The year they came for the LGBT community in TN--a look back at 2016

2016 was one of the toughest years for the LGBTQ community in Tennessee.  And we predicted it would be

Marriage resolutions:  The year began with a continuation of the battles of 2015.  From October 2015 through March 2016 battles raged across the state in county commission meetings over anti-marriage equality resolutions.  You can see the map at this link

State legislation:  What intensified the level of hostility was the Legislature's reaction to the Supreme Court's 2015 marriage ruling and growing bathroom controversies.  The result?  A record number of anti-LGBTQ bills filed.  You can see a list here.  Most of them didn't pass, of course.  But a few did.

There were also hate incidents just before and after the Election, as we note in the LGBTQ Open Letter

It has been a horrible year.  And yet our community endures and achieves victories. 

Generally speaking, we were able to win against anti-marriage equality resolutions around the state where we could draw larger numbers than our opposition--Blount, Knox, Washington, and Rutherford Counties, for example. 

And when you think about it, showing up in large numbers is one of the few factors we can really control.  We decide whether to show up individually and we decide whether to invite friends and family into the struggle. 

2017 promises to be another tough year and now we will no longer have any certain hope of help from the federal government. 

Will YOU show up?  Will you help us bring in more people to fight discrimination and advance equality?  Here's a calendar of events for the coming 3 months.  And here's a quick way for you to invest in our organizing work around the state.  Give $20.17 for a better 2017.

We remain grateful for all you do!

Chris Sanders

Executive Director

Your activist calendar for the first quarter of 2017

Those who oppose equality believe we will be vulnerable in 2017 and they have been making their moves across the country and in Tennessee. But we are not waiting around.  You will find a growing list of events to engage your passion to make a difference.  So I hope you will join us.

But even before you think about the new year, you can make a difference now.

*Speak out for equality in Tennessee by signing the LGBTQ open letter at this link.  Consider making a year-end tax deductible investment in the TEP Foundation at this link.

Events in 2017 so far

*January 12 in Nashville.  Counseling Controversies Update:  Conversation and Cocktails with Rep. John Ray Clemmons.  RSVP here.
*January 17 in Murfreesboro.  Lobbying 101.  RSVP here.
*January 18 in Nashville.  Lobbying 101.  RSVP here.
*January 21 in Nashville.  "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" An East Nashville Revue of Elton John to Benefit Tennessee Equality Project.  RSVP here.
*January 24 in Memphis.  Lobbying 101.  RSVP here.
*January 26 in Knoxville.  Lobbying 101.  RSVP here
*February 7 in Nashville.  Advancing Equality Days on the Hill Part 1.  RSVP here.
*February 19 in Memphis.  TEP Gumbo Contest.  RSVP here
*March 7 in Nashville.  Advancing Equality Days on the Hill Part 2.  RSVP here.
*April 4 in Nashville.  Advancing Equality Days on the Hill Part 3.  RSVP here

We will add more events, but I hope you will plan to join us for many of the items already on the schedule.  We need you now more than ever.

Gratefully yours,

Chris Sanders
Executive Director

Another bill to watch--the battle against social and emotional learning

There's another bill to watch for this legislative session.  Senate Bill 4 prevents the State Board of Education from adopting standards for social and emotional learning.  The sponsors are Senators Gresham, Beavers, Crowe, Bell, Roberts, and Tracy

You can find contact information for each Senate sponsor at the link underlining their name and let them know your view of the bill.

So is the bill anti-LGBT?  Let's have some recent history first.

It was announced over the summer that Tennessee would become a national leader in social and emotional learning standards in our public schools.  See this piece by ChalkbeatBut then in September, Tennessee backed out in the face of resistance

So who could possibly be against social and emotional learning in schools?  Socially conservative organizations.

See this piece by Family Action Council, these pieces by Tennessee Eagle Forum, and this one by The Federalist

So what are the objections?  The objections seem to fall into two areas--authority for the program and content.  In terms of authority, the argument against the standards seems to be that parents should set such standards.  There is also a question of whether Tennessee should be collaborating with other states.  In terms of content, the argument isn't as clear, but some of the polemic seems to focus on the idea of safe spaces. 

But is the bill anti-LGBT?  There is a strong probability.  Given who is opposed to these standards (the same crowd that is always against LGBT equality) and attacks on safe spaces, which often serve as an oasis for LGBT students, we should watch this issue carefully. 

In fact, the piece in The Federalist goes so far as to say:

Promoters are already discussing how to use social-emotional learning to root out students’ “bias” and “discrimination” to achieve “social justice”: “We know that giving students skills and knowledge in bias and bullying are not enough–empathy and understanding are critical to get young people to want to make change, help other people or inspire them to be an ally,” says Jinnie Spiegler, director of curriculum at the Anti-Defamation League (link original). The “ally” language is code for “agree in lock-step with the liberal social agenda on race and sexuality.” In other words, this is all about psychologically and emotionally manipulating children in order to push a certain political agenda.

Yes, wouldn't it be a disaster if our children had to show respect to one another!  It seems that any time the state tries to take steps against bullying, this kind of backlash arises.  We'll keep you posted as more bills are filed.

Tennessee clergy oppose SB1, the expanded counseling discrimination bill



Tennessee clergy are signing the following statement against Senate Bill 1:

"As clergy serving the people of Tennessee, we oppose Senate Bill 1 that retains the discriminatory provision of a law passed in 2016 and expands it to include discrimination based on beliefs.  In addition, the law completely abandons the American Counseling Association's code of ethics and requires the state board to write its own.  This puts all Tennesseans seeking counseling at risk because we cannot know whether the new ethics code and standards will include, delete, or add to the existing provisions of the code.  For these reasons, we urge the Tennessee General Assembly to reject SB1."

If you are active or retired clergy serving people in Tennessee and would like to sign the letter, contact us at .

Rev. Chris Buice, Knoxville

Rev. Viki Matson, Nashville

Rev. Bruce Spangler, Knoxville

Rev. Ken Edwards, Nashville

Chaplain Jon Coffee, Knoxville

Rev. Dave McIntyre, Normandy

Rev. Judi Hoffman, Nashville

Rev. Ken Carroll, Chattanooga

Rev. Steve Wolf, Clarksville

Rev. Laura Bogle, Maryville

Rev. Jason Shelton, Nashville

Rev. Mark C. Pafford, Cookeville

Rev. Tim Kobler, Knoxville

Rabbi Philip "Flip" Rice, Brentwood

Rev. Gordon Gibson, Knoxville

Rev. Carolyn Dipboye, Oak Ridge

Rev. Larry K. Dipboye, Oak Ridge

Rev. Judith Meyer, Knoxville

Rev. Mark Brown, Memphis

Rev. Greg Bullard, Madison

Rev. April Baker, Nashville

Rev. Dr. Amy L. Mears, Nashville

Rev. Sandy Prigmore Lewis,

Rev. Amy R Probst, Kingsport

Rev. Howard Bowlin, Maryville

Rev. Cynthia Andrews-Looper, Memphis

Rev. Denise Yeargin, Nashville

Rev. Jonathan Jeffords, Memphis

Rev. Ray White, Greeneville

Rev. Dr. Katherine White, Greeneville

Rev. Jay Voorhees, Nashville

Rev. Dr. Tim Stewart, Nashville

Rev. Mike Wilson, Nashville

Bishop Melvin Talbert, Nashville

Rev. Kimberly Rodrigue, Nashville

Rabbi Shana Goldstein Mackler, Nashville

Rev. Mary Louise McCullough, Nashville

Rev. Kevin E. Mitchell, Murfreesboro

Cantor Tracy L. Fishbein, Nashville

Rev. Lillian H. Lammers, Nashville

Rev. Sharon Temple, Nashville

Rev. Andrew B. Ward, Nashville

Rev. Ingrid McIntyre, Nashville

Rev. Brandon Gilvin, Chattanooga

Rev. Mark Flynn, Chattanooga

Rev. Jake Morrill, Oak Ridge

Rev. Robert B. Coleman, Nashville

Rev. Lisa Gwock, Nashville

Rev. Michael Williams, Nashville

Rev. Hope Hodnett, Nashville

Rev. Dr. L. Susan Bond, Jackson

Rev. Dr. Janet L. Wolf, Nashville

Rev. Kira Schlesinger, Lebanon

Rev. Pamela Hawkins, Nashville

Rev. Deven Hazelwood Johnson, Johnson City

Rev. Shane Smith, Kingsport

Rev. Autumn Dennis, Nashville

Rev. Peter van Eys, Nashville

Bishop Patrick Potts, Johnson City

Rev. R.J. Powell, Knoxville

Rev. Chris Harpster, Kingsport

Rev. Matthew Kelley, Brentwood

Rev. Paul Slentz, Nashville

Rev. Jeannie Alexander, Nashville

Rev. Josh Beeler, Knoxville

Rev. Nancy Speas Hill, Franklin

Rev. Floridia Jackson, Memphis

Rev. Barbara P. Garcia, Nashville

Rev. Debbie Shield, Johnson City

Rev. Eric Minton, Knoxville

Rev. Rob Van Ess, Memphis

Rev. Joseph R. Woodfin, Gallatin

Pastor Michael Alford, Goodlettsville

Rev. Becca Stevens, Nashville

Rev. Thomas Kleinert, Nashville

Rev. Beth Lefever, Cordova

Rev. Lauri Jo Cranford, Kingsport

Rev. Tim Bath, Murfreesboro

Rev. Katie Woodard, Clarksville


Expanded Counseling Discrimination bill filed

We are grateful to friends in the Senate who brought this to our attention.

An expanded version of the Counseling Discrimination law that passed in the 109th General Assembly has been filed.  The very first bill filed in the Senate prevents state boards from referencing national codes of ethics in their rules such as the ethics standards of the American Counseling Association.

The bill also removes the word "principles" from the law and substitutes the much broader and more vague word "beliefs." 

The impact is that the bill would allow counselors under even more circumstances to turn clients away.  The proposed bill still requires counselors to make a referral, but in many areas that is a hardship on the client.

Support TEP's legislative work to fight back against SB1 at this link

TEP has 3 Advancing Equality Days on the Hill planned for 2017.  Sign up for Feb. 7, March 7, or April 4

Trump wins. What do we do now in Tennessee?

Like many of you, I stayed up late watching the election returns.  We've faced many tough nights in Tennessee, in this country, and tonight has been one of the toughest. 

Donald Trump will be the next president of the United States.  The country has lurched to the Right, and our Tennessee General Assembly moved further in that direction. 

We need to prepare to defend ourselves and those we love. 

What becomes of the legal and administrative advances that have taken place over the last eight years at the federal level?  It remains to be seen.

What kind of discriminatory legislation will we face in Tennessee?  A possible expansion of the counseling discrimination law, the return of the bathroom bill, regulation of hormone therapies to the detriment of trans youth, and more attacks on marriage equality.

What will we do?

First, I hope you will take care of yourselves.  You may need a break--time alone or time with family and friends.  When you're ready to be engaged, there is work to do.

Today we will be in Chattanooga working with clergy allies.  Next week we'll be in Memphis doing the same, and then in Knoxville at the end of the month.  They will be critical in shoring up support.

We have scheduled 3 days of Advancing Equality Days on the Hill for next year--Feb. 7, March 7, and April 4 so we can fight back in the Legislature.  I hope you will plan to attend one or more of those days.  

We will have to fight harder at the local level by beefing up our TEP regional committees around the state and by adding new ones.

We need you.  If you would like to support our legislative work with a contribution, click here.  If you would like to make a tax deductible contribution to support the educational work of the TEP Foundation, click here

Over the coming two months, we will be refining more strategic ways for you to get involved.  If you're in a "we won't back down" frame of mind, you will not be alone.  We will work with you and fight on in Tennessee.

Gratefully yours,

Chris Sanders
Executive Director



October Nashville area events for you to check out

October presents many opportunities to get involved and support the LGBT community in the Nashville area.  Please, check out these events in Middle Tennessee:

October 7--Nashville Grizzlies Chick Drag Show in Nashville.  RSVP and learn more at the link.

October 9--Voter Registration Rally at TRAX.  RSVP and learn more at the link.
October 12--LGBT Business Builder with the Nashville LGBT Chamber.  RSVP and learn more at the link
October 15--TTPC fundraiser in Nashville.  RSVP and learn more at the link
October 18--TEP Williamson County meeting in Franklin.  RSVP and learn more at the link
October 20--Spirit Day Rally in Nashville.  RSVP and learn more at the link
October 22--Nashville Grizzlies Red Dress Run.  RSVP and learn more at the link


August Nashville events to learn more and have fun

There are several opportunities to grow your network, gain information, and have fun in Nashville during August.  Please, join TEP and some of our partner organizations for these upcoming events.

August 10--Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce's August Power Lunch sponsored by Waller.  Details at the link.

August 13--Nashville Grizzlies present Rugby 101.  Details at the link.

August 13--Nashville Grizzlies Rugby 101 Third Half/Social.  Details at the link.

August 18--Nashville LGBT Chamber's Perfect Wedding Guide August Networking Event:  Same Sex Weddings. Details at the link.

August 18--Nashville LGBT Chamber's Brewing Up Business Up Business at the Chef and I.  Details at the link.

August 20--GLSEN Tennessee's GLSEN Up, Nashville.  Details at the link.

August 21--MobiUS.  Meeting for LGBTQI young adults (18-30) at OutCentral at 5:00 p.m.  Learn more at the link.

August 27--TEP Nashville Committee's End of Summer Drinks with Friends.  Details at the link.





TEP condemns Uber driver's anti-gay assault on Memphis businessman

TEP condemns Uber driver's anti-gay assault on Memphis businessman

Contact:  Ginger Leonard, (901) 461-0891

Memphis, TN:  Memphis businessman Ray Rico experienced an anti-gay assault on Friday night by an Uber driver after a disagreement over bringing food into the driver's car.  Mr. Rico reports that the driver called him "faggot."  Rico then ended the trip and attempted to hail another Uber driver.  The same driver appeared using a different profile on the app.  The driver unleashed another string of epithets at Rico.  After Rico took pictures of the car license plate the driver backed the vehicle into him.

TEP board chair Ginger Leonard offers the following statement:  "Mr. Rico's experience is an outrageous assault on his safety and dignity and therefore an assault on all LGBT Memphians.  Uber has begun an investigation of the incident and Mr. Rico is exploring pressing criminal charges.  We call on Uber to complete its investigation quickly and to work with TEP on a review of its diversity training for drivers. 

The Tennessee Equality Project is a statewide organization that advances the rights of Tennessee's lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.


Anniversary of Tennessee ratification of the 14th Amendment

Today is the anniversary of Tennessee's ratification of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, a day we should all celebrate.

The path to ratification in Tennessee wasn't easy.  As the Tennessee State Museum points out:

 Many white Tennesseans were divided on this issue. President Johnson also opposed the amendment. 

Some of the Tennessee legislators decided to refuse to attend the session when they were supposed to vote on the 14th Amendment. They hoped there would not be a quorum—a number of legislators required to be present in order for a vote to count. 
Governor Brownlow found out about their plan, and he had two of the legislators arrested and imprisoned in the state capitol building. They were counted as being present even though they did not vote. The legislature did vote in favor of ratifying the 14th Amendment. Tennessee became the first Confederate state to re-enter the United States.
As hard as it was in Tennessee, getting the 14th Amendment ratified in the rest of the former Confederacy was even more difficult.  This piece from PBS notes:
With the exception of Tennessee, the Southern states refused to ratify the Fourteenth Amendment. The Republicans then passed the Reconstruction Act of 1867, which set the conditions the Southern states had to accept before they could be readmitted to the union, including ratification of the 14th Amendment.
So much of the progress for equality in our country on so many fronts can be traced to the 14th Amendment.  Its work is not yet done.  But on this day we can appreciate that Tennessee ratified it and that it was an important basis for the Supreme Court's marriage equality ruling whose anniversary we recently celebrated.

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