I've been watching two sets of headlines for months. The first set chronicles victories in marriage equality. We all see those and "like" them on social media. The other sort is more troubling, though. If you look closely there are many headlines about the destructive ways that our opponents are resisting victories in marriage equality, job discrimination protections, etc., especially in the South.
Here's a sampling:
*Three bills in Oklahoma designed to deprive the LGBT community of victory.
*A Kentucky bill giving a cash reward to students outing transgender students in restrooms.
*Alabama probate judges trying to find ways to avoid issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
*So-called Religious Freedom/Turn the Gays Away bills in Virginia, North Carolina, and other states.
*Starkville, Mississippi repeals its nondiscrimination measures.
*A Texas bill to nullify the non-discrimination ordinances of its cities and counties.
I think you get the point. Advancing equality in the South is not easy because you have to continue to fight to consolidate the gains you've made. We have some advantages in Tennessee that help us when these situations come up. This Huffington Post piece from last year listed some of them. We also organize in every region of the state. We have a great lobbyist. We have one-of-a-kind programs like Tennessee Ready for Marriage on DAY ONE. And we have a strong media presence. But we will not escape the efforts of the far Right to roll back progress.
To make it all work, we need your help. 1. Can you attend TEP's 11th annual Advancing Equality Day on the Hill this year? RSVP here. 2. Can you encourage businesses to join Equality Means Business free of charge at this link? This program helps grow a network of affirming spaces in our state. 3. And would you consider signing up to give a few dollars a month to help our legislative efforts at this link?
Good lobbying and good organizing are worth the investment in Tennessee. They help us defend ourselves and move equality forward in our state. More attacks will surely come. Please, help us prepare!
By now many of you have heard of the case of Brian Copeland and Greg Bullard of Nashville, whose family had applied for a spot at Davidson Academy, a private Christian school. If not, you can get caught at this story from USA Today originally posted by The Tennessean.
The case has generated a lot of discussion and that's great. Sadly, there are many bad arguments floating around in the comments sections of stories about it. Let's go through some of them.Read more
Are you looking for ways to get involved? We've got lots of events around the state coming up for you.
January 20--Jackson--TEP Madison County meeting. 5:30 at Woodstock Bake Shop. To RSVP and learn more, go to this link.
February 1--Collegedale/outside Chattanooga--TEP Hamilton & Bradley Counties Committee meeting. 2:00 at Collegedale City Hall. To RSVP and learn more, go to this link.
February 8--Knoxville--SAFE Tennessee meeting. 1:00 at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist. To RSVP and learn more, go to this link.
February 8--Memphis--TEP Gumbo Contest. 4:30 at Bridges Center. To get tickets and learn more, go to this link.
February 16--Nashville--Panel discussion on domestic violence in the LGBT community. 6:15 at OutCentral. To learn more and RSVP, go to this link.
February 20--Knoxville--Legislative Update and Advocacy with special guest former State Rep. Gloria Johnson. 1:00 at Hodges Library/UT-K. To learn more and RSVP, go to this link.
March 10--Nashville--TEP's 11th annual Advancing Equality Day on the Hill. 9:00 a.m. at Legislative Place. To learn more and to RSVP, go to this link.
We hope that we'll see you soon at an event near you. If you would like to support our work with a small monthly donation, you can do so at this link.
Here's a roundup of the media coverage of last night's marriage equality events in Knoxville and Nashville.
Knoxville: The Knoxville rally took place at the Sunsphere and was covered by WATE at this link. Here are some photos of the event linked from Twitter. For more Twitter posts, look for the tag #NotDoneTilDayOne .
Nashville: Nashville advocates met at OutCentral and heard from Abby Rubenfeld, one of the attorneys in the Tennessee marriage case. Channel 5's coverage can be found at this link. Fox 17's coverage can be found at this link.
An image of Abby speaking to the group
It was a great evening around Tennessee. Even though the Supreme Court has not yet decided to take up our state's case, we are hopeful it will happen next week. We are ready for DAY ONE.
For immediate release
Contact: Chris Sanders
Phone: (615) 390-5252
Tennesseans gather in hope as Supreme Court conference considers state's marriage case
Nashville, TN: The Tennessee and other same-sex marriage cases will be considered during Friday's Supreme Court conference. Marriage equality advocates will gather at Knoxville and Nashville events to express their hope that the high court takes up the Tennessee case.
The Knoxville event takes place at the Sunsphere at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time. For more information about the event, go to https://www.facebook.com/events/1526864450905906/ .The Nashville event takes place at 6:30 p.m. Central Time at OutCentral located at 1709 Church Street. For more information about the Nashville event, go to http://tnep.nationbuilder.com/nashville_marriage_update_after_the_supreme_court_conference .
"Thousands of people across Tennessee are ready to enjoy the same rights and responsibilities as other married couples," notes Tennessee Equality Project executive director Chris Sanders. "We hope 2015 is the year that finally happens. These gatherings are a way to provide information to our community about the Supreme Court's conference and to show the public that we still live with discrimination."
Both events are free and open to the public.
For more information about the Tennessee Equality Project, go to TNEP.org .
Businesses all over Tennessee are signing up for Equality Means Business. In fact, so far almost 80 have and you can find their names at this link. That means they don't want to discriminate against gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender employees and customers. And that means that they're not looking for a license to do so from the Legislature.
Still, there's a strong possibility that the bill that plagued us this year will be back in 2015. To prepare, we hope you'll RSVP for TEP's 11th annual Advancing Equality Day on the Hill. You can do that here.
If it comes back, we'll fight the bill with everything we have. But if it passes, we're going to continue to expand Equality Means Business because we want to know where our business and where our job applications are welcome.
If your business would like to join the program, you can do so at this link.
There are at least two ways to read the phrase "consenting adults," and I think it matters which approach we take. First, there's the breezy approach to the phrase and that can be either mocking or light. Social conservatives mock the phrase sometimes as an "anything goes" approach to sexuality. But others sometimes use the phrase in a joking manner, too, as in "Hey, whatever consenting adults choose to do..." A chuckle is supposed to follow the "..."
But there's another way to read the phrase and I'm influenced by being an ally of the bisexual community where there is a great deal of discussion of sexual assault. In fact, I think you can't miss the discussions of sexual assault in any forum focused on the bisexual community. After spending a great of time learning all I can to be a better bi ally, I think the way to read the phrase is "consenting [long pause] adults."
Why the long pause between the two words? The long pause brings to bear the struggle of victims of sexual assault and the long, sad history of using sexuality for neither love nor pleasure but for violence. It is a reminder that sexual assault affects every community, particularly gender and sexual minorities.
"Consenting adults," given that history, is not some libertine phrase. It is the antithesis of abuse and assault and coercion and force. It isn't "anything goes" and it isn't fodder for jokes. It is basic to any real sexual and interpersonal ethic.
Consenting...adults--let's give it the joy and dignity it deserves!
TEP has events for you around Tennessee this week. We hope you will join us for fellowship and the purpose of advancing equality. We'd love to see you. Take a look at some of these options as you put your calendar together.Read more
The NCLR and the Tennessee attorneys advancing our state's marriage case are doing a great job. They have petitioned the Supreme Court and now we wait. But waiting around with nothing to do is definitely NOT how we spent 2014.
We prepared for three outcomes. 1. We prepared for a generally positive ruling, which would require an additional legal challenge to bring marriage equality specifically to Tennessee. We worked with attorneys to identify plaintiffs across the state in case they were needed. 2. We prepared for a sweepingly positive ruling that would have directly brought marriage equality to Tennessee through our Tennessee Ready for Marriage on DAY ONE program. In August and September we held trainings in Knoxville, Johnson City, Cookeville, Collegedale, Nashville, Memphis, and Murfreesboro engaging hundreds of people. The only program of its kind in the country, our preparations were profiled by the Equality Federation at this link. 3. Finally, we prepared for the temporary loss in the 6th Circuit with rallies in Memphis, Jackson, Nashville, Cookeville, Chattanooga, and Knoxville that ended up engaging more than 300 people across the state and received extensive media coverage, which you can find at this link.
It is not easy with a full-time staff of one person to prepare for every possible outcome, but with your support and the support of volunteer leaders around the state, like the group from Memphis pictured below, we did it. When you pledge today to support the TEP Foundation on December 2 for Giving Tuesday, you make sure we are ready to advance equality no matter what the courts or the Legislature throws at us. You can schedule your Giving Tuesday contribution to the TEP Foundation at this link today and it will count on December 2!
Launched at the end of 2013 and the beginning of 2014, Equality Means Business is our program to encourage businesses to serve all their customers regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, to treat their employees equally regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, and to stand by the principle that equality is good for the business climate in Tennessee.
Why is this program necessary? With no prospects for a comprehensive LGBT-inclusive civil rights law related to employment, public accommodations, and other concerns at the federal or state level, we must persuade more businesses large and small to become inclusive in Tennessee. Engagement with business brings important allies in the fight for equality in our state. Pictured below is Joelle Phillips, president of AT&T Tennessee, accepting the Champion of Equality award for her company at this year's Olympus at the Parthenon in Nashville.
When you make a pledge to support the TEP Foundation on Giving Tuesday (December 2), you help us grow this important program. You can use this link to schedule your Giving Tuesday contribution today and it will count on December 2.