Friday, January 24, 2020

Lee Signs 'Shameful' Anti-LGBTQ Bill Into Law

Posted By on Fri, Jan 24, 2020 at 3:04 PM

Memphis Pride Fest
  • Memphis Pride Fest

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed into law Friday a bill that will allow adoption agencies to discriminate against the LGBTQ community.

State senators passed the bill last week, its first major move since the 111th Tennessee General Assembly reconvened earlier this month.

The bill would shelter faith-based adoption agencies from lawsuits by any group claiming discrimination. It prohibits faith-based groups from participating “in any child placement for foster care or adoption that would violate the agency's written religious or moral convictions.”
Governor Lee
  • Governor Lee

Some senators warned passing the bill could hinder business in the state, with companies and conventions passing over Tennessee for more gay-friendly states.

However, Lee said he’d sign the bill immediately after its passage. The bill was sent to Lee’s office Tuesday and was signed on Friday.

Several organizations criticized the move. The Campaign for Southern Equality called the bill “the first anti-LGBTQ legislation to pass in 2020.”
“We strongly oppose Gov. Lee’s decision and urge him to deeply and prayerfully consider the damage and harm of this bill, which could do a colossal disservice to the many children in Tennessee waiting to be adopted by safe and loving families,” said Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality. “It opens the door to taxpayer-funded adoption agencies turning away potential parents just because of who they are. It’s bad for kids, bad for LGBTQ people, and bad for the state overall.”

The Human Rights Council (HRC) called the move “shameful.”
“It’s disturbing that Governor Bill Lee signed legislation that will harm children in Tennessee,” said HRC president Alphonso David. “Elected officials should protect all of their constituents, not just some. Now, Tennessee has the shameful distinction of being the first state to pass an anti-LGBTQ bill into law this year.

“This bill does nothing to improve the outcomes for children in care, shrinks the pool of prospective parents and is a blatant attempt to discriminate against LGBTQ Tennesseans. With many months ahead in the Tennessee legislative session, Tennesseans should make their voices heard — loudly — to ensure that the legislature and Gov. Lee do not continue to target LGBTQ Tennesseans.”

Chris Sanders, executive director of the Tennessee Equality Project said, “As this bill becomes law, Tennessee's LGBTQ community is worried about the introduction of even more discriminatory bills. The governor and the legislature must put a stop to this kind of demeaning public policy.”

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Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Report Scores Memphis Businesses on LGBTQ Equality

Posted By on Tue, Jan 21, 2020 at 1:32 PM

Memphis Pride Fest
  • Memphis Pride Fest

The Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) annual Corporate Equality Index included four of Memphis’ biggest companies and a law firm. Two of the corporations scored towards the top, with one scoring in the middle and another toward the bottom.

The HRC claims it is “the nation’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization.” Its report reviewed 1,059 companies and law firms this year. That included 25 Tennessee-based businesses. In Memphis, five companies were deemed large enough for review by the Human Rights Campaign.

Of those here, the law firm of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz PC scored the highest with 90 out of 100 points possible. FedEx Corp. scored high, too, with an overall equality score of 85. First Horizon National Corp. also scored near the top with 75 total points.

AutoZone Inc. scored near the middle with 40 total points. International Paper had the lowest Memphis score on the report with 30 total points.

All of these points were awarded to companies based on four broad criteria:

• Non-discrimination policies

• Employment benefits

• Supporting an inclusive culture and corporate social responsibility including public commitment to LGBTQ equality

• Responsible citizenship

”These companies know that protecting their LGBTQ employees and customers from discrimination is not just the right thing to do — it is also the best business decision,” HRC president Alphonso David said in a statement. “In addition, many of these leaders are also advocating for the LGBTQ community and equality under the law in the public square.”
HRC began its report in 2002, done largely through a survey of Fortune magazine’s 500 largest publicly traded businesses, American Lawyer magazine’s top 200 revenue-grossing law firms and hundreds of publicly and privately held mid- to large-sized businesses.

In its first year, HRC named 13 top-rated companies. This year, the group named 686 such businesses that had a perfect 100 score ”under the most stringent criteria to date.”

This year, 13 to the Fortune 500’s top 20 companies earned perfect HRC scores.

  • Human Rights Campaign
Here are some more insights gleaned in this year’s Corporate Equality Index (CEI):

• The more than 680 companies that earned a 100 on the CEI represent 12.4 million employees nationally, 11.9 million globally, and earn a combined estimate of $12.9 trillion in revenue.

• Eighty-three companies participated in the CEI for the first time in 2020, with 36 debuting at a score of 100, including Etsy Inc., Peloton Interactive Inc., Stop & Shop, and Warner Music Group.

• Of all Fortune 500 companies, 93 percent have sexual orientation in their U.S. non-discrimination policy, and 91 percent have gender identity.

• The average CEI score for all Fortune 500 companies increased from 67 to 71 in the past year — with actively participating Fortune 500 companies having an average score of 90, up from 88 last year.

• Tennessee companies averaged a score of 70 in this year’s CEI.

• This year 89 percent of companies participating in the CEI offer at least one health-care policy that is inclusive of their transgender workers.

Read the full report here:

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Tuesday, January 14, 2020

LGBTQ Adoption Discrimination Bill Passed by Senate

Posted By on Tue, Jan 14, 2020 at 2:23 PM

State Capitol building
  • State Capitol building

A bill that discriminates against the LGBTQ+ community and one “that we don’t really need in this state,” according to its sponsor, passed overwhelmingly in the state Senate Tuesday.

In its first major act of business this year, the state Senate voted Tuesday to allow some private adoption agencies to discriminate against gay couples. The bill was yanked from a Senate floor vote at the end of last year’s legislative session. It had already been approved in the House. Senators approved the bill Tuesday in a 20-6 vote.

The bill is broad, though, and would allow those agencies to discriminate against any group, as long the group has stated their objection to them in writing. The bill would shelter faith-based adoption agencies from lawsuits by any group claiming discrimination. It prohibits faith-based groups from participating “in any child placement for foster care or adoption that would violate the agency's written religious or moral convictions.”
  • Tennessee General Assembly
  • Rep. Tim Rudd

The bill’s House sponsor, Rep. Tim Rudd (R-Murfreesboro), said last year he brought the bill after reading newsletters from National Right to Life and the Heritage Foundation. Adoption agencies, especially by Catholic Charities, were forced out of business after facing discrimination lawsuits, suits Rudd said can cost hundreds or even millions of dollars.

At the end of the first part of the 111th General Assembly last year, many Senators questioned the need for such a specific bill. Many — including House Speaker Randy McNally — brought the question again on the Senate floor Monday.

“I don’t think (the bill is necessary) and the protections already exist,” McNally said.

Those protections exist, some Republican Senators said Tuesday, in 2009’s Tennessee Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).
  • Tennessee General Assembly
  • Lt. Gov. Randy McNally

“The language in this bill seems duplicative in many ways,” said Sen. Jon Lundberg (R-Brsitol). “The legislature has done a solid job over the last decade of protecting religious freedoms. I think we’re covered.”

Sen. Paul Rose (R-Tipton and part of Shelby County), the bill’s sponsor, said early in Tuesday’s debate that his bill “codifies what we already do” and that “we don’t really need this bill in the state” because of RFRA.

However, he also said the bill was a proactive move to prevent the closure of adoption agencies, as has happened in Pennsylvania, New York, California, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia. Eight other states, like Virginia and Alabama, have passed similar legislation to the one he carried. 
  • Tennessee General Assembly
  • Sen. Steven Dickerson

In a fiery exchange, Sen. Steve Dickerson (D-Nashville), asked Rose what kinds of people could these agencies deny a child in their care. He said any combination outside of the traditional, married mother-and-father structure he said, “anything outside of that, whatever that is. It’s called freedom.”

Pressed further by Dickerson, Rose said that the legislation — though, he was not a lawyer — would allow, say, an Episcopalian group to deny adoption to a Muslim family and vice versa. “It is my understanding that this bill would allow it,” Rose said. 
  • Tennessee General Assembly
  • Sen. Jeff Yarbro
Early in the debate, Sen. Jeff Yarbro (D-Davidson County) proposed an amendment to the bill that excluded any agency from these protections if they had state contracts, took state grant funding, or took any kind of public money.

When these firms take government money, “they are no longer acting as a private actor, they are public actors using public dollars, for public functions," Yarbro said.

Rose called the amendment "insidious" and "hostile" and "totally wipes out the intent of this bill."  The amendment was defeated on voice vote.

Sen. Raumesh Akbari, the only female and African American to speak during the debate, said a friend of hers grew up in the foster case system and was “exposed to sexual violence and physical abuse.” The friend later grew up to be in a same-sex relationship and she and her partner have adopted two children “in a very loving home.” Putting children in a loving home, Akbari said, “puts them on the correct path and changes the trajectory of their life.” 
  • Tennessee General Assembly
  • Sen. Raumesh Akbari

“What is best for children?” Akbari asked. “For me, this boils down to children being safe and happy and for them to be free from abuse and to feel like they belong.”

Dickerson said the bill could have significant financial impacts here.

“In the last six months, a number of conventions have inquired about this bill and said if passed they would not book future conventions in our state,” Dickerson said.

He said the bill would put the state out of the running for future events by the NFL, NHL, and NCAA. Other businesses, too, would “be less likely to relocate and open here as a direct result of this bill.”
  • Tennessee General Assembly
  • Sen. Paul Rose
However, Rose told Senators the bill “was about the right to choose.”

“If you believe in freedom, you’ll put aside the issues thrown at you from the business community and look to the roots of this nation,” Rose said.

The bill passed, with four Republicans, including  McNally, voting present but not voting.

The bill now heads to Gov. Bill Lee's desk for approval.


Before the floor vote Monday, groups were calling for the bill’s defeat.

Flags fly over OUTMemphis. - BIANCA PHILLIPS
  • Bianca Phillips
  • Flags fly over OUTMemphis.

Currey Cook, counsel and director of the Youth in Out-of-Home Care Project for Lambda Legal, said the bill “would deny children in foster care in Tennessee a much-needed family simply because agencies want to put their beliefs above the best of interests of the children.”

“Tennessee risks joining the roster of states who have passed similarly harmful bills that allow government-funded discrimination and we urge state senators of conscience to resist this effort that sends a message to LGBTQ families that they are not welcome,” Cook said in a statement. “To deny qualified parents eager to foster or adopt children in need of loving homes because of their sexual orientation or gender-identity or particular religious belief – criteria wholly unrelated to their ability to parent - is not only wrong, but turns the entire child welfare system on its head by prioritizing a provider’s interests over those of children.”

Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the ACLU of Tennessee said: ”Turning away good families, as (the bill) would allow, simply because they don’t satisfy an agency's religious preferences would deny thousands of Tennessee children access to the families they urgently want and need.”

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Wednesday, December 11, 2019

LGBTQ Leaders: Merriam-Webster’s Selection of ‘They’ as Word of Year is Powerful

Posted By on Wed, Dec 11, 2019 at 9:44 AM


Merriam-Webster selected the non-binary pronoun “they” as the 2019 Word of the Year.

The dictionary giant reports that in 2019 searches of “they” on its site increased by 313 percent from the previous year.

Earlier this year in September, Merriam-Webster officially expanded the definition of the pronoun to include references to “a single person whose gender identity is non-binary.” The dictionary says “there is no doubt” that this use is “established in the English language.”

“English famously lacks a gender-neutral singular pronoun to correspond neatly with singular pronouns like everyone or someone, and as a consequence ‘they’ has been used for this purpose for over 600 years,” the Merriam-Webster website reads. “More recently, though, they has also been used to refer to one person whose gender identity is non-binary, a sense that is increasingly common in published, edited text, as well as social media and in daily personal interactions between English speakers.”

The dictionary defines non-binary as “relating to or being a person who identifies with or expresses a gender identity that is neither entirely make no entirely female.”

Molly Quinn, executive director of OUTMemphis, said many who have opposed the use of “they” as a singular pronoun in the past have used “the guise of grammar to delegitimatize queer people and experiences.”

  • Quinn
“By putting ‘they’ smack into our dictionary, Merriam-Webster gives power and visibility to non-binary and gender-curious people. The singular they has been used for centuries, and is only criticized by those seeking to denigrate.”

Quinn adds that the singular “they” is not only essential for those who elect to use it as their primary pronoun, but the pronoun can also be used to describe those whose gender identity is unknown.

“Which is another way of saying the singular they gives us all autonomy and freedom,” she said. “Language has always been used as a tool of both marginalization and of reclamation for small and significant acts of oppression. By reclaiming our language, we reclaim our right to tell our own stories."

Chris Sanders, executive director of the Tennessee Equality Project, said the following about Merriam-Webster’s election of “they” as the word of the year:

“When singer Sam Smith came out as non-binary, millions of people became more aware of people who use the singular ‘they’ pronoun,” Sanders said. “Rather than openness and understanding, non-binary people are still often met with arguments about grammar. So, it matters a great deal that a dictionary now no longer provides the underpinnings of disrespect.”

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Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Tennessee Equality Project: 'Slate of Hate' Bills Back at Legislature Next Year

Posted By on Tue, Dec 3, 2019 at 2:03 PM

State Capitol building
  • State Capitol building

When Tennessee lawmakers return to Nashville in about a month, so, too, will a slate of bills against the LGBTQ+ community called the "Slate of Hate," according to the Tennessee Equality Project (TEP).

Here's the latest on the bills from TEP —

The bills that will be back:

Among the bills returning is the anti-transgender student bathroom bill. It passed the Tennessee House this year and heads to the Senate State & Local Government Committee. This bill outrageously gives state legal support to public school districts that experiment with anti-transgender student policies.

Another is the adoption discrimination bill that would make private adoption/foster care agencies eligible for your tax dollars even if those agencies decide to turn away loving parents because of a parent's sexual orientation, gender identity, or religious views. This bill has passed the House and will be on the floor of the Senate in the new year.

The old business license to discriminate bill will also return. It would prevent local governments from favoring businesses with inclusive policies in their contracting. That bill passed the House this year and will be up for consideration in the Senate State & Local Government Committee.

A new bill:

A right-wing organization in Tennessee recently announced its intention to have another go at attacking marriage equality. It's called the "God-Given Marriage Initiative." It would attempt to end marriage licensing and replace it with a man and a woman registering their marriage contract with the state. Where does that leave the LGBTQ community? We need to be ready to fight back so that we don't have to find out.

Possible legislation:

A bill attacking transgender youth healthcare has been introduced in South Carolina. Legislators in Texas, Georgia, and Kentucky are said to be looking at similar bills. We should not be surprised to see such legislation in Tennessee.

Another possible bill is an attack on the inclusion of transgender people in Tennessee's hate crimes law. In February of this year, the Attorney General issued an opinion saying that the word "gender" in the law means transgender people are covered and that means that Tennessee has the first inclusive hate crimes law in the South. But right-wing groups complained bitterly at the time and we should expect some effort to amend the law, leaving transgender people vulnerable again.

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Friday, November 1, 2019

Rainbow Crosswalk Comes to Cooper-Young Saturday

Posted By on Fri, Nov 1, 2019 at 10:11 AM

  • Jerred Price/

Work begins Saturday on what project officials are calling "the state's first rainbow crosswalk" in Cooper-Young.

A petition for the crosswalk, designed to celebrate LGBTQ+ pride, started in May by Jerred Price, who was then running for the Memphis City Council's District 7 seat. After a series of meetings, the project was approved by the council in September.

In the original petition for the project, Price said among the neighborhood's "quirky stores," "artisanal coffee spots," and "boisterous pubs" is "one thing you may not know about Cooper-Young."

"...It has the highest density of LGBTQ+ people in the west portion of Tennessee!" reads the petition. "It is also home to OUTMemphis. Through their hard work and sacrifice, they built an 'oasis in the desert of our struggle.'"

Work on the crosswalk begins Saturday morning. The crosswalk will be welcomed in a formal ceremony at the corner of Cooper and Young on Sunday at 2 p.m.  

"Come on down to the heart of Cooper-Young (home to the highest concentration of identifying same-sex households in the southeast United States!) and let’s make state history!" reads the Facebook event page. "Special guest speakers as well!" 

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Thursday, October 10, 2019

LGBTQ+ Group Urges Blackburn: 'Represent All of Us'

Posted By on Thu, Oct 10, 2019 at 7:00 AM

Blackburn and other Congress members filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court hoping to limit future protections for LGBTQ+ people int he workplace. - U.S. SENATOR MARSHA BLACKBURN/FACEBOOK
  • U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn/Facebook
  • Blackburn and other Congress members filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court hoping to limit future protections for LGBTQ+ people int he workplace.

U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn does not think federal employment protections extend to the LGBTQ+ community, according to a court document, but advocates are asking her to change her mind.

Several members of Congress (including Blackburn) filed a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court, offering up their expertise on Title VII. That’s the portion of the 1964 Civil Rights Acts that prohibits employment discrimination based on "race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.”

A case now before the Supreme Court could affect employers’ rights to fire gay and transgender employees. The Congress members’ brief says changing the law should be a legislative function — left up to Congress in other words — and not one to be decided in courts. But they do tip their hands on their feelings about the law.

”Title VII does not expressly include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes,” reads the brief. “The text and legislative history do not support the view that Title VII was intended to protect them.”

The case was brought by three people — a skydiving instructor, a funeral home employee, and a state-government child welfare services coordinator — who all claimed they were discriminated against because they were gay or transgender.

The “sex” part of Title VII was meant to protect women, the Congress members said in the brief. They explain “sex” in the brief by saying “sex” — in quotes — a bunch of times.
“Sexual orientation and gender identity, despite their connection to sex, are not ’sex,’ per se,”reads the brief. “Title VII does not prohibit discrimination based upon ‘things that cannot be defined or understood without reference to sex’ or ‘things that are directly connected to sex.’ Moreover, sex stereotyping is not a separate protected class, but rather a means of proving sex discrimination.”

Any way you describe it, amending the law could have real-world effects, the Congress members say, including ”collateral impacts on businesses and imposition on matters of conscience.” Oh, and the Affordable Care Act.

The brief was signed by eight U.S. Senators (Blackburn being one) and 40 U.S. Representatives.

On Tuesday, members of the Tennessee Equality Project (TEP) delivered petitions to Blackburn’s Memphis and Nashville offices urging her to remove her name from the brief. The group said 724 people signed the petitions at events in Memphis, Murfreesboro, and Nashville in the last month.
The petitions read, in part, “sex stereotyping is at the heart of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Your constituents in Tennessee need these protections and we ask you to speak for them.”
TEP Shelby County chair Shahin Samiei delivers petitions to Sen. Blackburn's office. - TENNESSEE EQUALITY PROJECT
  • Tennessee Equality Project
  • TEP Shelby County chair Shahin Samiei delivers petitions to Sen. Blackburn's office.

TEP Shelby County Committee Chair Shahin Samiei delivered the petitions to Blackburn’s office in Memphis Tuesday.

“Having spoken with scores of Tennesseans, a consensus resonates that being fired for who we love or who we are is inconsistent with our values,” Samiei said in a statement. “Fire me for being bad at my job — don't fire me for being LGBTQ.”

TEP executive director Chris Sanders said the organization is contacted “every month” by LGBTQ+ people who have been discriminated against on the job.

“We need legal protections and we need Senator Blackburn to represent all of us,” Sanders said. “There is wide agreement across the political spectrum that everyone deserves the chance to earn a living.”

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Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Pro Pronouns: Gender Identity In the Workplace

Posted By on Tue, Oct 1, 2019 at 1:57 PM

A transgender flag flies over OUTMemphis. - BIANCA PHILLIPS
  • Bianca Phillips
  • A transgender flag flies over OUTMemphis.

Eagle-eyed emailers have noticed something new in some email signatures: pronouns.

Signatures are those few lines of information at the bottom of an email that tells the receiver basic information about the sender, details like their name, title, company, phone number, address, and more. Some senders’ signatures around Memphis now include their preferred gender pronouns, or personal gender pronouns, sometimes just called gender pronouns, or, more simply, just pronouns.

All of the words are ways to describe a person when you are talking about them. Typically, those identifying as male will use “he/him/his;” those identifying as female will use “she/her/hers;” and some transgender people, gender noncomforming people, and others use the gender-neutral “they/them/theirs.” However, there are more sets of pronouns out there.
Kayla Gore, of Memphis, speaks during a news conference Tuesday outside the federal courthouse in Nashville. - LAMBDA LEGAL
  • Lambda Legal
  • Kayla Gore, of Memphis, speaks during a news conference Tuesday outside the federal courthouse in Nashville.

“Referring to people by the pronouns they determine for themselves is basic to human dignity,” reads an explanation from those behind International Pronouns Day, set this year for October 16th. “Being referred to by the wrong pronouns particularly affects transgender and gender nonconforming people.”
LGBTQ+ advocacy groups have popped up at some of Memphis’ largest organizations and corporations. Now, preferred personal pronouns (sometimes called PGPs), are popping up in work culture, including email signatures.

Mary Jo Karimnia is the residency manager at Crosstown Arts. She added “she/her/hers” to her signature over the summer but wished she’d done it sooner. She said preferred personal pronouns, “in reality are not ‘preferred’ pronouns, just pronouns.”

“As the residency manager for Crosstown Arts, part of my job is to welcome the entire community to the residency program,” Karimnia said. “Although my she/her pronouns are somewhat predictable, this signals that I am accepting of other people's pronoun choices.”
Ellyahnna Hall - JUSTIN FOX BURKS
  • Justin Fox Burks
  • Ellyahnna Hall

As gender issues and preference rise to the mainstream, discussing them and the pronouns that go along with them is becoming more common but maybe still tricky to those not accustomed to it.

That’s why the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual (LGBTQI) Resource Center at the University of California Davis devised a website to help. There, you can find a list of many of the lesser-known, gender-free pronouns like ”xie/hir/hir,” “ey/em/er,” “co/co/cos,” and more. You can also find some easy ways to talk about pronouns with others.

So, the site suggests you ask, “What pronouns do you use?” You could also share yours by saying, “I’m Jade and my pronouns are ze and hir.”
Pronouns in email signatures (and other spots in the workplace) caught on early among Memphis health care providers, said Molly Quinn, executive director of OUTMemphis. But they are now popping up in signatures of other businesses “that may or may not have anything to do with gender identity, or sexual orientation, or health.”

  • Justin Fox Burks
  • Cole Bradley

Quinn’s pronouns — “she/her/hers” — were displayed on her work name tag during an event recently. She said part of the work of OUTMemphis is to serves the transgender community here, “to make the entire world a comfortable place for people who are trans.” This includes her email signature, where she shares her pronouns.

“In the past five years, and certainly in the past 15 years, the visibility, the legal advocacy, the political narrative, and the services that are available to our trans community has expanded nationally in every way,” Quinn said. “Regardless of your gender expression, we really believe that gender expression and gender identity should be the choice of each individual. We believe that you should have the choice of the way you are referred to, what you're called, and how you're classified by the world.”

Back at Crosstown, Karimnia said being upfront about pronouns is “a good way to let people know in advance that we are a queer-friendly place.”

“We also ask for pronouns on our (residency) application,” Karimnia said. “We make a point of introducing ourselves at our first dinner meeting with residents using pronouns.

“This creates space for people who use pronouns besides she/her or he/him without singling them out. It can also be an educational tool for those who aren't yet used to this convention.”

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Thursday, September 26, 2019

OUTMemphis Expands with New Office, Donation Space

Posted By on Thu, Sep 26, 2019 at 2:01 PM

Molly Quinn, OUTMemphis executive director (center left), and Ashley Coffield, PPTNM president (center right), speak during a news conference in front of OUTMemphis' new administrative office building. - TOBY SELLS
  • Toby Sells
  • Molly Quinn, OUTMemphis executive director (center left), and Ashley Coffield, PPTNM president (center right), speak during a news conference in front of OUTMemphis' new administrative office building.

OUTMemphis will open a new adminstrative office building and donation center at I-240 and Summer soon, thanks to a donation from Planned Parenthood of Tennessee & North Mississippi (PPTNM).

Leaders from the two organizations announced the move Thursday at the building close to the Summer Quartet Drive In theater and the PPTNM health center. The building was a call center for PPTNM, but the organization moved that function into its Poplar headquarters.
OUTMemphis' new adminstrative office building. - OUTMEMPHIS
  • OUTMemphis
  • OUTMemphis' new adminstrative office building.

Molly Quinn, OUTMemphis executive director, said the new 4,500-square-foot facility will raise the regional platform for its work and increase the “capacity to serve the Mid-Southerners who need us the most.”

It will be home to all administrative office space. That move will open more space at the organization’s Cooper-Young facility for programming and expanded health services. The new facility will also be a donation drop-off and distribution venue for clothes, furniture, and hygiene supplies for LGBTQ+ people under age 24.
OUTMemphis' Cooper-Young community center. - OUTMEMPHIS
  • OUTMemphis
  • OUTMemphis' Cooper-Young community center.
“[PPTNM and OUTMemphis] work together on a simple principle that unites us that all bodies and minds are good, righteous, and deserving of health, pleasure, safety, and joy,” Quinn said. “This building and the growth it represents are truly unparalleled contribution to the assets of Memphis and the community we serve.”

Ashley Coffield, PPTNM president, said regardless of where OUTMemphis would have expanded, “Their strength helps us and vice versa.” She said OUTMemphis has stood “shoulder-to-shoulder” with PPTNM during attacks on the organization over the years, “and we stand with them as well.”
Molly Quinn, OUTMemphis executive director (left), and Ashley Coffield, PPTNM president (right), speak during a news conference in front of OUTMemphis' new administrative office building. - TOBY SELLS
  • Toby Sells
  • Molly Quinn, OUTMemphis executive director (left), and Ashley Coffield, PPTNM president (right), speak during a news conference in front of OUTMemphis' new administrative office building.

“Planned Parenthood’s doors are open to all everyone regardless of gender expression, gender identity, or gender orientation,” Coffield said. “We believe all deserve high-quality and affordable health care and good information about sexuality and sexual health, no matter who they are or where they live.

“That’s why we work in partnership with the LGBTQ+ community and expand their access to health care.”

Quinn said construction of OUTMemphis’ youth emergency center and overnight shelter, called The Metamorphosis Project, begins Friday morning. She said she expects the facility to be up and running by January 2020.
OUTMemphis' proposed youth emergency services and overnight shelter building. - OUTMEMPHIS
  • OUTMemphis
  • OUTMemphis' proposed youth emergency services and overnight shelter building.

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Tuesday, September 10, 2019

OUTMemphis, TEP Host Mayoral Town Halls

Posted By on Tue, Sep 10, 2019 at 11:05 AM

Flags fly over OUTMemphis. - BIANCA PHILLIPS
  • Bianca Phillips
  • Flags fly over OUTMemphis.

Mayoral candidates will stump at events hosted by OUTMemphis and the Tennessee Equality Project (TEP) starting tonight (Tuesday, September 10th) at OUTMemphis.

Each town-hall-style event will be moderated by OUTMemphis executive director Molly Quinn. Each will feature a question-and-answer session with the candidate and a meet-and-greet reception after that. All events are open to all ages and all are free and open to the public. 

Here’s what OUTMemphis and TEP say about the events:

”LGBTQ+ individuals live in every ZIP code, are represented in every race, ethnicity, ability level, religion, and age regardless of socio-economic status, citizenship, or education level.

“LGBTQ Southerners are adversely affected by the limitations in protections and services in health, housing, laws, spiritual resources, and education resources.

”In the 2019 mayoral race, the legal protections, health and wellness, and civic culture for LGBTQ people is vital to the future of Memphis.

“Bring your questions and concerns. Don’t miss this essential opportunity to voice the unique needs and ambitions of LGBTQ Memphians to our future mayor!”

Here is the schedule for the events so far:

Tami Sawyer
Tuesday, September 10th, 6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Lemichael Wilson
Tuesday, September 12th, 6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Jim Strickland
Tuesday, September 24th, 4:30 p.m.-6 p.m.
The presentation begins at 5pm.

Where: OUTMemphis, 892 S. Cooper Street.

The groups say all filed candidates running for mayor this year have been invited to speak at these events. If accepted later, additional dates will be added. Any candidate who does not appear at an event, “chose to decline our invitation.”

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Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Groups Want Tennessee DA Disbarred on Anti-LGBTQ Stance

Posted By on Wed, Sep 4, 2019 at 3:23 PM

Tennessee gay rights groups are calling for a Tennessee District Attorney to be disbarred for saying he issues lower charges for same-sex domestic assault cases and wouldn’t prosecute Tennessee county clerks who deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples. 
  • Northcott

Lambda Legal, Tennessee Equality Project, and the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center of Rutherford County filed a formal complaint last week against Coffee County District Attorney General Craig Northcott. The complaint was lodged with the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility, which oversees attorneys in the state.

The groups claimed that Northcott made public statements that he does not file domestic assault charges if the violence occurred between same-sex spouses, does not recognize “homosexual marriage,” and would not prosecute those county clerks.

“Coffee County DA Craig Northcott has denied the validity of same-sex marriages and the equal protection of the law to LGBT people,” said Ethan Rice, senior attorney for the Fair Courts Project at Lambda Legal. “Such conduct violates ethics rules protecting citizens from bias and has no place within the very office designated to enforce the law of the land.

“Keeping DA Northcott in office will have a chilling effect on the willingness of LGBT people to seek justice and protection. District Attorney Northcott’s public comments revealed not only a bias against LGBT people but that he has made discriminatory charging decisions against an entire class of people and intends to continue to do so.”
Last year, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations (TBI) reported 1,424 cases of domestic violence in same-sex relationships, according to the groups. The TBI’s 2018 Tennessee Hate Crime Report said 21.9 percent of all hate crimes last year were motivated by sexual bias, which includes crimes against LGBT and gender non-conforming people. Tennessee is home to about 130,000 LGBT adults, according to a report from the Williams Institute, and nearly 25 percent of those are people of color.

The groups said Northcott’s comments may deter LGBT people from reporting domestic assault, hate crimes, or other violence against them and create an obstacle to accessing the criminal legal system.

"LGBTQ people experiencing domestic violence are among the most vulnerable populations in Tennessee,” said Christopher Sanders, executive director of Tennessee Equality Project and Tennessee Equality Project Foundation. “Prosecutors have a duty to treat their cases with the same gravity as all other cases. 

“Discrimination in prosecution endangers our community and erodes the public trust in the criminal justice system.

Northcott’s statements were made during March 2018 in a presentation he gave called “The Local Church’s Role in Government” at New Mexico’s Chafer Theological Seminary Bible Conference.

He said he charges defendants with simple assault when a domestic violence incident occurs within the marriage of a same-sex couple, rather than the charge of domestic assault that he files when the incident occurs in the marriage of a different-sex couple.

Simple assault is a lesser charge with reduced punishment implications. The groups argued that Northcott is stripping LGBT domestic assault victims of the protections given with the elevated charge of domestic assault.
Northcott said domestic violence charges are to recognize and protect the “sanctity of marriage” but “there’s no marriage to protect” when it comes to same-sex marriages.

“We understand ‘domestic’ is not confined to marital status and feel it is important to advocate for all victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking regardless of race, color, national origin, religion (including religious belief), sex, gender identity (including gender expression and gender identity), sexual orientation, disability, age, marital status, family or parental status, or socioeconomic status,” said Karen Lampert, executive director of the Tennessee-based Domestic Violence Program & Sexual Assault Services. “Denying, limiting, or disbelieving a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking further empowers an abuser, increases danger of lethality, and perpetuates a societal crime that can be prevented”
Northcott also said county clerks should not “succumb” to the rule of law” when it comes to issuing same-sex marriage licenses. Instead, they should “stand on God’s truth” and he would not prosecute them for it. Further, he said he would pat the clerk on the back and give them hugs.

Read the formal complaint here.

Late last month, a group of about 300 Tennessee lawyers wrote the board asking for an investigation of Northcott on his statements. The Council on American-Islamic Relations filed another charge abasing Northcott after he said Muslims were inherently evil.

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Monday, August 12, 2019

Tennessee Equality Project: Titans and Ranked Choice Voting

Posted By on Mon, Aug 12, 2019 at 2:16 PM


Want to watch a Tennessee Titans home game and support the LGBTQ community? Well, now you can.

This year, the Titans will give $10 of each ticket sold on select home games to the Tennessee Equality Project (TEP). But there is a bit of work you have to do first.

When you’re buying your tickets, visit the Titans’ fundraiser site first. Select your game (Patriots and Steelers in the pre-season!) and enter the code “TEP” at checkout.

Actor Jennifer Lawrence in a 2018 ad in support of ranked choice voting in Tennessee.
  • Actor Jennifer Lawrence in a 2018 ad in support of ranked choice voting in Tennessee.

TEP will also host a discussion in Memphis about Ranked Choice Voting.

Voters approved the voting method in 2008 but it was not implemented. Voters approved the method, again, in 2018. But its implementation is stymied by state officials and a pending lawsuit. Officials don’t believe the issue will be resolved in time for the citywide elections here in October.

The TEP event will feature a ranked-choice-voting ballot demonstration from Aaron Fowles of Ranked Choice Voting Tennessee. Basically, Fowles will show attendees just how a ballot would look (and how you’d use it) if ranked choice voting were approved here.

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Wednesday, August 7, 2019

CHOICES Receives Grant to Support LGBTQ Health Care

Posted By on Wed, Aug 7, 2019 at 12:10 PM

CHOICES' main clinic on Poplar - FACEBOOK/CHOICES
  • Facebook/CHOICES
  • CHOICES' main clinic on Poplar

CHOICES: Memphis Center for Reproductive Health is receiving a $5,000 grant to assist in its efforts to transform LGBTQ health equity in the South.

CHOICES, a non-profit that offers reproductive health care services here, including transgender healthcare, is one of four recipients of the community grant.

The Campaign for Southern Equality (CSE), an Asheville, North Carolina-based organization working to improve LGBTQ equality in all areas, also awarded grants to organizations in Asheville, Greenville, South Carolina, and Richmond, Virginia.

CSE awarded a total of $30,000 to CHOICES and the other three organizations in an effort to “promote innovations in providing health care to better serve LGBTQ Southerners.”

“The infusion of funding to organizations on the leading edge of serving LBGTQ Southerners is designed to support new models in the South that increase access to care and ensure that people are treated with dignity and respect in health care settings,” a statement from CSE reads.

More than one third of all LGBTQ Americans live in the South, where they experience “disproportionate health disparities,” according to the group.

“The South is the epicenter for the modern HIV crisis in the United States, particularly for transgender women of color and black men who have sex with men,” CSE’s statement continues. “Transgender and non-binary Southerners are frequently confronted with ignorance or discrimination while seeking care.”

Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of CSE said health care is a “human right that is fundamental to being able to survive and thrive.” The goal is for the grant recipients to use “innovation and grit to create new models to help Southern LGBTQ people access the care they need and deserve,” Beach-Ferrara adds.

With the grant, CHOICES plans to provide free sexually-transmitted infections (STI) testing, education, and referrals to LGBTQ patients through a pilot program in partnership with OUTMemphis.

“With funds from the Southern Equality Fund, CHOICES is excited to work with our local partner to provide free STI testing and linkage to care for LGBTQ persons in Memphis,” Katy Leopard, assistant director of CHOICES, said.

Currently, CHOICES provides wellness exams to LGBTQ patients that include breast exams, birth control consultation, HIV testing, hormone management, and overall health evaluations.

Leopard said the clinic has nearly 200 transgender patients in the Mid-South area and that it can be difficult for those patients to find care elsewhere in Memphis.

“It’s very difficult for that population to find caring providers who ask questions in the right way and don’t ask unnecessary questions,” Leopard said. “A lot of our transgender patients have been wronged by the healthcare system. So they have a real wariness when coming to see a healthcare provider at all. So the fact that they see CHOICES as a place where they can come and be respected and valued is really big.”

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Monday, July 15, 2019

New Grant Up For LGBTQ-Friendly Nonprofits

Posted By on Mon, Jul 15, 2019 at 1:38 PM

  • Focus Mid-South/Facebook

Is your nonprofit organization super friendly to the LGBTQ+ community?

Could it use $20,000 in marketing, advertising, and some cold, hard cash?

Sounds like you should apply for the first-ever Focus Center Foundation grant. That grant is up for grabs now from the folks behind the Focus Awards and "Focus Magazine."  

To enter, nonprofits must prove they are, in fact, registered nonprofit organizations. The winning organization “must honor the mission, values, and vision of 'Focus Magazine' and the Focus Center Foundation.”
  • Focus Mid-South/Facebook

Here’s the mission statement at "Focus Magazine":

“Focus Magazine will promote LGBT inclusivity through dignified delivery of content that is relevant to LGBT persons; editorial and advertising content will be included at the discretion of the publisher to assure thoughtful and respectful content for all: LGBT and straight.

Focus Magazine will be no-or-low-cost to its readers; it’s free online and locally in print, and available regionally in print via low-cost mail subscription, thereby removing access barriers.”

Organizations must also submit their nondiscrimination policies ”effectively in place and enforced.”

The prize package includes $20,000 in marketing, advertising, and a cash prize provided by Ray Rico Freelance, Focus Mid-South Magazine, and the Focus Center Foundation.

“One of the biggest pain points for nonprofits is the lack of funding for marketing and advertising locally,” said Rico, owner of Ray Rico Freelance and publisher of Focus Magazine. “We aim to help fill that need.”

Applications are being accepted online only. The deadline for applications is Sunday, August 4th at 11:59 p.m.

The applications will first be judged during a social media and online voting period from August 7th through 14th. Finalists will be determined and a five-judge panel will review these finalists and vote for their favorites. The online vote counts 25 percent, while the judges’ votes count 75 percent towards the total score. One winner and one runner-up will be chosen.

Announcement of the winner will be made on Friday, August 23rd at the Focus Awards. If the winner is not present at the event, the prize will go to the runner up.

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Friday, June 28, 2019

Weekender: Queer Fest 2, Big Top Tease, Pride at The Pump

Posted By on Fri, Jun 28, 2019 at 10:18 AM


Memphis Queer Fest 2, Day 2
7 p.m.

7 p.m. — Hormonal Imbalance
7:45 p.m. — Nefarious Damn Thing
8:20 p.m. — Boyfriend
9:00 p.m. — Androids of Ex-Lovers
9:40 p.m.— Tom Violence
10:20 p.m. — Beg
11:00 p.m. — Waxjaw
11:40 p.m. — Risky Whispers


Big Top Tease: Volume II
Dru’s Place
9 p.m.

“QCG Productions will be taking the stage at Dru’s Place for a night you will not want to miss! There will be circus acts, dance, fire, acro, and more! Come see the sexy side of the circus and have. Fun night with us!”


Memphis Queer Fest 2: Day 3 — Day Show

Midtown Crossing Grill
2 p.m.

2 p.m. — TBA
2:40 p.m. — Party Pat
3:10 p.m. — Androids of Ex-Lovers
4 p.m. — Hardagay

Memphis Queer Fest 2: Day 3 — Evening Show
Hi Tone
6 p.m.

6 p.m. — Dixie Dicks
6:40 p.m. — Three Brained Robot
7:20 p.m. — Lackluster
8:00 p.m. — Craigzlist Punks
8:20 p.m. — Hummin’ Bird
9:20 p.m. — Tears For The Dying
10 p.m.— Lovergurl
10:40 p.m. — Wick and the Tricks
11:10 p.m. — The Gloyholes

Stand-up schedule:
7:10 p.m. — Joe Griz
7:50 p.m. — Lisa Michaels
8:30 p.m. — Josh McLane
9:10 p.m. — Jay Jackson
9:50 p.m. — Vala Bird
10:30 p.m. — Hann Cowger
11 p.m. — MOTH MOTH MOTH


Smith7 Pants Tour Benefiting OUTMemphis

Rec Room
7 p.m.
18 and over show
$5 cover

XVII TRILL - hip hop
PXLS - video game cover band
Wicker - Chaos rock
Ruzka - Fallout rock
Super Smash Bros Tournament


Pride At The Pump Part 2: The Pink Party
The Pumping Station
10 p.m.
No cover

“The Pump started World Pride Month with an incredible party! Now, we're doing it again as part of the month's closing ceremonies! Come join us and show your true colors! Pink and/or Pride attire (from tank tops to tutus – to whatever) is encouraged!

“In honor of the occasion and our community, and by popular demand, Record Player is serving up an encore play of his Pride DJ set that had the place packed with people dancing and singing all night long as we opened Pride Month!”


A Night with the Legends! - End of PRIDE Month Extravaganza!
Club Spectrum
9 p.m.

“Six of Memphis' biggest names hit the stage as legendary music stars to help throw the Biggest Goodbye to Pride month you've ever seen! This show will feature:

Freak Nasty as Tina Turner
Keleigh Klarke as Adele
Iris LeFluer as Madonna
Slade Kyle as Bella DuBalle
Aubrey Ombre as Mariah Carey
Jerred Price as Sir Elton John
Obsinity as Reba McEntire


Memphis Queer Fest 2: Day 4
Dru's Place
3 p.m.

3:00 p.m. — Queer Circus Girls
4:45 p.m. — Stay Fashionable
5:30 p.m. — Midtown Queer
6:20 p.m. — Exit Mouse

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