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, January 29, 2013

Sen. Campfield refiles Don't Say Gay bill. Is it any better?

Sen. Stacey Campfield has refiled the infamous Don't Say Gay bill.  He calls SB234 the "Classroom Protection Act," although on the summary page it is called the "Child Protection Act."

Rally at the Capitol in 2012
Protect children and classrooms from what or whom?  That's the obvious question. 

The real answer is "the gays," of course.  The language in the bill indicates it's to protect children and classrooms from anything that is "inconsistent with natural human reproduction," which "shall be classified as inappropriate for the intended student audience and, therefore, shall be prohibited." 

The bill's language represents an effort by Sen. Campfield to respond to the objections that frequently arose over the last few years, viz., that it directly showed bias to any sexuality other than heterosexuality, that it had a chilling effect on children's conversations with teachers and counselors (we'll get to that in a minute), and that it paradoxically required the teaching of sex education and nothing but sex education in grades K-8. 

Sen. Campfield has attempted to take care of these objections with various clauses in the new bill.  But did he succeed?

Required Sex Ed:  I'll give him credit on one point.  He dealt with the last objection in the language of the new bill with his last clause:  "Nothing in this section shall be construed to require instruction relative to natural reproduction in grades pre-K though 8."  The amendment to the old bill seemed to require teaching sex education in these grades, which conflicted with existing policy.  He's dealt with that.  Fair enough.

Bias Persists:  But the bill still shows bias and animus to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people by labeling us "inconsistent with natural human reproduction" and "inappropriate for the intended student audience."  The purpose of the bill is clear--to erase our community in grades K-8. 

Counselors become informers:  What about the chilling effect on counseling when a student has personal questions of identity that need to be explored with care and discretion?  Here's where the bill may fool a lot of people. 

(c) LEA policies and procedures adopted pursuant to this section shall
not prohibit:
(1) Any instructor from answering in good faith any question or
series of questions, germane and material to the course, asked of the
instructor and initiated by a student or students enrolled in the course;
(2) A school counselor, nurse, principal or assistant principal from
counseling a student who is engaging in, or who may be at risk of
engaging in, behavior injurious to the physical or mental health and wellbeing
of the student or another person; provided, that wherever possible
such counseling shall be done in consultation with the student's parents
or legal guardians. Parents or legal guardians of students who receive
such counseling shall be notified as soon as practicable that such
counseling has occurred; or
(3) Any school counselor, nurse, principal or assistant principal
from responding appropriately to a student whose circumstances present
immediate and urgent safety issues involving human sexuality. Parents
or legal guardians of such students shall be notified as soon as
practicable of the circumstances requiring intervention; provided, notice
shall not be given to any parent or legal guardian if there is reasonable
cause to believe that the parent or legal guardian may be the perpetrator
or in any way responsible for sexual abuse of the student.

Sounds good, right?  Counselors can address these questions with students.  The bill doesn't prohibit the discussion. 


...the bill actually seems to force counselors to become tattletales.  They have to inform the parents after counseling takes place.  That requirement will erode the trust between students and counselors and leave students without any confidential resource in a place where they might be enduring bullying or other issues related to their sexuality, gender, or other factors. 

Students and school personnel are not well served by this dangerous bill.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Germantown Athletic Club opens membership to LGBT families and couples

Tennessee Equality Project applauds a recent decision by the Germantown Athletic Club to open its membership to LGBT couples and families.

Over the weekend, a gay couple with children tried to apply for a family membership at the fitness club operated by the City of Germantown (suburb of Memphis). The GAC told the couple that "only a husband and wife could do a family membership." The club membership application stated:

The couple refused to accept the policy as the last word on the matter. GAC staff urged the couple to speak with the Membership Sales Advisor on Monday.

That's exactly what the couple did. After talking with the family and reviewing their policy, the GAC now defines a "family membership [as a] household membership which includes 2 adults living under the same roof, and the children in the household that one or both of those adults are legally responsible for. Couples membership will now become a joint membership for 2 people living in the same house that would like to join their facility."

The old application was removed from the GAC website at at about 4 PM on Monday, January 28. As of 9:30 AM on January 29, the new membership form now appears on the Germantown Athletic Club website. This may be the first time a Tennessee City has voluntarily changed its policy to be inclusive of LGBT families.

Raising your voice in the face of discrimination can bring positive change. The Germantown Athletic Club deserves praise for demonstrating a commitment to diversity, inclusion, equality and fairness.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Advocacy Academy Coordinator Position Available

Tennessee Equality Project is consulting with Friends for Life in Memphis on HIV/AIDS advocacy initiatives.  The position described below is currently open and there is potential for the part time position to become a full time position if fully funded. 

From: Gina Fortner
Sent: Tuesday, January 15, 2013 10:14 AM
To: Gina Fortner
Subject: Friends For Life - Part Time Positions Available - Advocacy Academy Coordinator 

Advocacy Academy Coordinator Position Overview

The Friends For Life Corporation Advocacy Academy Coordinator will coordinate the delivery of a regional HIV/AIDS advocacy network.  This project will include persons living with HIV/AIDS seeking to educate Memphis and Shelby County elected officials, policy makers and community members including leaders of the faith community about HIV/AIDS and the various needs that characterize people about the disease. Click here for full job description.

Contact Information and Procedure:

Mail, fax or e-mail application and resume along with a cover letter highlighting in detail skills and experience. Applications can be obtained at the FFL office or

Email applications in Word or PDF only. Candidates will be selected for interviews on the basis of materials provided.  Not all candidates will necessarily receive an interview.  No telephone calls please. Deadline for applications is:  OPEN UNTIL FILLED, but priority will be given to those applications received by January 22, 2013.

Send application materials to:

Mail:     Human Resources, Friends For Life, 43 N. Cleveland St., Memphis, TN 38104
Fax:       901-272-7458
*Position contingent upon continued grant funding- EEO/AA

Monday, January 21, 2013

TEP statement on Rocketown termination of Wes Breedwell for support of marriage equality

Earlier today (January 21), the Tennessee Equality Project released the following statement on the termination of Wes Breedwell, who was employed at music venue Rocketown in Nashville, for his support of marriage equality, as expressed in a shirt by the band Hostage Calm:

"TEP condemns this termination and stands in solidarity with the man who was fired for showing his support for our community. It reminds us that allies are in the front lines of the fight for equality."

The band released its own statement earlier this evening and you can find it here.

Whether Wes was fired for wearing the shirt to work (the shirt of a band that had played at Rocketown, by the way) or for liking a photo of the shirt as The Tennessean explores, he was terminated for being a straight ally for marriage equality.  

Rocketown probably has the legal right to terminate him, but that doesn't make it right or prudent.  In any diverse workplace, we will always encounter people with religious and political views that differ from our own.  Shouldn't the focus be on who can do the job?

Rocketown chose to act and they are now publicly branded as opposed to the aspirations for equality of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people.  They chose to enter the fray and enter it on a day when President Barack Obama embraced those aspirations.  So while they have the legal right to their actions, the public will now exercise its rights to form judgments about the organization.  

*It is reasonable to ask whether Rocketown is a safe place for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youth who desperately need safe spaces in Tennessee.  

*And it is reasonable to ask whether Rocketown is in step with a city that has made great strides in embracing diversity and creativity, factors vital to Nashville's brand as "Music City."   

We call on Rocketown to reverse its actions and make it clear that all are welcome at their music venue regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.