is really three-fold:

*Marriage: For the Governor, and probably for many, the phrase "gay rights" means marriage and one can understand Haslam reaching for that issue because he knows that most Tennesseans are unfortunately opposed to marriage equality. But talking about marriage is not the same thing as talking about job discrimination, and Woods continues to pull him back to the workplace.

*Regulation: The Governor attempts to frame the discussion as one about regulation of business. The Metro ordinance that inspired HB600 was a contracting standard, not a regulation on all businesses in Davidson County. But even if it were, why is it a burden to prevent discrimination? Woods reminds the Governor where the bill came from--Family Action Council of Tennessee--and that HB600 was never about business, but the Governor seems to cling to the idea.

*Business self-interest: The Governor tries to escape the dilemmas posed by Woods's questions by making an argument that companies ought to hire the best people:

I think this. I’ve said a hundred times, I think the people who hire the best team are going to win. If you take any part of the population and say I’m not going to hire those people willfully, I don’t think that’s a really smart business plan. I think businesses should have diverse hiring practices.

We agree, but why not put it in writing? At the very least, why not put it in writing for state government employees? That doesn't affect businesses at all. What is it about sexual orientation and gender identity that really defy the Governor's ability to include those categories explicitly in the law?

Woods tries to tease the answer out of the Governor. He tries to find out, for example, whether he thinks sexual orientation is a choice. The Governor won't say and, sadly, we may never know.

But if we didn't already know it, the interview has made it blisteringly clear. There is no solid, public justification for HB600.

-Chris Sanders

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Woods and Haslam: Historic interview on equality in Tennessee

It's not Frost-Nixon, but it is historic nonetheless. The City Paper's Jeff Woods (who sometimes uses a picture of President John Adams at right for himself) has conducted, as far as I know, the most extensive interview ever on equality issues with a sitting governor of Tennessee.

If you're wondering where the link is, there's not one. The online edition comes out Monday morning. If you're in Nashville, you can pick up a hard copy tonight. I'm not going to post quotations from the interview because the City Paper obviously didn't intend for it to be online at this point, but I'll link to it on Monday.

Woods is relentless in questioning Governor Bill Haslam about HB600, the Special Access to Discriminate law, that the Governor signed. It includes more follow up than I've ever seen on the issue.

Here are a few observations on the piece:

  • Governor Haslam dodges to the marriage issue a few times, but Woods brings the discussion back to job discrimination.
  • The Governor appears resigned to whatever harsh judgment history has in store for his role in letting the bill become law.
  • The interview confirms what we've seen hinted at, namely, that a veto was considered.
The only place where I take issue with the flow of the interview is when the Governor characterizes the Metro Contract Accountability Non-Discrimination Ordinance as regulation. That's not what the ordinance does, er, um, did before it was nullified. It was a condition for having a contract with Metro, not a requirement for all businesses in Davidson County. Woods could have called him on that distinction, but he, in some ways, does better than addressing that distinction because he continually puts in front of the Governor the issue of discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. He comes as close as anyone has to making a governor of Tennessee confront and weigh that issue against other considerations, like the imaginary business considerations used to justify HB600.

We see the phrase "must read" a great deal these days, and this interview definitely deserves that accolade.

I should also note that this interview, taken together with the "redneck burrito" interview by Tom Humphrey, so many weeks after the Legislature adjourned means that the issue is hanging around. Let the discussion continue!

-Chris Sanders

Friday, July 8, 2011

GLAAD will offer Media Essentials Workshop in Tennessee

Tennessee Equality Project invites you to participate in GLAAD Media Essentials training on Saturday, August, 20, 2011.  Daryl Hannah of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation is coming to Nashville, TN to provide training to leaders of LGBT organizations from all over the state of Tennessee. TEP is excited to bring GLAAD back to Tennessee for such training for first time since 2007.

GLAAD Media Essentials is designed to provide individuals and organizations the tools necessary to meet their communications goals through effective media work. The training on August 20 will help LGBT leaders in Tennessee with some of the following:

  • Learn about media opportunities you or your organization can use to expand your base and get your message to your target audience
  • Create a communications plan you can use to move public opinion about your issues
  • Develop a media vocabulary so you can speak clearly and effectively with journalists
  • Build relationships with media professionals
  • Become a resource for media outlets
  • Learn simple, consistent ways to develop talking points you can shape for different media outlets
  • Learn how to write press releases, op-eds, letters to the editor and other kinds of communication with the media
  • Get comfortable with print, television and radio interviews

WHO IS THIS TRAINING FOR? TEP invites leaders of LGBT-friendy organizations like PFLAG, Gay-Straight Alliances, Pride organizations, community centers, chambers of commerce, churches - any organizations that promotes the welfare of LGBT people and their families in Tennessee.

Space for the training is limited. Please register online by August 10 to ensure that we can accommodate everyone.

DATE: Saturday, August 20, 2011
END TIME: 12 Noon
PLACE: St. Anne's Episcopal Church, 419 Woodland Street, Nashville, TN 37206-4207

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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

State Senate District 6 candidates grilled about equality issues

The Metro Pulse provides outstanding coverage of issues affecting the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community that came up in a recent forum for candidates running for State Senate District 6 (Knox County) to replace Jamie Woodson.

Marilyn Roddy gave some thoughtful answers. Please, pardon me for quoting at length from the piece, but here are some of the candidates' thoughts about Don't Say Gay, marriage equality, and HB600:

When asked about Sen. Stacey Campfield’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, Roddy pointed out that the amended version that passed the Senate does not actually prevent teachers from saying “gay” but that she still would not have voted in favor of it. (As we have noted repeatedly, the House never took up the bill, which means it is still not a law. We should also note, again, that Woodson was the sole Republican on the Senate Education Committee to vote against the bill.) Massey and DeFreese said that they would have voted for the bill.

They were asked if they would vote to support gay marriage; Massey and DeFreese said no. Roddy was the only one who seemed to realize such a vote can’t even happen in Tennessee—as she pointed out, the state’s voters overwhelming passed an amendment to the state constitution to ban gay marriage a few years ago, and only those same voters can repeal that ban, something highly unlikely to happen anytime soon.

The candidates were also asked about HB 600, the legislation that prevents any locality from enacting an anti-discrimination ordinance that goes beyond the state’s anti-discrimination standards. (The bill was introduced to prevent a Metro Nashville ordinance from going into effect; that ordinance would have blocked companies that discriminate against LGBT workers from doing business with the city, and a lawsuit questioning the legality of HB 600 has been filed.) However, the questioner asked them leaving aside the (gay) issues of HB 600, whether it was ever okay for the state to override local policies in other situations.

Roddy and Massey said no. But DeFreese—who later said that the state shouldn’t have passed a smoking ban that prevented businesses from allowing smoking if they so wanted, and that the state shouldn’t tell you where you can and can’t bring a firearm (“As a mother who regularly frequents parks with my children, I’d feel safer knowing that people with legal permitted guns were there,” because that would counteract the people carrying guns in parks without permits)—said that while generally the state should leave municipalities alone, sometimes it was necessary to intervene, as “certain counties have ways of manipulating votes” so that ordinances get passed that are not “what the people had voted for.”

-Chris Sanders

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Honoring student protesters on tonight's Metro Council agenda

As the Nashville City Paper and Out & About Newspaper have reported, Metro Councilman Jamie Hollin has introduced a resolution to honor the high school students who protested against Sen. Stacey Campfield's Don't Say Gay bill this spring. It appears on the agenda for tonight's meeting.

Well deserved!

We are hopeful the resolution will pass without incident.

Below is some video that Councilman Hollin took of one of the protests.

-Chris Sanders

Sunday, July 3, 2011

HB600 gave Governor Haslam a touch of heartburn

The Knoxville News Sentinel's Tom Humphrey caught up with Governor Bill Haslam recently when the state's chief executive was ordering a redneck burrito, which he described as "good but caused a bit of indigestion."

Humphrey picks up the image later in the piece when he gets to HB600, the Special Access to Discriminate law:

Still, he said, dealing with legislators can be "incredibly important" even if unsettling on occasion.

Of the bills he signed this year, Haslam said the one causing most heartburn was a measure that overrode a Nashville city ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation by companies contracting with the city.

"That was a huge philosophical problem," he said, creating a conflict between his belief that government should put as few restrictions as possible on business and his belief that "local governments should get to decide most things for themselves."

Yeah, that one caused some stomach acid for us, too, Governor Haslam. Perhaps Tennessee should remove these discriminatory delicacies from our diet.

Of course, Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey said that this year was "just an appetizer" of what is to come. Let's all stock up on antacid tablets! And, um, let's work to pass SB2121 introduced by Sen. Jim Kyle to repeal HB600.

-Chris Sanders