Friday, July 3, 2020

OUTMemphis Program Offers Financial Assistance for LGBTQ+ Adults

Posted By on Fri, Jul 3, 2020 at 12:00 PM

OUTMEMPHIS
  • OUTMemphis

OUTMemphis is offering financial support for LBGTQ+ adults who are the most disenfranchised from social services and community support.

The OUTLast Emergency Assistance Program has immediate resources for trans people of color over 25 years-old, LGBTQ+ seniors who are 55 and older, people living with HIV over 25 years-old, and undocumented LGBTQ+ individuals over 25 years-old.

Applicants can receive funds for:

Food and supplies: $100 gift card to a grocery store or pharmacy

Mental health: Financial assistance for five therapy appointments for individuals starting work with a new counselor

Direct financial assistance: $200 immediate assistance, check or debit card

Rent and utilities: $500 for rent or utilities. Payment must be made to MLGW, leasing agent, or property owner

Transportation: up to $50 via MATA bus passes or Uber/Lyft gift card or gas gift card

OUTLast is open for individual applicants the 1st through 15th of every month. Awards are made on the first weekday of the following month. The OUTLast fund is open on a monthly basis as funds last. Apply here.

For anyone in need of services under 25 years-old, contact kblack@outmemphis.org.

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Friday, June 26, 2020

Cooper-Young Rainbow Crosswalk Gets a Permanent Refresh Sunday

Posted By on Fri, Jun 26, 2020 at 2:00 PM

MEMPHIS’ RAINBOW CROSSWALK/FACEBOOK
  • Memphis’ Rainbow Crosswalk/Facebook

If you noticed the rainbow crosswalk in Cooper-Young was looking a bit faded, a new one is on the way and it'll have staying power.

Volunteers will repaint the rainbow Sunday morning and install a more-permanent resin material over it to protect it from weather and traffic. The $3,000 project was funded by private donors.

Work on the crosswalk will begin at 7 a.m. and go until 2 p.m. Project partner Alchemy Memphis will open from 4 to 6 p.m. for to-go drinks and frozen cocktails.

At 7 p.m., a drag show and ceremony will be held outdoors at the corner of Cooper and Young. Bring your phones for contactless tipping for the entertainers.

MEMPHIS’ RAINBOW CROSSWALK/FACEBOOK
  • Memphis’ Rainbow Crosswalk/Facebook

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Wednesday, May 27, 2020

TN Legislators Advance Bill Targeting Transgender Athletes

Posted By on Wed, May 27, 2020 at 12:19 PM

screenshot_2020-05-27_at_11.06.41_am.png

A Tennessee House subcommittee advanced a bill Tuesday, May 27th, that aims to exclude school-aged transgender athletes from participating on teams matching their chosen gender.


The legislation, HB 1572, is sponsored by Rep. Brice Griffey (R-Paris). Griffey said the bill “is an attempt to address an issue where we have transgender athletes wanting to compete in female-primary sports, which gives them an unfair advantage.”


A summary of the bill reads in part: “As introduced, requires elementary and secondary schools that receive public funding to ensure that student athletes participate in school-sanctioned sports based on the student's biological sex as indicated on certificate issued at time of birth.”


Griffey said allowing transgender athletes to compete against the gender they identify as is unfair, pointing to puberty and testosterone, which he says “makes all the difference in the world. It’s just a fact of life.


“I have two daughters that are both school athletes and I would certainly be upset and I know a lot of other people who may have daughters who would be upset if a male athlete that considers themselves female and transgender has an unfair advantage.”


When asked by Rep. Vincent Dixie (D-Nashville) if there had been instances of this happening in Tennessee, Griffey said he is “not aware that we have had specific instances in Tennessee yet. This is a prospective bill so that we don’t run into this problem in the future.”

Griffey’s bill would establish a civil penalty for schools that don’t comply with the law of up to $10,000. Schools would also immediately lose eligibility for local and state funds of any type. Additionally, any school administrator or local official who violates the law’s provisions would be required to leave their position for five years.


A nearly identical bill, HB 1689, which has already passed through this subcommittee, is also set to go before the full education committee for consideration Thursday.


“I don’t care how we get the job done,” Griffey said of the competing bill. “It just needs to be done.”


Rep. Scott Cepicky (R-Culleoka), who is sponsoring that bill, says it is meant to “protect the safety-competitive balance and the opportunity for scholarships of our female athletes in middle school all the way to high school.”


Cepicky’s bill goes further and would mandate that schools require athletes to “verify that the student is of the respective sex before the student may participate.” The bill would require students to present birth certificates for verification and when not available students would have to provide results of a genetic or DNA test done by a healthcare practitioner.


Both bills could cause the state to lose $623.4 million dollars in federal education funds, as prohibiting students from participating who do not have a birth certificate may be a violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

Title IX “prohibits a person, on the basis of sex, from being excluded from participation in, to be denied the benefits of, be treated differently from another person, or otherwise discriminated against in any interscholastic, intercollegiate, club, or intramural athletics.”


The bills will be considered in the House Education Committee, Thursday, May 28th at 5 p.m.


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Thursday, March 19, 2020

Coronavirus: Dru's Place Drag Shows Go Virtual

Posted By on Thu, Mar 19, 2020 at 1:58 PM

DRU'S PLACE/FACEBOOK
  • Dru's Place/Facebook

By now, maybe you’ve done a virtual workout or your child has done some virtual learning. Tune in to Facebook tonight for, perhaps, a brand-new virtual experience — a drag show streaming live from Midtown.

Dru’s Place on Madison is moving cautiously ahead with its regular drag shows on Thursday and Saturday nights. Bar owner Tami Montgomery explained in a Thursday Facebook post that she’s taken many precautions for the shows, including streaming them on the bar’s Facebook page.

“I understand there are many people who disagree with businesses remaining open, and you have every right to your opinion,” Montgomery said. “Do not think for one second that this is an easy decision for any business owner to make. We will adhere to all regulations put forth by the city, state, and/or federal government.”
DRU'S PLACE/FACEBOOK
  • Dru's Place/Facebook
Montgomery said she has removed half of the bar’s seating, hired an environmental sanitation company to treat the bar every week, increased cleaning procedures, increased the personal hygiene requirements of the staff, canceled events, limited bar hours, and limited the number of people allowed inside.

However, the drag shows will remain for now, she said. For those, buckets will be used to collect tips (and you can send virtual tips on Venmo and other apps), the crowd is limited to 50 people, the bar will be open only for an hour and a half, and performers will remain on the stage and not circulate through the crowd. If you’ve never been to a drag show but have been curious, log on to Facebook and get a live look tonight from 10 to 11:30 p.m.
A screenshot from a live-feed test by Dru's Place yesterday. Tune in tonight and see the stage filled with the bar's famous drag artists. - DRU'S PLACE/FACEBOOK
  • Dru's Place/Facebook
  • A screenshot from a live-feed test by Dru's Place yesterday. Tune in tonight and see the stage filled with the bar's famous drag artists.
Montgomery said hosting the shows is a business decision, but a tough one.

“Many of you feel that there is help being provided and a business can just close up and the government will take care of them and their employees, or that business insurance covers the shutdown,” she wrote Thursday afternoon. “This is not factual information. Most policies will not cover a business being closed due to a virus.

“If you have never owned a business with employees who depend on their job to put a roof over their head, pay their bills, and eat, or invested everything you have ever had in a business, then you do not understand the position small business owners are in at this time. We have obligations you can not imagine, and every day we get up and do the best we can to do the best we can.”

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Thursday, February 13, 2020

TEP Finalizes "Slate of Hate" Bills for 2020

Posted By on Thu, Feb 13, 2020 at 2:35 PM

TENNESSEE EQUALITY PROJECT
  • Tennessee Equality Project

With the filing deadlines passed for both the Tennessee House and Senate this year, the Tennessee Equality Project (TEP) has unveiled the final version of its “Slate of Hate,” bills targeting the LGBTQ community.

These are the “key bills that present direct attacks on Tennessee’s LGBTQ community that could move in the 2020 state legislative session.”

From the TEP:

Attacks on transgender youth:
Bowling and Ragan - TENNESSEE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
  • Tennessee General Assembly
  • Bowling and Ragan
SB2215/HB2576: This bill interferes with the ability of transgender youth to access gender-affirming health care and outrageously labels violations as child abuse.

Sponsored by Sen. Janice Bowling and Rep. John Ragan

Pody and Griffey - TENNESSEE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
  • Tennessee General Assembly
  • Pody and Griffey
Hensley and Cepicky - TENNESSEE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
  • Tennessee General Assembly
  • Hensley and Cepicky
SB2077/HB1572 and SB1736/HB1689: These bills prevent transgender youth from participating in school sports according to their gender identity.

SB2077/HB1572 sponsored by Sen. Mark Pody and Rep. Bruce Griffey

SB1736/HB1689 sponsored by Sen. Joey Hensley and Rep. Scott Cepicky

Hensley and Holt - TENNESSEE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
  • Tennessee General Assembly
  • Hensley and Holt

SB1499/HB1274: This bill represents a new twist on the older anti-transgender student bathroom bills. It provides state legal assistance to school districts that adopt anti-transgender student policies. Filed in 2019.

Sponsored by Hensley and Rep. Andy Holt


Attacks on marriage equality:
Bowling and Ragan - TENNESSEE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
  • Tennessee General Assembly
  • Bowling and Ragan
Bowling and Leatherwood - TENNESSEE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
  • Tennessee General Assembly
  • Bowling and Leatherwood

SB2625/HB2410
and SB2290/HB2310: These two bills attempt to undo or interrupt marriage equality by establishing a new definition of “secular marriage” and repealing existing Tennessee laws on marriage licensing.

SB2625/HB2410 sponsored by Bowling and Ragan

SB2290/HB2310 sponsored by Bowling and Rep. Tom Leatherwood

Pody and Sexton - TENNESSEE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
  • Tennessee General Assembly
  • Pody and Sexton

SB1282/HB1369
: The Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act. Filed in 2019.

Sponsored by Pody and Rep. Jerry Sexton


Attacks on the ability of local governments to serve the LGBTQ community:

Rose and Zachary - TENNESSEE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
  • Tennessee General Assembly
  • Rose and Zachary
SB364/HB563: The Business License to Discriminate bill prevents local governments from favoring companies that have good workplace policies like inclusive non-discrimination. Filed in 2019.

Sponsored by Sen. Paul Rose and Rep. Jason Zachary

Bailey and Holt - TENNESSEE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
  • Tennessee General Assembly
  • Bailey and Holt

SB2896/HB2721: This bill would hinder the ability of public libraries to provide Pride and LGBTQ displays and programming.

Sponsored by Sen. Paul Bailey and Holt

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Thursday, February 6, 2020

Companies Say Anti-LGBTQ Laws Threaten Business

Posted By on Thu, Feb 6, 2020 at 1:32 PM

OUTMEMPHIS
  • OUTMemphis

Hilton, the Tennessee Titans, the Nashville Predators, IKEA, Nike, Amazon, CMT, Postmates, and Warby Parker.

These are but some of 36 corporations doing business in Tennessee that believe the state’s recently passed bill to discriminate against the LGBTQ community in adoptions will hurt business.

Those corporations and 109 small businesses issued a letter Wednesday saying “policies that signal that the state is not welcoming to everyone put our collective economic success at risk.”

“As we seek to maintain and grow our world-class workforce, we often face questions about whether our state is welcoming to the LGBTQ community and beyond,” reads the letter. “It is both a business imperative and core to our corporate values that our customers, our employees and their families, and our potential employees feel fully included in the prosperity of our state.”

The letter was organized by the Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce, Freedom for All Americans, GLAAD, and the Human Rights Council. As such, most of the letter’s signers are in Middle Tennessee.

The Nashville Predators said the city has seen enormous fan turnout for the NHL All-Star Weekend, the NHL Stanley Cup Final, and SEC men’s and women’s basketball tournaments.

“Passing discriminatory legislation would limit revenue for the city of Nashville and the state of Tennessee by inhibiting our ability to secure events like those and future events such as league marquee events, NCAA Games, award shows, and countless potential concerts,” the Predators said in the letter. “We strongly encourage our elected officials to keep us on an inclusive path that protects the rights of all Tennessee citizens.”

Memphis Pride Fest
  • Memphis Pride Fest

Postmates, the tech-forward delivery service, said it “continues to be alarmed by the Lee Administration’s anti-LGBTQ agenda, particularly as we consider expanding our presence in the Volunteer State.”

“State leaders cannot and will not be able to expect companies like ours to power its economic engines while supporting legislation that undermines our ability to feel welcome in this state unless they commit to a new pathway to include all families and all workers,” the company said in the letter. “HB 386 undermines businesses’ ability to recruit top talent and grow in the state by policies that say not all are welcome — and it’s just plain wrong.
“To our Postmates fleet, our customers, our small business owners, our entire community: we stand with you no matter who you love or who you are, and we will not accept this kind of flagrant hatred.”

State senators passed the bill in its first major move since the 111th Tennessee General Assembly reconvened in January. Lee signed the bill into law last month. It allows adoption agencies to discriminate against the LGBTQ community.

The bill shelters 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.”


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

But the bill’s Senate sponsor, Sen. Paul Rose (R-Tipton and part of Shelby County), said 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.

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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.
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“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
  • 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.”
Rep. Tim Rudd - TENNESSEE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
  • 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).
Lt. Gov. Randy McNally - TENNESSEE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
  • 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. 
Sen. Steven Dickerson - TENNESSEE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
  • 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. 
Sen. Jeff Yarbro - TENNESSEE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
  • 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.” 
Sen. Raumesh Akbari - TENNESSEE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
  • 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.”
Sen. Paul Rose - TENNESSEE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
  • 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.

REPSONSES:

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

screenshot_2019-12-10_at_3.10.45_pm.png

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
  • 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.
tennessee_equality_project_logo_2_.jpg

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/CHANGE.ORG
  • Jerred Price/change.org

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.”

Cole Bradley - JUSTIN FOX BURKS
  • 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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