Make calls to the Dickson County Commission to fight the resolution!

We are so grateful to everyone working against the Dickson County anti-marriage equality resolution.  Please, make calls or send emails today or Monday between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. to urge the county commissioners to vote NO.  Leaving a polite but clear message is fine.

Here's a sample script:

"Hello, Commissioner _____________. This is _____________ and I live in Dickson County. I'm asking you to vote against the marriage resolution on January 19 because it is divisive and discriminatory. The county should have other priorities like economic development, which resolutions like these hurt. Thank you!" 

If you're a straight ally, talk about why you're an ally.  If you're a member of the LGBT community, talk about why marriage is important to you.  Add a personal element that makes the case.

Here are the commissioners by district with their phone numbers:

District 1
Randy Simpkins
601 Old Hwy 48
Charlotte, Tn 37036
(615) 789-6001

District 2
Jeff Eby
445 Hwy 46 S Suite 29
Dickson, TN 37055
(615) 206-7973

District 3
Shane Chandler
5450 Highway 49 W
Vanleer, TN 37181
(615) 763-0068

District 4
Kelly Weatherspoon
117 Breeden Road
Charlotte, TN  37036
(615) 517-1122

District 5
James "Cotton" Dawson
1688 Claylick Rd.
White Bluff, TN  37187
(615) 797-6383

District 6
Becky Spicer
1199 Moss Branch Road
Bon Aqua, TN  37025
(615) 412-5752

District 7
Carl Buckner
1525 East Piney Road
Dickson, TN 37055
(615) 446-3843

District 8
B Kyle Sanders
122 West End Avenue
Dickson, TN 37055
(615) 714-9142

District 9
Tony Adams
PO Box 664
Dickson, TN 37056
(615) 210-0400

District 10
Buford Reed
108 Lone Oak Dr.
Dickson, TN  37055
(615) 446-3409

District 11
Linda P Hayes
PO Box 582
Dickson, TN 37056
(615) 446-9715

District 12
Jeff Spencer
113 Marty Lane
White Bluff, TN 37187
(615) 574-0662

And, of course, if you can wear RED on January 19 to the county commission meeting, that will also help.  RSVP at the link.

Gratefully yours,

Chris Sanders
Executive Director

Including LGBT rights and issues in campus diversity programs is too much, according to Rep. Daniel

The Knoxville News Sentinel covered the recent meeting of the East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists, which included the unfortunate comments of State Rep. Martin Daniel and a justified question:

"We support diversity programs at any institution of higher learning, but it has gotten out of hand," said Daniel, a frequent critic of the diversity initiatives at UT. "It has taken on a whole life of its own, spilling over into other areas like transgender rights and gay and lesbian issues."

"What's wrong with that?" asked someone in the audience.

Expect attacks on UT-Knoxville's Office of Diversity and Inclusion and other campus diversity efforts this legislative session.



Will the Washington County Commission attack Elton John's marriage?


Elton John and his band are returning to Johnson City in March, according to the Bristol Herald Courier.   Johnson City is located in Washington County whose county commission will take up an anti-marriage equality resolution on January 25.

John married David Furnish in 2014.  He talks about the importance of family in the Bristol Herald Courier piece:

“The simple truth is I want to spend more time with my family and less time touring,” said John in the statement. “I am all too aware of how precious the time ahead is. My sons are growing up so quickly. Their early years are just flying by and I want to be there with them.

"This concert will give me a chance to say thank you to my fans here who have been so faithful over the decades. It’s always important for me to bring my music to everyone.”

It's bad enough that the Washington County anti-marriage resolution would make its own citizens feel unwelcome.  But the message to visitors is also worth considering.

Thank you, Kal, for the photo!

Meet the Teams of 2016 TEP Gumbo Contest

10432156_10204934716740652_8678442580090388390_n.jpgAt this posting, the 6th Annual TEP Gumbo Contest and Mardi Gras Party is just 10 days away. The competition will feature tasting of 16 gumbos from 15 teams, craft beer from Memphis Made and High Cotton breweries, New Orleans jazz from the Hot Memphis 4, awards for best gumbo and local Champions of Equality at the Bridges Center in Downtown Memphis on Sunday, January 24, 2016 from 4:30 - 7 PM. 

Purchase your tickets at this link.  General Admission Tickets are $25 for 21 and older and $15 for under 21. 

It's time we met all of this year's teams and team leaders:

Read more

The Legislature is back in session.

The 109th General Assembly of the State of Tennessee just reconvened and discrimination is on the agenda. 

The Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act has already been filed.  One representative discussed filing a bill that would prohibit transgender students from using restrooms and changing rooms that correspond with their gender identity.  Legislators are going to investigate diversity programming at our public colleges and universities.  And they're not looking to celebrate diversity, but to control the promotion of it.

Meanwhile in local government, county commissions around the state are considering anti-marriage equality resolutions in hopes that the Legislature will take us back to the days before marriage equality.  Rutherford County's is up this week and a large group in red is gathering to show support for marriage equality.

What can you do?

1. If your county is considering an anti-marriage equality resolution, show up in red to oppose it.  Here's a list of upcoming county commission meetings and other events.  

2. Tell the members of the State Senate not to file or sponsor a companion bill to the anti-transgender bathroom legislation at this link.

3. RSVP for TEP's 12th annual Advancing Equality Day on the Hill on March 8.

4. Consider supporting all our work of fighting back against discriminatory legislation with a monthly investment or a one-time contribution.

Together we can raise our voices for a more inclusive, equitable Tennessee.

Champions of Equality will be recognized at TEP Gumbo Contest

Whoarethechampions.jpgTennessee Equality Project will recognize two Champions of Equality from Shelby County at the TEP Gumbo Contest and Mardi Gras Party on January 24, 2016 at the Bridges Center in Downtown Memphis. These champions effected positive policy changes to bring equality and fairness to their communities in Tennessee. 

Read more

Why showing up matters: Reminders from Dickson County

Some lessons are tough.  On Monday in Dickson County we were reminded of why showing up matters . 

The Dickson dicksoncountygroup.jpgCounty Commission unanimously voted to put an anti-marriage equality resolution on their agenda at the January 19 meeting.

As the picture shows, we had a good crowd of equality advocates in red, but the other side had 4 times our numbers AND they showed up early and took up all the seats.

The night wasn't a total loss.  I believe that was the largest gathering of equality advocates at a public meeting in Dickson County history and it was great for the public to see representatives of our perspective.  Despite the fact that we lost and were outnumbered, we are now visible in Dickson County, and LGBT people and allies are fired up to be a presence at the January 19 meeting.

Just like in voting, turnout in advocacy is key.  Win or lose, we're going to keep turning out.

Here are opportunities for you to be a visible presence for equality:

January 14--Rutherford County.

January 19--Dickson County.

January 19--Carter County.

January 25--Hawkins County.

January 25--Unicoi County.

See you there.

Why Madison County?

I noted in the previous post that TEP is going to make a more intensive focus on Wilson, Madison, and Blount Counties in 2016.  Last time, we took a look at Wilson County.  Today we're talking about Madison County.

With a population of just over 98,000 people, according to the 2010 Census, Madison County(the City of Jackson particularly)  is a regional center for West Tennessee.  Because it is located between Nashville and Memphis on I-40 and because seven West Tennessee counties share its border, Madison County could be an important refuge for LGBT people in the area.

The area is heavily contested politically and culturally--with Democrats struggling to hold on in the face of a rising Republican tide.  Talk radio in the area is laced with negative references to abortion and LGBT people.  Over 32% of the population is African-American.  A significant higher education presence in the area creates opportunities and challenges.  Groups like Jackson State Community College's strong GSA are a source of strength and yet institutions like Union University have made more socially conservative pronouncements on marriage in recent months.

Measuring existing attitudes about LGBT people and attempting to improve them will be an important task if we want to help West Tennessee LGBT people make a better life for themselves.


Why Wilson County?

New Project:  In the new year, the TEP Foundation is going to undertake a new project with a particular focus on three counties in Tennessee--Madison, Wilson, and Blount.  And we're going to try to see what the existing attitudes toward LGBT people are and figure out what might increase acceptance of LGBT people in these areas.

Why Wilson County?

Wilson County is in Middle Tennessee, just to the East of Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County.  It's an area of rapid growth while still retaining a significant rural character.  The population is around 114,000, as of the 2010 Census.  Significant industry is taking note of the area.  Under Armour's massive facility in Mt. Juliet is evidence of that trend.

Bad Legislation:  Unfortunately Wilson County has been the source of significant anti-equality legislation in the Tennessee General Assembly.  In 2011, Sen. Mae Beavers sponsored the bill that nullified Metro Nashville's contractor non-discrimination ordinance.  She and Rep. Mark Pody have tried to advance bills to undo Vanderbilt's all-comers non-discrimination policy for student clubs.  And the duo have gotten back together to sponsor the Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act up for consideration in 2016.

So it seems pretty important to figure why such discriminatory bills are originating in Wilson County and whether anything can be done to shift the culture of acceptance.  If we can learn anything in Wilson County, the lessons might be applicable throughout the state.

Get Involved:  If you would like to volunteer for our Wilson County team, click here and select the appropriate option.  You don't have to live in Wilson County to do so.

If you would like to be part of a phone bank on Feb. 15 when we do our survey of Wilson County voters on LGBT issues, RSVP here

I hope you will join us for this exciting project.  For more information, contact us at .

Knox County Commission did not take up the anti-marriage equality resolution tonight

The Knox County Commission did not take up an anti-marriage equality resolution tonight.  Commissioners had been urged to do so by a man identified as Mark Rivera.  But when he was called on speak on Monday night, he failed to show up.

In contrast, many in red were in the chamber to show their opposition to any anti-marriage equality resolution.  6 people spoke against such a measure including Gwen Schablik, David Payne, and former State Rep. Gloria Johnson. 

TEP is grateful to all who showed up to oppose discrimination tonight and we are grateful to the Knox County Commission for not taking up the resolution. 

Here is an updated map on anti-marriage equality resolution battles in Tennessee

If you would like to support TEP's advocacy efforts, you can do so at the link.

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