Local LGBT advocates will gather this Saturday for the first Mid-South Equality Across America event since the National Equality March in Washington D.C. earlier this month.
During the Oct. 31st meetup at Caritas Village at 11 a.m., advocates have three tasks — 1) call Maine, 2) write Congressman Steve Cohen, and 3) write the Memphis City Council.
On November 3rd, the citizens of Maine will vote on whether or not to maintain their inclusive law that allows marriage equality. A "no" vote would maintain Maine's allowance of same-sex marriages. Local Equality Across America folks will be calling voters in Maine to urge them to vote "no" on this measure.
They'll also be writing Congressman Steve Cohen to urge him to join 101 of his fellow congressmen by co-sponsoring HR 3567, which would repeal the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
And finally, the activists will be writing letters to the Memphis City Council, urging them to support a non-discrimination ordinance protecting LGBT city employees.
For more information, check out the Equality Across America - Mid-South Congressional Districts Action Team's Facebook page.
Currently, sexual orientation and gender identity are absent from Tennessee hate crimes laws. That means February 2008 transgender beating victim Duanna Johnson (who was shot later that year in an unrelated incident) wouldn't have had much recourse if she'd attempted to pursue her abuser — former Memphis Police officer Bridges McRae — with a hate crimes violation. McRae beat Johnson with handcuffs after she refused to answer to "he/she" and "fag."
On Thursday, October 29th, OutLaw and the Stonewall Tigers are hosting a panel discussion on the current status of hate crimes legislation in Tennessee. The panel will feature Representative Jeanne Richardson, Senator Beverly Marrero, Johnson's former attorney Murray Wells, hate crime survivor Jack Robinson, and Tennessee Equality Project board member Darlene Fike. The panel will run from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in rooms 250 and 252 in the Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law at the University of Memphis.
According to Backstreet Memphis' e-mail newsletter, the club is scheduled to re-open on Friday, Oct. 23rd.
While the club was closed under a nuisance order from the district attorney's office, it underwent a bit of a makeover. They're also boasting new DJs and entertainers.
The newsletter also mentioned that Backstreet is hiring for all positions. Those interested should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The city's largest gay dance club was raided and temporarily closed in early September as a public nuisance, the result of a months-long undercover police operation. Trice was arrested and charged with aggravated gambling promotion, storage of liquor for sale, possession of gambling device, and unlawful sale of alcohol.
Check back next week for more Memphis Gaydar updates. This blog will remain on vacation through next Tuesday, Oct. 27th (while Bianca is on vacation).
Congressman Pete Stark of California has proposed a federal bill — the Every Child Deserves a Family Act — that would deny funding to states that pass bills banning adoption by gay, transgender, or unmarried heterosexual parents.
According to Stark: "This legislation would simply prohibit any entity that receives federal child welfare funds from denying or delaying adoption or foster care placements based solely on the prospective parent’s marital status or sexual orientation. States and child welfare agencies that fail to end discriminatory practices would face financial penalties. This is the same approach that put an end to race discrimination in adoption and foster care placements."
Former Tennessee state senator Paul Stanley and Representative John DeBerry (both from Shelby County) proposed state legislation earlier this year that would ban adoption by any couple co-habitating in a sexual relationship outside of marriage. There hasn't been much action on that bill since last February.
The Tennessee Equality Project is urging LGBT advocates to be ready to fight the state adoption bill again when the legislature re-convenes.
For more information, check out this post on Grand Divisions: News and Comment from TN Politics.
Local gay rights activist Tommy Simmons served as the lead organizer of the statewide delegation for the National Equality March in Washington, D.C. last Sunday. He took a few moments to tell the Flyer about his experience.
Flyer: What was your overall impression of the march?
Simmons: Immediate success of a march can be gauged, in part, by the shear number of people who attended the march. I thought the turnout (most estimates between 150,000 and 200,000) was very impressive considering the few weeks we had to plan the event. Between 100 and 125 from Tennessee marched together under a Tennessee banner and a giant State of Tennessee flag.
What was the highlight of the event for you?
For me, the highlight was witnessing the large number of students at the march. For example, over 20 students marched together from the University of Tennessee and around 15 from Rhodes College. The future of the LGBT movement is in good hands.
Do you feel like President Barack Obama really got the message the march was intended to send?
Based on comments and actions (or lack thereof) prior to and immediately after the march, I am concerned that, not only President Obama, but members of Congress (both gay and straight ally), do not realize the magnitude of many LGBT voter’s frustrations and anger.
Since the Stonewall riots in 1969, we have lost ground in our fight for equality. Most of the ground lost was during the Clinton administration when both the Defense of Marriage Act and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell were passed. The message the president and members of Congress need to get is this: We will no longer accept compromises and fractions of equality.
What’s next for the local delegation?
Equality Across America, the group that planned the National Equality March, is a grassroots network of organizers in all 435 Congressional Districts. The local delegation will coalesce into the new Equality Across America — Mid-South Congressional Districts Action Team. We will take actions, build coalitions, change hearts and minds, and demand equality from our local federal leadership (US House and Senate).
For more information on the local chapter of Equality Across America, check out their Facebook page.
The Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center (MGLCC) is seeking donations of old clothes, kitchen items, collectibles, books, toys, and electronics for a fund-raising yard sale to be held on Saturday, Oct. 24th.
So clean out those closets and drop items off between noon and 9 p.m. Monday through Friday or from 2 to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Large items, such as furniture, will be accepted, but you might want to call the center at 278-6422 to arrange plans for getting the stuff to the center on the day of the sale. Space at MGLCC is limited for storing large items.
All the proceeds from the sale will benefit MGLCC programs. Donation receipts (for tax purposes) will be available.
The center is also seeking volunteers to help manage the sale. Contact them at email@example.com is you're interested.
Local filmmaker Mark Jones' soap opera webisode series On the Edge of Happiness screens Tuesday night at 6:45 p.m. at Studio on the Square as part of the Indie Memphis Film Festival.
The story, which originally aired online in four parts back in March, centers on conniving bride-to-be Sarah Perkins. Perkins stole her cousin's fiancé, who happens to be the richest bachelor in town. She's also sleeping with her college flame, hiding the fact that she's pregnant, and blackmailing her gay minister brother. To top it off, Sarah is shot in the first episode by a mystery assailant.
Jones describes the series as "one-third Dallas, one-third Dynasty, and one-third Gays of Our Lives." Though On the Edge is his first webisode series, Jones has produced two films — screwball comedy Eli Parker Is Getting Married? and campy B-horror flick Fraternity Massacre at Hell Island.
To read the full Flyer interview with Mark Jones, go here.
At least 35 people from Memphis are making the trip to Washington, D.C. for the National Equality March on Sunday, October 11th (also National Coming Out Day). Thousands of gay rights advocates from across the country will march to demand full federal LGBT equality in matters governed by civil law in all 50 states. That includes marriage rights, an end to the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, inclusive hate crimes laws and employment non-discrimination, and immigration laws that take into account same-sex partners of U.S. residents.
See the story in this week's Memphis Flyer Fly-By section for more.
This morning, local former Marine Tim Smith and I were interviewed on Public Radio International's The Takeaway (a new national morning news program) about the destruction of the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center's National Coming Out Day billboard at Poplar Avenue and High Street.
To hear the whole interview, go to The Takeaway's website and click "listen."
"The next time we hear somebody say, you're not fit to serve [in the military] because you're gay or lesbian, what are we going to do?" shouted Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center (MGLCC) director Will Batts to the crowd gathered in the worship hall at First Congregational Church for Sunday's equality rally.
"Raise our voice!" yelled the crowd of about 250 gay rights advocates. They gathered in response to last week's destruction of a pro-gay billboard on Poplar Avenue at High Street. The billboard, one of five National Coming Out Day billboards paid for by donations to MGLCC, featured local gay former Marine Tim Smith and the words "I'm gay and I protected your freedom." The billboard was replaced last week.
Despite Sunday's heavy rain, nearly every chair inside the worship hall was filled. The rally was originally planned to be held outside the church.
"The act of tearing down [Smith]'s billboard was an act of hate," speaker Jennifer Warren told the crowd. Warren appeared on another Coming Out Day billboard featuring straight supporters of the gay community.
Smith was greeted with a standing ovation upon approaching the podium after Warren's speech. The son of conservative parents in a small Mississippi town, Smith joined the Marines in 2001. He said it was the Marine code of "honor, courage, and commitment" that helped him find his voice and become honest with himself and others about his sexuality.
Smith came out to his friends and his church. When a military chaplain found out, Smith told the man he believed God loved him despite his sexuality.
"The chaplain had nothing else left to do but follow the rules," Smith said. He was discharged from the military under the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy.
Regarding the destruction of the billboard bearing his image, Smith says the vandals actually galvinized his commitment.
"They will not rob me of my honor by making me run and hide," Smith said. "If anything, they've galvinized my commitment to this community."
After the rally, county commissioner Steve Mulroy agreed: "My message to the billboard vandals is thank you for galvinizing the community and symbolizing what we're up against in Memphis."
A pro-gay billboard at Poplar Avenue and High Street was replaced Thursday, almost a week after vandals destroyed the original message. But the folks at the Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center (MGLCC) aren't stopping there.
On Sunday at 1 p.m., MGLCC members and gay rights advocates will gather in front of First Congregational Church to rally against hate in response to the destruction MGLCC's Coming Out Day billboard. One of five different pro-gay billboards across the city, the Poplar Avenue sign features gay former Marine Tim Smith with the words "I'm gay and I protected your freedom."
The rally will be followed by the final planning meeting for the local delegation going to the National Equality March in Washington DC on October 11th. That meeting will take place at 3 p.m. at MGLCC (892 S. Cooper).
Queer/trans cult heroes Lynnee Breedlove and Silas Howard (both formerly of the punk band Tribe 8) will be stopping in Memphis Friday night on their Mighty Real Tour. The night promises a couple of comedic dueling solo shows tackling gender issues, as well as performances by local artists. The event will be held in the Memphian Room at Playhouse on the Square, and it begins at 10:30 p.m.
Breedlove will perform "Confessions of a Poser: The Mystery of the Purple Dick, How Queers and Transmen Can Exploit Lesbian Legacies, and How to Be Both a Buddhist and a Man at the Same Time."
Howard will perform "Thank You For Being Urgent: A Textured Tale of a Queer Punk Spilling Into the Crappy and Exalted Glitter of Hollywood's Desire and Shame, True Tales of Fierce Outsiders, American Dream Loopholes, Burlesque Dancers with Dementia, and Tranny Jazzmen."
Backstreet drag performer Demonica will MC the event, which will also feature a cello performance by Tamar Moten, a belly dance by Chris Reeder, a drag king show by Will Ryder, sexy hula-hooping by Miss Provino, and burlesque routine by Memphis Belle Miss Lola Vee.
For more, check out the Mighty Real Tour Facebook page.