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.

Ways to get involved near you over the next 7 days

It's a busy week ahead for the work of advancing equality in Tennessee.  Please, consider attending one of these events near you.

June 20--Murfreesboro--Rutherford County Committee meeting at 6:45 p.m.  RSVP at the link

June 21--Nashville--Thank you reception for supporters of the gender-neutral bathroom ordinance at 8:30 p.m.  RSVP at the link.

June 22--Memphis--Voter registration and pizza party at 6:30 p.m.  RSVP at the link.

June 23--Franklin--TEP Williamson County exploratory meeting at 6:30 p.m.  RSVP at the link.

June 26--Johnson City--TEP Tri-Cities Committee meeting and coffee at 1:30 p.m.  RSVP at the link.

Gathering as a community is as important now as it has ever been.  I hope we'll see you soon.

Breaking: Fayette County Commission passes anti-trans, anti-Obama resolution

Based on an email from Commissioner Tim Goodroe, I am sad to report that the Fayette County Commission passed a resolution calling on state officials to defy reggiehoward.pngPresident Obama's guidance on the civil rights of transgender students.  The measure passed 17 to 0 with one member of the Commission passing/not voting. 

The resolution was brought by Commissioner Reggie Howard. 

TEP just learned about the resolution this morning from a concerned citizen and we began contacting county officials to learn more and attempt to get the Commission to change course.

TEP offers the following statement:

"The Tennessee Equality Project condemns the action of the Fayette County Commission.  The resolution was not on the agenda for tonight's meeting so the public had no time to respond.  The resolution falsely assumes that transgender students are a threat and that bathroom policies are a major factor in the safety of women and girls.  The resolution fails completely in this respect.  The commission's duty is to fund education in the county and commissioners take an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States.  Instead, tonight a majority of the Commission voted for defiance and against some of their own citizens."

If your local government is considering a similar resolution, contact us at .

If you would like to invest in our work of fighting discrimination, you can give at the link.

What difference does ministry make?

What difference does ministry make?  For many, none.  They're not part of so-called organized religion and wish it would go away. 

Ministry matters in Tennessee:  For many others, though, ministry plays a significant role in their lives in the sense that the clergy person provides significant teaching and care that shape their lives. And it matters in the sense that, as lay persons, they, too participate in ministries that touch people's lives.

I'm happy to be challenged on this point, but I suspect most people in Tennessee at some point in their lives come into the gargoyle.jpgorbit of ministry and are affected by it.  It may shape their thinking about issues.  It may have saved them from going hungry or being without shelter. 

It may also be a painful experience of abuse--sexual, emotional, or otherwise.  It could be a force that caused them to love some parts of themselves and hate others, a force that challenged them to be better or an overwhelming force that caused them to buckle under the pressure of trying to be good enough.

Ministry affects those who aren't religious:  Even those who are not members of congregations are often affected by ministry.  Ministry influences public policy and public policy affects all of us--programs for the poor, Bible bills, abortion regulations, anti-transgender bathroom bills, human trafficking legislation, and many other issues are shaped by the quality and quantity of ministry in a particular state or jurisdiction.

Ministry is going to exist in Tennessee.  Public policy, such as it is, is going to exist in Tennessee.  And they're going to shape each other.  So I contend we all have an interest in the quality of ministry in our state.  It is actually a public issue on which the public can and should comment.

Thinking about interpretation is key:  Here's an example I used to give when I spoke to groups.  Why is it that a student in a senior English class in say, Polk County, is made to sweat bullets interpreting a poem written in American English in the 1950s, but later that night, her youth minister, who has no formal training, cracks open a letter attributed to St. Paul for which we have no original manuscript written in Greek almost 2000 years ago to new urban Christians and this youth minister somehow effortlessly creates life lessons for 21st-century rural Southern teenagers? 

And yet that happens EVERY WEEK in Tennessee with thousands of people shaping their moral and political views. I could just as easily have chosen an example about sermons or any other kind of ministry, but you get the point.  People in Tennessee have been shaped to believe that it's hard to read a poem, but that anyone can interpret and apply the Bible.  And, gosh, people apply the strangest passages to the oddest issues.  Consider Rep. Eddie Smith's use of the Cain and Abel story to justify his position on guns.

Our challenge is to show the impact of the practice of ministry in such a way that we can reshape it.  We should scrutinize it.  We should expect more of it.  We should expect the best because it affects all of us, regardless of our personal religious views.

LGBT people and our allies, religious or not, in particular have an interest in the quality of ministry in our state because we are all too aware of the negative impact it has had on our community.  But the negative history is not the whole story, nor is it destiny.  Let's use our voices to make it better.

Franklin Graham visit to Capitol highlights need for separation of religion and discrimination

Yesterday Franklin Graham, son of the legendary evangelist Billy Graham, was in Nashville leading a prayer rally of thousands outside the Capitol.

By all news accounts, his remarks included listing marriage equality as one of our country's evils, on par with racism.

There's no way to know how many of those in attendance agreed with all of his positions on every issue.  But there was no rebuttal.  I might add that most of the news accounts didn't provide time for other views either.

How many times do we remind ourselves "We've got more work to do?"  But it's true.

We have more work to do engaging the media on the issue of the separation of religion and discrimination because there are many people in Tennessee who would like to see that kind of divorce. 

We have to engage those on the other side.

If you haven't already, sign the statement on the separation of religion and discrimination.  Let's reshape the conversation in Tennessee.

Counseling discrimination becomes law; TEP launches Counseling Unconditionally

After working with allies the entire legislative session, especially the American Counseling Association and many counselors in Tennessee, to defeat HB1840, we had hoped for a veto.  We know the Governor carefully considered his decision, but the reality we now face is that counselors will be able to discriminate against clients based on the counselor’s principles.  We continue to worry particularly about rural LGBT people who may not have adequate resources for counseling in their communities. 

Counseling Unconditionally:  To address the need for counseling across the state, we are launching Counseling Unconditionally today.  This initiative allows counselors, therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers to identify themselves as practitioners who will not turn away clients simply based on their values and principles.  Those interested may sign up at .  We know that the vast majority of professionals are eager to help everyone who walks through their door.  Their compassion and commitment to ethical standards of care can help repair some of the damage this legislation has caused.  It will take legislation or a court order to do the rest.

UT-Knoxville diversity:  Please, continue to share the petition urging the Governor to veto the bill that strips funds from the diversity office at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.  Here is the link so you can take action.

We are grateful for all your work.

Chris Sanders
Executive Director

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