Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Pageant: The Musical

Posted By on Wed, Mar 9, 2016 at 2:11 PM

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Pageant: The Musical, a beauty pageant-based show featuring six contestants (all played by men in drag), opens at Circuit Playhouse this weekend.

In the show, the contestants are competing for the title of Miss Glamouresse in the categories of best swimsuit, talent, gown, and spokesmodel, and since the judges are selected from the audience, no two performances are the same.

Pageant runs March 11th through April 9th, but there will be a special preview show on Thursday, March 10th benefitting the Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center's youth services programming. 

Tickets to that fundraising performance are $45, and that includes a cocktail hour reception from 7 to 8 p.m. The show begins at 8 p.m. that night. For tickets to that performance, go here.

For ticket prices and time for the show's regular run, check out the Playhouse on the Square website.


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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

MGLCC Receives Grant to Expand HIV Testing, Programs

Posted By on Tue, Mar 8, 2016 at 1:04 PM

Elton John
  • Elton John
The Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center (MGLCC) has received a $75,000 grant from the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF) and the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation to expand the center's HIV testing and outreach efforts.

The local grant is part of $330,000 in grant funds awarded to organizations that fight HIV/AIDS across the South.

“The U.S. South is the global epicenter of the AIDS crisis – driven by discrimination, rampant economic inequality, and a lack of access to quality healthcare,” said EJAF Chairman David Furnish. “Our two foundations realize the urgency of this crisis. With these grants, we’re supporting the advocacy and action that will, once and for all, change the course of this epidemic.”

MGLCC will use the funds to launch the Memphis SYNAPSE Project, which will reach out specifically to gay, bisexual, and transgender African-Americans. That project will allow the MGLCC to begin providing at-home HIV tests for those who need them. Previously, the testing was only available at the center. The project also includes the launch of Healthy Relationships, an evidence-based intervention for HIV-positive people. The grant funds will also go toward PSAs announcing the SYNAPSE program.

MGLCC will also be able to hire two new staff members with the funding, and it will support the launch of "Bold and Beautiful," a support group for transgender women.

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Thursday, March 3, 2016

Tennessee House Passes Anti-Marriage Equality Resolution

Posted By on Thu, Mar 3, 2016 at 1:12 PM

Susan Lynn
  • Susan Lynn
The Tennessee House of Representative has passed a resolution expressing disagreement with the U.S. Supreme Court's Obergefell v. Hodges decision — the case that cleared the way for legal same-sex marriage across the country last summer.

The resolution, which was sponsored by Representative Susan Lynn (R-Mt. Juliet), passed in a 73-18 vote. It has no legal force, and Representative Mike Stewart (D-Nashville) called the resolution a waste of time. Representative Sherry Jones (D-Nashville) tried to tack on a resolution that would have required the state to pay any legal fees associated with lawsuits against local governments that refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but that amendment failed.

Here's the Tennessee Equality Project response to the resolution's passage (first published in the Nashville Scene):
TEP condemns House passage of HJR529 today on the House floor. Though it has no legal force, the resolution insults the LGBT community with yet another vote on something that should not be voted on, namely, basic rights. The resolution furthermore celebrates lawsuits against local governments in our state, which will take up the time of county clerks and the resources of taxpayers. Yet, the Legislature refused an amendment by Rep. Sherry Jones, which would have required the state to pay for legal costs associated with the lawsuits. Legislative attacks on Tennessee's LGBT community have become desperate and bizarre.
Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Mt. Juliet—the resolution’s sponsor—said it supports strange lawsuits like the one from the Family Action Council claiming the state’s marriage law is invalid now because of Obergefell and seeking to force county clerks to stop giving marriage licenses to gay or straight couples.
On March 8th, the House Education Administration and Planning Subcommittee will consider an anti-transgender bill that bars public school students from using bathrooms or showers that correspond to their gender identities. 

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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Brian Kelsey Drops Bill Supporting Racist, Sexist, Homophobic School Leader

Posted By on Wed, Feb 24, 2016 at 12:55 PM

Douglas Wilson
  • Douglas Wilson
State Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) has dropped a bill that would give school accreditation authority to the Association of Classical and Christian Schools, which was founded by a far-right religious leader who has expressed support of slavery and advocated for the exile of gays.

Douglas Wilson, the founder of that association, is perhaps best-known for co-writing a pamphlet called Southern Slavery, As It Was, which stated that "slavery produced in the South a genuine affection between the races that we believe we can say has never existed in any nation before the War or since."

When Kelsey's bill was heard in the Senate on Monday, Senator Jeff Yarbro (D-Dyersburg) questioned why Kelsey would bring forth a bill supporting the organization of a man who defended slavery. Kelsey replied, "I'm not sure of the actual person." Apparently, Kelsey hadn't done his research on Wilson. A simple Google search turns up all kinds of choice quotes from the founder of the evangelical Christ Church in Idaho.

Here's another quote from Wilson's Southern Slavery pamphlet:
“Sodomites parade in the streets, claiming that if we do not appropriate more money to study why people with foul sexual habits get sick, we are somehow violating their civil rights. Feminists, in rebellion against God, invert the order of the home established by God. They do so in a way that seeks to rob women of their beauty in submission and their security in being loved. For two decades, we have seen millions of unborn children slaughtered in abortion clinics. How did we get here, and what is the way out? The question cannot be answered fully without careful study of the War Between the States and the controversies surrounding it. Slavery was one of those controversies.”
And another anti-gay Wilson quote:
“You might exile some homosexuals, depending on the circumstances and the age of the victim. There are circumstances where I’d be in favor of execution for adultery. … I’m not proposing legislation. All I’m doing is refusing to apologize for certain parts of the Bible.”
Technically, the bill isn't dead yet, but Kelsey has said he's moved it back to the Senate Calendar Committee and isn't planning to pursue it this year. 


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Thursday, February 18, 2016

Fundraiser to Benefit LGBTQ Youth Housing Project

Posted By on Thu, Feb 18, 2016 at 12:25 PM

In December, the Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center (MGLCC) announced an ambitious plan to house the city's LGBTQ homeless youth in temporary shelters fashioned from shipping containers.

“We’re going alter the containers by adding windows and doors and making them into individual living spaces with a bedroom and a bathroom,” said MGLCC Youth Services Manager Stephanie Reyes. “And we’ll have an administration building there with a classroom, where we’ll teach classes on writing a resume, nutrition, and life skills.”

Greg Utterback, who lives out of state and has only visited MGLCC one time, gave the center the funds to purchase property in Orange Mound from the Shelby County Land Bank. The shipping containers will be set up on that land, but MGLCC is still looking for donors to fund the program, which they've dubbed the Metamorphosis Project.

On Sunday, February 21st, they're having their first major fundraising event for the project. The party will be held at the Hilton Memphis (939 Ridge Lake Blvd) at 4 p.m. and will feature live music by Alex da Ponte. There will be a live auction to purchase items that will be used in the housing project. Tickets to the fundraiser are $40 for singles or $75 for couples. For more information, see the event's Facebook page.


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Friday, January 29, 2016

Cherry Does Bowie

Posted By on Fri, Jan 29, 2016 at 12:09 PM

The monthly Cherry party, billed as a place for "freaks, queers, Burlesque dancers, and everyone else," will pay homage to the late David Bowie with its "Bowie Burlesque" show on Saturday, January 30th at Earnestine & Hazel's.

Requiemma, Will Ryder, Lady Doo Moi, and Kitty Wompas will perform their "interpretations of Bowie's genius," according to Cherry host/singer/comedian Julie Wheeler.

The Cherry party is typically in the 5 Spot behind Earnestine & Hazel's, but the show may be moved to the front room of the bar due to a scheduling conflict with a dance party.

Doors open at 8:30 p.m. and the shows are scheduled for 9:30 and 11 p.m. General admission is $10, and VIP (saved seat, signed Cherry poster) is $20.



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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Anti-Same-Sex Marriage Bill Dies in Subcommittee

Posted By on Thu, Jan 21, 2016 at 8:27 AM

Mark Pody was one of the bill's sponsors
  • Mark Pody was one of the bill's sponsors
A state bill that would have attempted to ban same-sex marriage died in the House of Representatives Civil Justice subcommittee on Wednesday after it failed to gain enough votes.

The Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act stated that "any court decision purporting to strike down natural marriage, including Obergefell v. Hodges, is unauthoritative, void, and of no effect." Obergefell v. Hodges is the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision last summer that made same-sex marriage legal across the country, including in Tennessee. The bill was filed by Rep. Mark Pody (R-Lebanon) and Sen. Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet).

The bill would have given protection to any county court clerks who refused to acknowledge same-sex marriage. The act could cost the state $8.5 billion since going against a Supreme Court order could cause the federal government to pull $6.5 billion in TennCare funding and $2 billion in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (i.e. food stamps) funding.

The anti-gay group Family Action Council of Tennessee is expected to announce a lawsuit on Thursday against the state over the application of the Supreme Court ruling in a state that passed a gay marriage ban in 2006.


  

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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Tennessee House To Take Up Anti-Same-Sex Marriage Bill

Posted By on Tue, Jan 19, 2016 at 1:09 PM

Senator Mae Beavers is one of the lawmakers defying the U.S. Supreme Court's legalization of same-sex marriage.
  • Senator Mae Beavers is one of the lawmakers defying the U.S. Supreme Court's legalization of same-sex marriage.
On Wednesday, the state House of Representatives Civil Justice subcommittee will take up a bill that asserts that marriage should only be defined as being between one man and one woman "regardless of any court decision to the contrary."

The Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act, HB1412, states that "any court decision purporting to strike down natural marriage, including Obergefell v. Hodges, is unauthoritative, void, and of no effect." Obergefell v. Hodges is the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision last summer that made same-sex marriage legal across the country, including in Tennessee. The bill was filed by Rep. Mark Pody (R-Lebanon) and Sen. Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet).

If passed, the act would defend any state or local government official in Tennessee from any lawsuit if that official refused to recognize the Supreme Court's ruling in favor of same-sex marriage. In other words, if Kentucky court clerk Kim Davis, who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, lived in Tennessee, she'd be protected under this act.

The Tennessean reported this weekend that this act could cost the state $8.5 billion since going against a Supreme Court order could cause the federal government to pull $6.5 billion in TennCare funding and $2 billion in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (i.e. food stamps) funding.

The text of the Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act is long and filled with conservative opinions on same-sex marriage the Supreme Court decision. Here's a little sample:
WHEREAS, The Constitution of Tennessee, Article XI, § 18, states the following: The historical institution and legal contract solemnizing the relationship of one man and one woman shall be the only legally recognized marital contract in this state. Any policy or law or judicial interpretation, purporting to define marriage as anything other than the historical institution and legal contract between one man and one woman, is contrary to the public policy of this state and shall be void and unenforceable in Tennessee. If another state or foreign jurisdiction issues a license for persons to marry and if such marriage is prohibited in this state by the provisions of this section, then the marriage shall be void and unenforceable in this state; and

WHEREAS, in Obergefell v. Hodges, No. 14-556, 2015 WL 2473451 (June 26, 2015), five justices of the United States Supreme Court issued a lawless opinion with no basis in American law or history, purporting to overturn natural marriage and find a “right” to same-sex “marriage” in the United States Constitution and the fourteenth amendment; and

WHEREAS, the Obergefell opinion is “an act of will, not legal judgment,” and the “right it announces has no basis in the Constitution or th[e] Court’s precedent;” Id. at *24 (Roberts, C.J., dissenting); and

WHEREAS, the Obergefell opinion is “the furthest extension in fact—and the furthest extension one can even imagine—”of the United States Supreme Court’s “claimed power to create ‘liberties’ that the Constitution and its Amendments neglect to mention;” Id. at *42 (Scalia, J., dissenting); and 

WHEREAS, the Obergefell opinion is “an opinion lacking even a thin veneer of law,” Id. at *43 (Scalia, J., dissenting); and

WHEREAS, the Obergefell opinion “is a naked judicial claim to legislative—indeed, super-legislative—power; a claim fundamentally at odds with our system of government;” Id. at *43 (Scalia, J., dissenting)
The Flyer interviewed the Tennessee Equality Project's Executive Director Chris Sanders about this bill for our year-end cover feature. Here's what Sanders had to say about the bill: "The federal government doesn't preempt the action of legislatures. In other words, if the federal government gets wind of an unconstitutional bill being filed, they don't send a note to the legislature saying, by the way, you can't do that. What happens is the legislature passes its law, and it goes into effect. It harms someone, and then someone has the basis to sue the state. If passed, it could temporarily interrupt marriage equality."

If passed, Sanders believes the bill would eventually be struck down, once lawsuits make their way to the Supreme Court.

"I think they'll lose at every turn. That's why we all pray for [Supreme Court Justice] Ruth Bader Ginsberg every night," Sanders said.

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City Council Committee Approves Extending MLGW Pension Benefits to Same-Sex Spouses

Posted By on Tue, Jan 19, 2016 at 11:28 AM

The Memphis City Council's Memphis Light, Gas & Water (MLGW) committee voted Tuesday morning to extend the utility's spousal pension benefits to same-sex spouses of employees.

The change to MLGW's pension plan is required under federal law following last summer's U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage across the country.

The measure passed without much question, but new District 2 councilmember Frank Colvett actually said, "So same-sex couples can't marry in Tennessee though." To which an MLGW representative responded, "Absolutely they can." To that, Colvett followed with "You mean if a couple marries in Alaska, we have to recognize it in Tennessee." Sounds like Colvett is apparently clueless about the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage.

The resolution to amend MLGW's pension plan to include updated language and remove "man and woman" from their definition of marriage will go to the full council meeting this evening. Since MLGW is required by federal law to make this change, it will likely pass.

MLGW
  • MLGW

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Monday, January 4, 2016

FedEx's Attempt to Throw Out Lawsuit Over Widow's Pension Benefits Denied

Posted By on Mon, Jan 4, 2016 at 4:37 PM

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Memphis-based FedEx is being sued by a widow of a long-time employee, after she was denied pension benefits because the two were in a same-sex marriage, and on Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Phyllis Hamilton denied the company's attempt to have that lawsuit thrown out.

California woman Stacey Schuett, the widow of 26-year FedEx employee Lesly Taboada-Hall, filed the lawsuit against the company last January after it refused to provide her with federally required spousal pension benefits. Taboada-Hall had been the family breadwinner and supported Schuett and their two children, but she passed away in June 2013 after a battle with uterine cancer.

FedEx's pension plan was designed when the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was still the law of the land, but DOMA was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in United States v. Windsor on June 26, 2013.

The federal court on Monday ruled that “following Windsor … ERISA plans, by definition, must treat couples in same-sex marriages as married for purposes of spousal benefits prescribed under ERISA, such as survivor benefits."

FedEx scored an 85 out of 100 on the 2015 Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index. It failed to reach 100 due to its lack of transgender healthcare benefits.

“It is shocking to me that a company that pays lip service to diversity and the importance of its employees refuses to recognize our family,” said Schuett in a press release from the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “My wife earned her benefits during her decades of service to the company. No employer should be permitted to ignore our families and refuse to provide the hard-earned benefits of dedicated and skilled employees like Lesly.”

Said NCLR Senior Staff Attorney Amy Whelan: “Companies that claim to support diversity, as FedEx does, should be celebrating the downfall of DOMA, not trying to resurrect it for widows of FedEx employees who are fighting to receive the basic benefits their spouses earned during decades of service to the company.”

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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

New Year's Burlesque Show

Posted By on Tue, Dec 29, 2015 at 8:07 AM

The monthly Cherry party — "a lezzie shindig," as it's billed — will host a post-New Year's burlesque party on Saturday, January 2nd at the 5 Spot on South Main.

The show features performances by Kitty Wompas, Fatima Fox, Will Ryder, and Spyke Styletto, and it's hosted by comedian Julie Wheeler. DJ Leslie will provide tunes in between and after the shows. Doors open at 8:30 p.m., and the burlesque shows start at 9:30 and 11 p.m. 

Admission is $10 for general admission or $20 for VIP, which includes a saved seat and a signed Cherry poster.

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Friday, December 18, 2015

LGBT Center Announces Plan To House Homeless Gay Youth

Posted By on Fri, Dec 18, 2015 at 10:00 AM

A glimpse at MGLCC's plans for the Metamorphosis Project
  • A glimpse at MGLCC's plans for the Metamorphosis Project
The Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center (MGLCC) announced Friday morning their 2016 plan to house the city's gay, homeless youth. The Metamorphosis Project will employ refurbished shipping containers as transitional housing, and it will be the first housing project for LGBT young adults in the city.

“We’re going alter the containers by adding windows and doors and making them into individual living spaces with a bedroom and a bathroom,” said MGLCC Youth Services Manager Stephanie Reyes. “And we’ll have an administration building there with a classroom, where we’ll teach classes on writing a resume, nutrition, and life skills.”

Greg Utterback, who lives out of state and has only visited MGLCC one time, gave the center the funds to purchase property in Orange Mound from the Shelby County Land Bank. The shipping containers will be set up on that land, but MGLCC is still looking for donors to fund the program.

The plan was conceived by Reyes, who just last month spearheaded a youth homeless count to identify LGBT young adults in need of temporary housing. The MGLCC already operates a food pantry for those in need, and they briefly ran a youth foster program in 2010. 

Nationally, it's estimated that 40 percent of homeless teens and young adults identify as LGBT. Many of them are rejected by their families, and they're either kicked out or choose to leave their uncomfortable living situations.

In planning for the project, Reyes has combed through city and county zoning codes, researched other cities where shipping containers were used as low-cost housing, and studied youth homeless programs across the country.

Reyes said they have a goal of raising enough money for eight shipping containers, but they'd eventually like to raise enough money for more. The center will hold a fund-raiser in February, but she said the date hasn't been set yet. 


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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

World AIDS Day Wish Lantern Lighting

Posted By on Wed, Nov 25, 2015 at 11:45 AM

Friends For Life will observe World AIDS Day this year by releasing hundreds of airborne wish lanterns over the Mississippi River.

On Tuesday, December 1st at 5 p.m., supporters, staff, and volunteers for the nonprofit HIV/AIDS service organization will gather at Beale Street Plaza and River View Island, just a block north of Beale Street Landing.

Hundreds of paper lanterns will be lit and released into the air to honor those who have passed away from complications of HIV/AIDS and to celebrate the lives of those living with HIV/AIDS.

If it rains, the celebration will be moved underneath the breezeway at Beale Street Landing, and luminaries will be lit instead of wish lanterns.


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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Transgender Day of Remembrance

Posted By on Thu, Nov 19, 2015 at 2:42 PM

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The annual Transgender Day of Remembrance will honor trans victims of violence on Friday, November 20th at Neshoba Unitarian Universalist Church (7350 Raleigh Lagrange Rd.).

The most recent transgender homicide victim in Memphis was Alejandra Leos, who was murdered in a domestic violence incident last year. Other Memphis victims to be honored include Marcal Tye (2011), Ebony Whitaker (2008), Duanna Johnson (2008), and Tiffany Berry (2006). Victims from all over the country will be honored as well.

According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, trans people report high rates of violence and harassment in all parts of their lives, including in school settings, at workplaces, in interactions with law enforcement, at non-profit or government agencies, in jails and prisons, and even at home with family members and relationship partners.

The Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center will be on-hand with information about resources for the Memphis trans community.

The vigil will last from 7 to 9 p.m.


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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Memphis Law Firm Gets Perfect Score in Equality Index, AutoZone Scores Low

Posted By on Wed, Nov 18, 2015 at 3:13 PM

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A Memphis law firm, FedEx, and First Horizon scored well in this year's Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Corporate Equality Index, while International Paper and AutoZone fell toward the bottom of the list.

Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz PC scored a perfect 100, making it one of only two major corporations and/or law firms in Tennessee with a perfect score. The other was Nissan North America Inc. in Franklin.

That means the company prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, has vendor/contractor standards that don't discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity, offers partner health insurance, has other "soft" benefits for partners, offers transgender-inclusive health coverage, has organizational competency programs, has a firm-wide diversity council or LGBT employee group, and positively engages the external LGBT community.

FedEx scored high with an 85 percent. The main thing that kept FedEx from scoring higher was its lack of transgender-inclusive healthcare coverage. First Horizon Corp. also scored an 85 percent. 

International Paper scored a 25 percent, and AutoZone scored a 10 percent. The only LGBT-friendly policy at AutoZone is one prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation.

In total, 851 companies across the country were officially rated in the 2016 index, up from 781 in the 2015 report. The average score for companies and law firms based in Tennessee is 69 percent. Of the 12 Tennessee companies ranked, two earned 100 percent, and four earned 80 percent or above.

"Corporate America has long been a leader on LGBT equality, from advocating for marriage equality to expanding essential benefits to transgender employees," said HRC President Chad Griffin. "But this year, many leading U.S. companies have broken new ground by expanding explicit non-discrimination protections to their LGBT workers around the globe. They've shown the world that LGBT equality isn't an issue that stops at our own borders, but extends internationally."

To see the full index, go here.

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