A new bathroom bill was filed at the beginning of the legislative session; then it was withdrawn. Now it's back with new sponsors. SB2480/HB2620 by Sen. Hensley and Rep. Holt would require the TN Attorney General to represent school districts if they get sued for engaging in anti-transgender bathroom discrimination. In other words, the power of the state government will defend school districts that target transgender students. Immoral!
Consider emailing Sen. Hensley at email@example.com and Rep. Holt at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask them to withdraw SB2480/HB2620. There will be further action steps to take on that bill in the coming weeks.
HB54, the Business License to Discriminate bill, is up for consideration on Valentine's Day! Email Rep. Zachary at email@example.com and urge him to withdraw HB54. If you can attend the hearing on the bill in RED on Feb. 14, RSVP at the link. There will also be additional action steps to take on this bill in a few days.
Advancing Equality Days on the Hill: Tomorrow (Tuesday) advocates from around the state will be participating in the first of three Advancing Equality Days on the Hill. They have been equipped to talk about these discriminatory bills and a couple of positive bills that help the LGBTQ community. Be encouraged by their work and mark your calendar for the second day on the Hill, which is March 6. RSVP at the link. The third and final of these events will be April 3.
We have a heavy workload this year. We are grateful to those who support our lobbying work with a monthly donation. If you are one of those individuals, your sustaining support is a rock for us. If you would like to become a monthly supporter with a $5+ recurring donation, you can sign up here. If you prefer to make a one-time contribution, you can do that here.
Regardless of their final scores in the TEP Gumbo Contest, all of the gumbo teams who entered the competition are winners for equality in the eyes of Tennessee Equality Project. We deeply appreciate each team for dedicating their weekend to the competition and supporting the event. The winners of the 2018 TEP Gumbo Contest are:
Judge's Choice Awards:
- First Place: Rouxing on the River
- Second Place: The Pumping Station
- Thirds Place: Me and Eddie
People's Choice Awards:
- First Place: Roux-thless Dames
- Second Place: The Gumbros
- Third Place: Trouxth and Consequences
Best Vegetarian/Vegan: Lulu's Baked
Gumbo Team Spirit: Trouxth and Consequences
VIP Table Spirit: First Tennessee
The final scores for the Judge's and People's Choice competitions appear below:Read more
Events are coming up this week through January 22 in East, West, and Middle Tennessee. Get out, get involved!
January 18--Knoxville. Advocacy 101 for East TN.
January 20--Nashville. Women's March 2.0. (TEP is participating and we urge you to do so.)
January 22--Nashville. Advocacy 101 and Happy Hour.
We face horrible anti-LGBTQ legislation this year. Your financial support makes it possible for us to afford the tools necessary to fight back. Please, consider making a $5+ monthly donation. Signing up for recurring donations is easy at this link. Or you can make a one-time donation at this link.
The following Advocacy 101 sessions are scheduled in January around Tennessee. More cities will be added. Click on any of the following to learn more and RSVP.
What is the purpose of Advocacy 101? It is designed to help you prepare to advocate for equality and oppose discrimination in the upcoming state legislative session. Beginners are welcome.
January 3--Rutherford County in Murfreesboro
January 11--Tri-Cities in Elizabethton
January 17--Sumner County in Gallatin
January 18--East TN in Knoxville
January 31--TEP Hamblen County Organizational Meeting in Morristown (will include part of Advocacy 101)
If you would like to support our work, consider a small monthly contribution. Signing up is easy at this link.
Up to 18 teams will compete in the TEP Gumbo Contest presented by Hilton Memphis on Sunday, January 21, 2018. In addition to the People's Choice competition, each team's gumbo will be evaluated by a panel of judges who will select winners of 1st, 2nd and Third Place and Best Vegetarian/Vegan gumbos. The event planning committee is pleased to present the official panel of 2018 judges for the contest. Please join us in welcoming them.
Unfortunately the Hamblen County Commission has decided to consider an anti-marriage equality resolution, which you can read at this link, at their December 21 meeting at 5:00 p.m. at the Courthouse in Morristown. Such resolutions were popular in late 2015 and early 2016.
We are asking you to show up in RED at the county commission meeting to express your opposition. RSVP and learn more at the link. If you don't live in Hamblen County or can't attend the meeting, please ask friends to show up.
This is a resolution and not an ordinance. It expresses the opinion of the county commission. It would not stop marriage equality. But there is no place in local government for attacking fellow citizens and we should all oppose this resolution. The resolution would urge the Legislature to try to do what it can to stop marriage equality.
If you want to contact the county commissioners and express your opposition to the resolution, you can find them and their contact information at this link.
To discuss the response to the resolution, you may reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org .
If you would like to support TEP with a $5+ year-end contribution, you can do so at this link.
If would like to register to vote or check your voter registration, you can now do that online at this link.
Cooks from many corners of the United States and locally in the Memphis area are lining up to make their mark on the TEP Gumbo Contest presented by Hilton Memphis on Sunday, January 21, 2018 The contest often has a waiting list and time to register is running out. Take a look at who's competing this year.Read more
The Masterpiece Cakeshop case is generating lots of discussion in LGBTQ and mainstream circles. You can learn the basics at SCOTUSBlog.
Whatever this case is or isn't about, and whatever the decision, we need to be thinking about more than cakes in Tennessee.
When the President's spokesperson says that he would be fine with businesses hanging signs saying that they don't serve LGBTQ people, we are in dangerous territory. We have entered a climate in which positive permission is given to discrimination.
Currently LGBTQ people are not covered in federal or Tennessee human rights laws. Specifically, we are not covered in public accommodations laws or laws about the right to be served. So Tennessee businesses can legally turn us away now. And that puts us at the mercy of health care providers, mechanics, grocers, HVAC repair companies, and so on.
So the outcome of the Masterpiece Cakeshop case will not directly affect Tennessee because we can already be discriminated against here. However, a negative outcome could give more encouragement to companies that would like to discriminate openly against our community. The case could create a more hostile climate for us.
That is all the more reason for us to encourage businesses in Tennessee to join Tennessee Open For Business free of charge at this link. That is something concrete we can do to improve the climate for LGBTQ people in Tennessee for the long term.
Public policy at the federal, state, and local level is made by the people we elect. The U.S. Senate's tax bill, the Tennessee General Assembly's sneaky LGBT Erasure bill, and the Knoxville non-discrimination ordinance were all passed by people voted into office by ourselves and our neighbors.
Here are some issues to consider:
Tennessee ranks near the bottom of all states in voter turnout. That matters because many local and even some state legislative races are decided by fewer than 300 votes. If LGBTQ voters and allies turned out in greater numbers, we could make a bigger impact in the process.
Voter ID laws hamper transgender and non-binary voters. This Reuters piece from last year discusses some of the obstacles. According to Ballotpedia, Tennessee has a strict voter ID law in that the state requires a federal or state ID that includes a photo. These requirements also hinder students since student IDs are not considered acceptable for voting. The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security will provide you with a photo ID at no charge. To learn more about that process, go to this link.
Why don't people register to vote? We don't know all the reasons, but one survey indicates that among those not registered to vote, 62% have never been asked to register. And if we don't register more people to vote, we can't help them turn out at the polls on Election Day.
The stakes are high. One city in Tennessee tried to ban drag performance this year. A school board tried to roll back LGBTQ protections for students and employees. State legislators have introduced dozens of anti-LGBTQ bills over the last 12+ years. Only two members of Tennessee's congressional delegation consistently support LGBTQ federal legislation. These are the people chosen by the voters.
Online voter registration in Tennessee is good news. Tennessee recently rolled out online voter registration. We can all now ask our friends to register and they can do it at home or on their phones. All they have to do is go to this link. Make sure you share the link with friends on social media or email it to them.
*Consider supporting TEP with a $5+ monthly contribution at this link. Your support makes it possible for us to fight discrimination and advance equality in Tennessee. We are grateful for your support.
One important public policy issue affecting LGBTQ people in Tennessee is preemption. Preemption is this context means the State of Tennessee preventing cities and counties in Tennessee from going beyond state standards.
A Nashville example that affects the whole state: In 2011 the Metro Nashville Council passed an ordinance that said its contractors and vendors could not discriminate against their employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity. That same year the Tennessee General Assembly passed a law (HB600) that prevented local governments in Tennessee (cities, counties, public school districts) from applying non-discrimination standards to the private sector that exceed state non-discrimination standards.
In other words, if the state non-discrimination standards don't include sexual orientation and gender identity, then neither can the local rules. Note: Local governments CAN forbid discrimination against their own employees based on sexual orientation and gender identity. But they can't require their contractors--private entities getting public money--from the doing the same.
The Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County contracts with dozens of companies that employ thousands of people every year. If the state law didn't exist, many LGBTQ employees of those firms would have inclusive non-discrimination protections. And that's important in a state that generally lacks them.
But remember that even though Metro Nashville is the only city or county that has passed a contractor ordinance, the state law prevents ALL cities and counties from having a contractor ordinance. So the the 2011 state law affects LGBTQ people in East, West, and Middle Tennessee.
Metro Nashville Council Member Anthony Davis explained why this is a bad idea a few years ago in testimony before a State Senate Committee in this video:
The 2011 state law has been challenged unsuccessfully in court, but new challenges may arise. Overturning the state law with legislative action would require substantial organization throughout Tennessee.
One thing we can do immediately as the new legislative session begins in January is continue to work against the Business License to Discriminate bill. That bill prevents state agencies and local governments from looking at the internal policies of private entities when awarding contracts. It could affect everything from health insurance for married same-sex couples to birth control.
TEP will keep you posted if this bill moves in the new year.
Are you registered to vote? You can register online at this link.
Would you considering making a $5+ monthly donation to support TEP's advocacy efforts at this link?