Scenes From the Marriage Equality Rally
About 50 people gathered on the front lawn of the Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center Monday night to celebrate the upcoming oral arguments in the U.S. Supreme Court same-sex marriage case that involves a couple from Memphis.
The Memphis couple and their attorney involved in the same-sex marriage case that will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court were honored in a ceremony hosted by Freedom to Marry on Tuesday afternoon at the Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center.
"My greatest wish for you is that by June, you are as married in this building as you are on the base," said Tennessee Equality Project's Anne Brownlee Gullick, addressing DeKoe and Kostura. DeKoe is on active duty in the Army Reserves, and since the federal government recognizes same-sex marriages, the couple is considered to be married when they visit a military base. DeKoe and Kostura married in New York in 2011.
DeKoe said they realize that they're at the center of what could be a ground-breaking case that has potential to end marriage discrimination across the country once and for all.
"We're at the center of this giant hurricane," DeKoe said. "We realize how big it is. It's going to be a crazy day in Tennessee and across the country when this decision comes down in our favor. And I'm excited for it."
Although the high court is expected to rule in favor of marriage equality, Holland said that, in the case that it does not, there is a back-up plan.
"The lawyers don't stop. We'll continue to bring cases," Holland said. "We'll continue our fight, but we're hopeful that we will join the 36 other states that recognize same-sex marriage, so Thomas and Ijpe won't have to continue to engage in 'Are we married? Are we not?' when they cross a state boundary."
This month's Cherry party, billed as a "lezzie shindig," has a Femme Fatale theme celebrating "all the bad girls that make life worth living," according to host Julie Wheeler.
They'll have the usual burlesque and drag show, but this time, there will also be a belly dancing performance. The party starts at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 28th, at Earnestine & Hazel's.
The show will star the current reigning Miss American National Star Jade Porchett (of RuPaul's Drag Race fame), plus drag performers Shannon "WillRyder" Herrada and Akasha Cassadine. The burlesque performance will include a Cherry debut by Fatima Fox. The belly dancers will be from Pyramid Dancers. There will be live music by Gina Sposto, and as always, Cherry will be hosted by singer/comedian Wheeler, who just returned from LGBTComedyfest in Michigan.
Since Earnestine & Hazel's only sells beer, guests are invited to BYOB for free. But beer and set-ups will be sold.
There will be two shows, and they begin at 9:30 and 11 p.m. Tickets are $10 for general admission and $20 for VIP.
The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in marriage equality cases from Tennessee, Kentucky, Michigan, and Ohio on April 28th.
These cases, which include a couple from Memphis as plaintiffs, are expected to possibly end discriminatory marriage laws across the country. If the high court rules that bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional, such bans would be overturned in states that still have them in place. The court is expected to issues its decision by the end of June 2015.
The case is being taken up by the Supreme Court following a November 6th, 2014, decision by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold marriage bans in Tennessee, Kentucky, Michigan, and Ohio. That decision was in conflict with four other appeals courts across the country which invalidated marriage bans in other states.
The Tennessee Equality Project (TEP) will hold its fifth annual Gumbo Contest and Mardi Gras party this Sunday, February 8th at Bridges.
Each year, gumbo teams from across the city come together to compete in this fund-raiser for TEP. This year, there are 15 teams but 16 gumbos (because one team has paid to enter two different recipes). A panel of judges sample and rate each gumbo, but the public also gets a chance to rate their favorites through the People's Choice Awards.
Local and regional breweries High Cotton, Yazoo, and Memphis Made will be offering craft beer at the event, and the Hot Memphis 4 will perform live New Orleans-style jazz.
Also at the event, TEP will honor its "Champions of Equality" — Chef Kelly English (for standing up to Senator Brian Kelsey last year when Kelsey sponsored the "Turn the Gays Away" bill), Memphis City Councilmember Janis Fullilove (for sponsoring the city-wide non-discrimination ordinance), Senator Lee Harris (for sponsoring the city-wide non-discrimination ordinance when he was on the city council), and Shelby County Sheriff Bill Oldham (for ensuring that all sheriff's deputies received LGBT Cultural Competency training last year).
Tickets are $25 for 21 and older and $15 for under 21. They may be purchased online here.
(Full disclosure: The Flyer's LGBT reporter Bianca Phillips is competing in the contest with a vegan gumbo.)
Tennessee is one of 32 states lacking state-level workplace protections for all LGBT employees, and it's one of 14 states that still doesn't allow same-sex marriage. Those issues led to Tennessee ranking in the lowest-performing category on the Human Rights Campaign's (HRC) inaugural State Equality Index.
The national report, the first of its kind, looked at each state's LGBT-related legislation, and it highlights the fact that, although marriage equality is progressing nationally, many states still lack basic non-discrimination protections.
“Despite historic progress on issues like marriage equality, a majority of states still struggle to reach even a basic level of equality for LGBT people,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “Most states lack statewide non-discrimination laws to protect LGBT people - putting countless individuals and families at risk, and creating inequalities in adoption and surrogacy, employments benefits, and youth safety and well-being.”
“Even worse,” Griffin said, “equality opponents continue to push deeply harmful laws forward, including those seeking to undermine critical protections in the guise of "religious liberty.”
The index assessed state legislation in the areas of relationship recognition, parenting laws and policies, non-discrimination laws, hate crimes laws, anti-bullying laws, and health and safety laws and policies. Based on that review, the index assigns states to one of four categories, and Tennessee, along with 29 other states, fell into the "High Priority to Achieve Basic Equality" category, the lowest-performing category in the study.
Tennessee scored well in the areas of joint adoption, hate crimes protection (but only for sexual orientation, not gender identity), and cyberbulling laws. The state received negative scores for its ban on same-sex marriage, the state religious freedom restoration act, restrictions on municipal protections for LGBT employees, HIV/AIDS criminalization laws, transgender exceptions in state Medicaid, and the fact that transgender citizens are not permitted to change their gender on state IDs (Tennessee is the only state that bans that).