The good, the bad, and the bizarre: Recap of anti-equality legislation for Feb. 10

Here's your recap of what happened in the Legislature today with anti-equality measures.

The Good:  It wasn't all bad news.  Rep. Holt's marriage caption bill was deferred to the final calendar of the House Civil Justice Subcommittee meeting of the session.  For now, that is great news.  The bill is not ready...either because the content isn't ready or the votes aren't there.  In either case, it's good to have a short break on that bill.

The Bad:  The Counseling Discrimination bill, though amended, passed in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee today. One encouraging part of the amendment was that counselors who opt out of serving certain clients based on the counselor's beliefs must make a referral.  However, the current ethics code makes provision for this.  In the Senate, the bill moves next to the Calendar Committee and then likely to the Senate floor.  It is up for consideration in the House Health Subcommittee on Feb. 16.  Join us in RED at 1:30 in Legislative Plaza next Tuesday.  RSVP at the link.

The Bizarre:  Rep. Lynn and Rep. Durham's anti-marriage equality resolution passed in the House Civil Justice Subcommittee today 3 to 2.  It was amended to focus more on the legal challenges brought by the Family Action Council against the Williamson and Bradley County clerks.  Why is this bizarre?  In showing support for the lawsuits against clerks, the Legislature would basically be saying Tennessee currently has no marriage statute and all marriages (same-sex and different-sex) performed on or after June 26, 2015 are null and void.  But if the Legislature really believed that, wouldn't it make more sense to pass a marriage bill since, according to the fantastical world created by this lawsuit, Tennessee doesn't have one?  It seems that legislators are missing the boat.  The resolution is up for consideration in the full House Civil Justice Committee on Feb. 16 at 9:00 a.m.  Please, be there in RED.

If you would like to support our legislative efforts, please, do so at the link.

Huge week for equality advocacy in Tennessee: What to know, what to do!

The week of February 8-14 may turn out to be one of the biggest this year for equality advocacy in Tennessee.  Here's what's coming up and what you can do.

1. Monday, Feb. 8--The Franklin County High School GSA has come under attack from some adults in the community who have gone so far as to compare the group to ISIS/ISIL/Daesh.  The Franklin County School Board meets at 6:30 p.m. Prior to the meeting there is a rally.  For more information, go to this link.  TEP plans to join others that night to support the GSA.

2. Tuesday, Feb. 9--The Counseling Discrimination bill is up for consideration in the House Health Subcommittee at 1:30 in Legislative Plaza Room 30.  Feel free to attend if you are available.  Tell the subcommittee to vote NO at this link.

3. Wednesday, Feb. 10--3 items are up for consideration that day.

(a) The Counseling Discrimination bill is up for consideration in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee at 12:30 in Room 12.  We encourage you to attend in RED.  RSVP here.  Sign the petition against the bill here.

(b) Rep. Susan Lynn and Rep. Jeremy Durham's resolution opposing marriage equality is up for a vote in the House Civil Justice Subcommittee at 3:00 p.m. in Legislative Plaza Room 31.   We encourage you to attend in RED.  RSVP for the event hereSign the petition against the resolution here. 

(c) Rep. Holt's marriage caption bill that will probably become an anti-marriage equality bill is up in the House Civil Justice Subcommittee at 3:00 in Legislative Plaza Room 31.  What do we mean by a caption bill?  A caption bill is filed so that it opens a section of the Tennessee Code.  What often happens is that legislators file a caption bill and then change it to do something else when they get to committee.  Why would we think this is a caption bill?  We think so because 5 similar bills have been filed this year that adjust the amount of time people have to turn in a marriage license.  Has there been a sudden public outcry about that issue?  No, so we rightly suspect that the bill is being used to carry some other marriage issue.  All those filing such bills have publicly opposed marriage equality.  Rep. Holt did so in a statement on June 26 when the Supreme Court made its ruling.

If you don't believe us that this is probably going to turn into an anti-marriage equality bill, we'll be glad to discuss with you the 5 other similar caption bills and you can make up your own mind.  Contact us at . Better safe than sorry, though, right?

We ask you to attend the meeting in RED.  RSVP at the link.

If you would like to support our legislative advocacy work, go to this link.

Thank you for all you do to advance equality in Tennessee.

TEP thanks the Metro Nashville Council for passing a pro-marriage equality resolution last night



February 3, 2016:  Nashville, TN--The Tennessee Equality Project thanks the Metropolitan Council of Nashville and Davidson County for passing a pro-marriage equality resolution last night at their regular meeting.  The resolution was passed on voice vote and, according to observers, was unanimous by those Council Members on the floor at the time the vote was taken.  The resolution easily passed the confirmation and rules committee with only one abstention prior to going to the floor of the Council for a vote.

Among those joining lead sponsor Council Member Nancy VanReece were the following cosponsors:  Council Members Brett Withers, Burkley Allen, Bob Mendes, Dave Rosenberg, Fabian Bedne, Michael Freeman, Mina Johnson, Scott Davis, Colby Sledge, John Cooper, and Erica Gilmore.  Others may have been added just prior to the Council meeting.  

The resolution is the first of its kind in Tennessee.  County commissions around the state have been considering anti-marriage equality resolutions since the fall of 2015.  For a breakdown of county anti-marriage equality resolutions and anti-marriage equality state legislation before the General Assembly, go to this link.

A pro-marriage equality resolution introduced in Nashville/Davidson County

The Tennessee Equality Project thanks Metro Council Member Nancy VanReece for introducing the first pro-marriage equality resolution by a county government in Tennessee.  You can read it here

Other co-sponsors so far include Council Members Brett Withers, Burkley Allen, Bob Mendes, Dave Rosenberg, Fabian Bedne, Michael Freeman, Mina Johnson, and Scott Davis.  TEP is grateful for their support as well.

Assuming the resolution passes in committee, it will be up for consideration by the full Council on Feb 16.  Please, join us in RED for that event.

For information on county anti-marriage equality resolutions considered in 2015 and 2016, go to this map.

Final Scores for the TEP Gumbo Contest 2016

All of the gumbo teams are winners in the eyes of Tennessee Equality Project, but the judges and people tasting the gumbos had to make difficult choices on who was the best.

Five (5) judges scored each team’s gumbo on a 1 to 5 point-scale for aroma, consistency, taste and aftertaste. The points awarded by each judge was added (the highest possible score = 100 = 20 points x 5 judges).

The People's Choice Gumbo was judged only by public vote. The gumbo with the most votes became the winner of this competition. Unfortunately, the total vote counts for the People's Choice competition for all team gumbos were lost during clean-up after the event. 

Read more

Embattled Rep. Durham a co-prime sponsor of resolution attacking Supreme Court marriage ruling

No human being can be 100% consistent, but it's painful to learn that Rep. Jeremy Durham, who resigned as Tennessee House Majority Whip over the weekend, is a co-prime sponsor of an anti-marriage equality resolution in the Legislature.

He has been accused of sending inappropriate text messages to women.

We can't stop hypocrisy from popping up in the Legislature, but we can speak out about resolutions that attack our community.  Please, add your name as a co-sponsor to the People's Resolution against all this legislative whining about marriage.

Four county anti-marriage equality resolutions up for consideration in Tennessee today

January 25--Up to four county anti-marriage equality resolutions may be up for consideration across Tennessee today.  Click on the link for each county for details.

Hawkins County--9:00 a.m. Eastern Time in Rogersville.  We could not confirm the meeting is still on due to weather considerations.

Unicoi County--6:00 p.m. Eastern Time in Erwin.  We have heard the resolution has been pulled from the agenda, but the Commission could still suspend the rules and introduce it at the last minute.

Washington County--6:00 p.m. Eastern Time in Jonesborough.  Expect a big crowd in RED.

Hickman County--7:00 p.m. Central Time in Centerville. 

***If you are able to attend any of these events, please, do so in RED if possible to show opposition to these divisive, discriminatory resolutions.


Anti-transgender, RFRA, anti-marriage equality bills filed in TN Legislature

A host of new anti-LGBT bills have been filed over the last two days in Tennessee.  Here are a few:

1. Anti-transgender student bathroom bill.  Filed by Rep. Susan Lynn and Sen. Mike Bell, the bill would require students to use the restrooms and changing rooms that correspond to gender on their birth certificates.

2. RFRA/Limited Turn the Gays Away bill.  Filed by Rep. Holt and Sen. Bowling, the bill would "protect" any member of the clergy, religious institution, or organization controlled by a religious institution from having to solemnize any marriage they disagree with or providing services in connection with any marriage they disagree with. 

3. Marriage bills.  A general nullification bill that is clearly inspired by the marriage issue, again filed by Rep. Pody and Sen. Beavers.  Various caption bills that seem to deal with other issues, but could actually be shell bills that can be amended to become attacks on marriage equality later.  We should be watching to see what they become.  This one is by Rep. Timothy Hill and Sen. Bailey.  This one is by Rep. Matthew Hill and Sen. SoutherlandThis one is by Rep. Hulsey and Sen. BowlingThis one is by Rep. Rogers and Sen. BeaversThis one is by Rep. Womick and Rep. Beavers.   This one by Rep. Holt and Sen. Bailey.    And this troublesome bill by Rep. Van Huss and Sen. Bowling that prevents public officials from solemnizing marriages. This makes it harder for people who aren't members of congregations (of every sexual orientation and gender identity) to get married.  Here's a resolution by Rep. Lynn expressing disagreement with the Supreme Court's marriage ruling.

4. Marriage and gender identity all in one bill.  Here's a bill by Rep. Sparks and Sen. Beavers that not only defines husband and wife in government documents, but even more fundamentally male and female.  It makes documents that don't adhere to these definitions void.  This is another vicious attack on the transgender community.

5. A new form of the counseling discrimination bill is back and it applies to more than just students this time.  Filed by Sen. Jack Johnson and Rep. Dan Howell, the bill would apply to counselors in private practice and allow them to turn clients away based on sincerely held religious beliefs.



1. Watch for email updates and updates on Facebook on specific bills and take action.

2. Make plans to join us for Advancing Equality Day on the Hill on March 8.

3. Fuel the fight with a small contribution to increase our advocacy efforts.

Make calls to the Carter County Commission to fight the resolution

Tomorrow (Tuesday) morning, the Carter County Commission is considering an anti-marriage equality resolution at 9:00 a.m.

*Can you attend in RED to show your opposition?  RSVP at the link.

*Do you have time today to call the Carter County Commissioners and ask them to vote NO on the resolution?  If so, here's a script you can adapt with contact information.  Leaving a message is fine.  :

"Commissioner ___________________, my name is _________________, and I live in ___________________.  Please, vote NO on the marriage resolution that comes before the commission tomorrow.  I believe it is divisive and discriminatory.  It hurts people I know and care about it, and it tarnishes the image of Carter County.  Thank you for considering my views."

1st District - Hunter, Midway, and Unaka communities

Willie Campbell
101 Little Stoney Rd.
Elizabethton, TN 37643

1st District

(423) 547-0085

Buford Peters
371 Peters Hollow Rd.
Elizabethton, TN 37643

1st District

(423) 297-0059

Robert Acuff
126 Wilshire Dr.
Elizabethton, TN 37643

1st District

(423) 794-6770


2nd District - Hampton, Roan Mountain, and Tiger Valley

Nancy J. Brown
147 Smith Branch Road
Roan Mountain, TN 37687

2nd District

(423) 772-4719

Mike Hill
335 Bear Cage Rd.
Roan Mountain, TN 37687

2nd District

(828) 265-9974

Al Meehan
136 Mountain View Cr.
Hampton, TN 37658

2nd District

(423) 895-1023


3rd District - Central, Keenburg, and Range

Bradley Johnson
501 Dogwood Lane
Watauga, TN 37694

3rd District

(423) 542-8149

Ronnie Trivett
107 S. C. Slagle Road
Elizabethton, TN 37643

3rd District

(423) 542-4534

Charles Von Cannon
198 Von Cannon Drive
Johnson City, TN 37601

3rd District

(423) 202-7677


4th District - Courthouse, Eastside, and Siam Communities

Isaiah Grindstaff
1267 Charity Hill Rd.
Elizabethton, TN 37643

4th District

(423) 707-1140

L. C. Tester
934 DeJarnette Street
Elizabethton, TN 37643

4th District

(423) 547-2884

Danny Ward
124 Overstone Dr.
Elizabethton, TN 37643

4th District

(423) 213-8537


5th District - Happy Valley

Ross Garland
1406 Milligan Hwy.
Johnson City, TN 37601

5th District

(423) 943-2380

Bobbie Gouge-Dietz
138 Wildwood Drive
Johnson City, TN 37601

5th District

(423) 926-9824

Timothy Holdren
156 Toll Branch Rd.
Johnson City, TN 37601

5th District

(423) 444-2266


6th District - Hampton, Little Milligan, Elk Mills, Valley Forge

Randall Jenkins
124 Ross Jenkins Cr.
Elizabethton, TN 37643

6th District

(423) 647-8464

John G. Lewis
P.O. Box 182
Hampton, TN 37658

6th District

(423) 725-2453

Larry Doc Miller
140 Green Hollow Rd.
Butler, TN 37640

6th District

(423) 768-3185


7th District - Gap Creek

Sonja Culler
113 Marsh Lane
Elizabethton, TN 37643

7th District

(423) 542-8020

Ray Lyons
237 McKeehan Ridge Rd.
Elizabethton, TN 37643

7th District

(423) 677-7896

Scott Simerly
398 Max Jett Rd.
Johnson City, TN 37601

7th District

(423) 542-0442


8th District - Elizabethton High School, Harold McCormick

Robert Carroll
713 West D St.
Elizabethton, TN 37643

8th District

(423) 543-0271

Robert L. Gobble
400 M Street
Elizabethton, TN 37643

8th District

(423) 542-5127

Cody McQueen
309 E. Mill St.
Elizabethton, TN 37643

8th District

(423) 213-6396

Gratefully yours,

Chris Sanders
Executive Director

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

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