Wednesday, June 22, 2016

OutBid Celebrates First Anniversary of Marriage Equality

Posted By on Wed, Jun 22, 2016 at 12:10 PM

Marriage equality became the law of the land on June 26, 2015 after the momentous Obergefell v. Hodges U.S. Supreme Court decision. The Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center (MGLCC) will commemorate the first anniversary of marriage equality in its annual Outbid auction.

Themed “Paper & Pansies: A Celebration of the First Anniversary of Marriage Equality," the auction to benefit MGLCC will take place on Saturday, June 25th at the Clark Opera Memphis Center at 6:30 p.m.

Paper is the traditional first anniversary gift, symbolizing the strength that comes from the interlaced connection of the paper's individual threads. And an alternate tradition recommends pansies, which symbolize thought or remembrance.

The auction event will also feature live music and comedy, as well as food and libations. Tickets are $50 for a single, $90 for a double, and $350 for a table of eight. To purchase tickets, go here.


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Monday, June 13, 2016

Memphis LGBT Community and Supporters Gather in Cooper-Young

Posted By on Mon, Jun 13, 2016 at 9:07 AM

Crowd gathered on Cooper in front the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Center.
  • Crowd gathered on Cooper in front the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Center.

In the wake of Sunday morning's horrific mass shooting at a gay club in Orlando, the Memphis LGBT community and its supporters gathered in front of the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Center in Cooper-Young Sunday night. 

The vigil drew an estimated 300-400 people. Speakers included Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, Congressman Steve Cohen, and Executive Director of the MGLCC, Will Batts.

Batts pointed out the historic significance of gay clubs as a sanctuary for the LGBT community. "They were a place where I could be who I was," he said.

Strickland said, "I know there is more love than hatred in this world," adding that he was comforted by seeing the crowd gathered in support.

Mayor Strickland speaks to crowd. - MAYOR JIM STRICKLAND
  • Mayor Jim Strickland
  • Mayor Strickland speaks to crowd.

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Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Rainbow Grizzlies Shirts for Pride Month!

Posted By on Tue, Jun 7, 2016 at 1:10 PM

The NBA has launched a line of Pride Month-themed basketball apparel, reports Outsports.

The Memphis Grizzlies logo (and the logos of the other 29 NBA teams) is featured in rainbow colors on a black background. The shirts, which retails for about $25, are only available at Teespring, and the proceeds benefit the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN), which pushes schools to treat all students with respect, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

"Professional sports showing up for LGBT people is one of the biggest cultural developments of the last decade, and really the last five years," GLSEN executive director Eliza Byard told Outsports. "The NBA has been showing up for LGBT youth and for GLSEN for a number of years. Having this be a league-wide initiative, knowing any LGBT fan in the country can choose to celebrate their team and themselves with one of those shirts, that's a whole new thing."

Last year, some teams in Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League featured rainbow-logo tees, but the NBA Pride Month line marks the first time a major sports league has featured all of its teams.


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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Tennessee Suing Obama Administration Over Transgender School Guidance

Posted By on Wed, May 25, 2016 at 8:54 PM

Herbert Slatery
  • Herbert Slatery
Tennessee will join 10 other states in a lawsuit suing President Barack Obama's administration over its directive regarding transgender student bathroom access in public schools.

Earlier this month, Obama issued guidance to public schools suggesting that transgender students should be allowed to use the restroom and locker rooms that match their gender identity. Governor Bill Haslam has criticized the directive and accused Obama of "over-reaching." 

On Wednesday, 11 states — Tennessee, Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Maine, Arizona, Louisiana, Utah, and Georgia — filed a lawsuit in a North Texas federal court declaring the directive to be unlawful.

The suit states that Obama has “conspired to turn workplace and educational settings across the country into laboratories for a massive social experiment, flouting the democratic process, and running roughshod over commonsense policies protecting children and basic privacy rights."

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery released the following statement on Wednesday afternoon:
The Executive Branch has taken what should be a state and local issue [under the Tenth Amendment] and made it a federal issue. Schools that do not conform under the new rules risk losing their federal funding. This is yet another instance of the Executive Branch changing law on a grand scale, which is not its constitutional role. Congress legislates, not the Executive Branch. Our Office has consistently opposed efforts like this to take away states’ rights and exclude the people’s representatives from making these decisions, or at a minimum being able to engage in a notice and comment period under the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). As the complaint describes, it is a social experiment implemented by federal departments denying basic privacy rights and placing the burden largely on our children, not adults. Sitting on the sidelines on this issue was not an option.
Meanwhile, Shelby County Schools has said they're carefully reviewing the information Obama sent to school districts, and they'll continue to work with families of transgender students on a case-by-case basis.

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Friday, May 20, 2016

Gay Memphis Police Officer Sues the City for Discrimination

Posted By on Fri, May 20, 2016 at 5:12 PM

Davin Clemons
  • Davin Clemons
Memphis Police officer Davin Clemons, a TACT officer who serves as the department's LGBTQ liaison, has filed a lawsuit against the city of Memphis and the Memphis Police Department (MPD) alleging discrimination based on his sexual orientation, his disability, and his religion.

He's being represented by attorney Maureen Holland, the local attorney who was involved in the Obergefell v. Hodges U.S. Supreme Court case that led to same-sex marriage being legalized across the country.

MPD's LGBTQ liaison role was re-started in 2014 after a lull in participation, and Clemons was the first MPD officer named to the role after its re-launch. In that role, he's responsible for helping to build trust between the LGBTQ community and the police department. But Clemons alleges that role has backfired, causing some superior officers to discriminate against him because he is gay. 

After being appointed as liaison in August 2014, Clemons claims he was harassed, reprimanded, and humiliated by other officers. 

Much of the discrimination came from an officer named as Lt. Hulsey in the lawsuit. One incident says Hulsey approached Clemons on Beale on July 4th, 2014, and "yelled and degraded Officer Clemons in front of thousands of citizens at a Fourth of July event. ... Officer Clemons believes that Lt. Hulsey engaged in this behavior due to sexual stereotypes and, in particular, a belief that Officer Clemons was not sufficiently masculine, was too feminine, or due to a belief that men should only date women, not other men."

Clemons also claims he has been discriminated against for a medical condition. Clemons has been diagnosed with pseudofolliculitis barbae, a condition that causes serious breakouts on the face after shaving, and his doctor has recommended that he not shave. He had a "shaving profile" on file with MPD, which was supposed to prevent the MPD from forcing him to shave his facial hair (a requirement of most officers). Clemons has said superior officers have harassed him and forced him to shave, despite his doctor's orders.

Additionally, Clemons claims discrimination based on his religion. Clemons and his partner Darnell Gooch (also a Memphis police officer) founded Cathedral of Praise Church of Memphis, an LGBTQ-inclusive church. Clemons claims he'd asked off for a religious observance on August 13th, 2014, and he'd been granted the day off by a Lt. Jenkins, but the lawsuit says Hulsey refused to remove Clemons from an overtime detail. 

Reads the lawsuit: "This incident lead to a heated verbal disagreement between Officer Clemons and Lt. Hulsey whereby Lt. Hulsey was yelling and screaming and pointing his finger at Officer Clemons and saying that he (Clemons) is going to work the mandated overtime. Officer Clemons objected to working a voluntary overtime on a mandatory basis. Officer Clemons did not yell or scream at Lt. Hulsey in voicing his disagreement. Officer Clemons requested a witness or union representative and Lt. Hulsey denied it. ... Officer Clemons was charged with insubordination and disobedience of an order and originally given a 20-day suspension."

At another time, Clemons, who has a leadership role in his church, claimed Hulsey called him a "false prophet" and that Clemons' faith "is not to be taken seriously because Officer Clemons is gay."

"The purpose of the LGBTQ liaisons is to improve trust and relationships, but this is not possible if the appointed Memphis Police LGBTQ liaison is being discriminated against, harassed, and retaliated against due to his participation as a LGBTQ liaison and due to his sex, religion, and disability," reads the lawsuit.

The suit claims the alleged discrimination against Clemons is a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Clemons is seeking at least $300,000 in compensatory damages and losses, back pay, lost benefits, and other economic losses. He would also like the officers named in the suit to receive training to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation. 

Holland released the following statement from Clemons: "I'm proud to be a police officer for the MPD. I do, however, want to be treated fairly on the job. I believe that all employees should be treated fairly, based on the quality of their work, not on their sexual orientation, religious beliefs, disability, race, color, ethnicity or any other legally protected characteristic. The purpose of this suit is to protect the right of city employees to fair and nondiscriminatory treatment. I am a committed police officer and want to continue my work without interference and discrimination.”

At a press conference introducing the new Memphis Animal Services director Friday afternoon, Mayor Jim Strickland said he could not comment on Clemons' lawsuit.

Read the lawsuit here:

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Haslam Signs Bill That Allows Counselors to Discriminate

Posted By on Thu, Apr 28, 2016 at 8:41 AM

Bill Haslam
  • Bill Haslam
It's now legal in Tennessee for licensed counselors and therapists to refuse to treat clients whose "goals, outcomes, or behaviors" violate the counselors "sincerely held principles."

The bill was passed by the Tennessee General Assembly, and Governor Bill Haslam signed it into law on Tuesday afternoon. 

The bill was one of several religious freedom-style bills pushed by the Family Action Council of Tennessee (FACT) this year. That group often focuses on pushing anti-LGBT measures, and it's been called a hate group by LGBT activists. FACT has said the bill is intended to protect the right of conscience of a counselor and to safeguard their religious beliefs. 

The American Counseling Association recently updated its code of ethics to prevent discrimination against clients in need of service, which may have prompted FACT to push for a change in Tennessee.

The bill doesn't name LGBT people specifically, and it has potential to have a far-reaching impact beyond the LGBT community. But Tennessee Equality Project Executive Director Chris Sanders believes the LGBT community is the bill's primary target. He has said the bill will be especially harmful to LGBT youth in rural areas, where the only counselors available may now legally turn them away.

That said, Sanders thinks the new law will be used to discriminate against all sorts of people.

"They amended out the word 'religion' and it’s now 'sincerely held principles,' and that’s even broader," Sanders said. "Conceivably, sexism and racism are principles. At this point, it’s so wide open, it’s ridiculous, and it defeats the purpose of having a counseling code of ethics."

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

LGBT Equality Advocates Make Last Push Against Counseling Discrimination Bill

Posted By on Wed, Apr 27, 2016 at 2:52 PM

Bill Haslam
  • Bill Haslam
Governor Bill Haslam has very little time left to veto or sign the bill that would allow counselors to turn away clients based on their "sincerely held principles."

Tennessee Equality Project (TEP) has launched a petition page calling on Haslam to veto HB1840, which TEP Executive Director Chris Sanders says would have far-reaching impact beyond the LGBT community.

"They amended out the word 'religion' and it’s now 'sincerely held principles,' and that’s even broader," Sanders said. "Conceivably, sexism and racism are principles. At this point, it’s so wide open, it’s ridiculous, and it defeats the purpose of having a counseling code of ethics."

Sanders said TEP believes the LGBT community was the primary target for the bill.

"LGBT isn’t spelled out at all. If they did that, they know it would be ruled unconstitutional. But we’re the target," Sanders said.

The bill is one of several anti-LGBT bills brought before the General Assembly this past session. 

"We didn’t introduce any bills that were positive [for the LGBT community] because we knew that this was going to be a crazy year. There have been bills on notice before committee every week of the session, at least one and often two or three," Sanders said. "We’ve never had a year like this before. It’s definitely backlash from [Supreme Court same-sex marriage decision]. They’re trying to build enclaves of discrimination wherever they can, realizing that the boundaries have shifted so much now."

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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Tracy Morgan Cancels Tunica Show Over Anti-Gay Mississippi Law

Posted By on Tue, Apr 19, 2016 at 1:45 PM

Tracy Morgan
  • Tracy Morgan

Comedian Tracy Morgan announced that he's canceling his upcoming appearance at the Horseshoe Casino in Tunica due to Mississippi's new law allowing for discrimination against LGBT people.

Morgan was supposed to perform on Friday, April 29th. He released the following statement on Tuesday afternoon:
"Tracy did not make this decision lightly. He very much looks forward to rescheduling his tour dates in the area after the ‘Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act,’ is either repealed or heavily amended."
Horseshoe Casino said refunds will be made available for those who'd already purchased tickets.

Earlier this month, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed the law that allows churches, religious charities, and privately held businesses to decline services to LGBT people if doing so would violate their religious beliefs.

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Monday, April 18, 2016

Anti-Transgender Bathroom Bill Dead ... Again

Posted By on Mon, Apr 18, 2016 at 9:17 PM

The Tennessee bill that would have prevented transgender students in public high schools and universities from using the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity is dead again. 

House sponsor, Rep. Susan Lynn (R-Mt. Juliet) announced on Monday that she would roll the bill over to next year.

It's the second time in less than a month that the bill has been killed. In late March, the bill was sent to summer study, but proponents managed to get it back up for consideration and a House committee voted 8-4 to reverse the decision to send the bill to summer study.

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam has expressed concerns about the bill, citing that the state may lose federal education funding if it goes into law. And an opinion by State Attorney General Herbert Slatery issued last week backed up Haslam's concerns that the state could lose millions in federal funding if the bill was passed. Across the country, as states have considered such bills, major companies, such as Coca-Cola, the NFL, and Delta Air Lines, have raised concerns about discrimination. In Tennessee, CMT (Country Music Television) has issued a statement against the bill.

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Gay-Straight Alliances for Shelby County Schools

Posted By on Mon, Apr 18, 2016 at 2:46 PM

The Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center (MGLCC) has arranged two meetings this week for students, parents, and community partners interested in starting gay-straight alliances (GSAs) in Shelby County Schools (SCS).

Both meetings will feature a representative from the national GSA Network, as well as SCS and MGLCC staff.

The first meeting, which is designed for community partners (LGBT groups, supportive religious organizations, etc.), is Tuesday, April 19th at 6 p.m. at MGLCC (892 S. Cooper). 

The second meeting will be at Church Health Center Wellness (1115 Union) on Wednesday, April 20th at 6:30 p.m. That meeting is designed for parents, students, and families.


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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Tennessee House Revives Anti-Transgender Bathroom Bill

Posted By on Wed, Apr 6, 2016 at 10:14 PM

House Republican Susan Lynn is sponsoring the anti-transgender bathroom bill.
  • House Republican Susan Lynn is sponsoring the anti-transgender bathroom bill.
A state bill that would prevent students at Tennessee public schools and universities from using the restroom or locker room that matches their gender identity was brought back to life Wednesday afternoon by the House Education Administration and Planning Committee.

The bill essentially failed two weeks ago when it was sent to summer study, but proponents of the bill managed to get it back up for consideration. The committee voted 8-4 to reverse the decision to send the bill to summer study. The bill will now move on to the Senate Finance, Ways, and Means Committee.

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam has expressed concerns about the bill, citing that the state may lose federal education funding if it goes into law. Across the country, as states have considered such bills, major companies, such as Coca-Cola, the NFL, and Delta Air Lines, have raised concerns about discrimination. In Tennessee, CMT (Country Music Television) has issued a statement against the bill.

“Tennessee lawmakers must not be paying attention to North Carolina and the national backlash caused by a similar legislative attack on transgender people,” said Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin. “In addition to undermining Tennessee’s economy, this vicious and appalling measure would needlessly jeopardize millions in federal funding for Tennessee’s schools and universities in an attempt to force local administrators and teachers to discriminate against transgender students — young people who already face high rates of harassment, bullying, and discrimination.”

The Tennessee House also passed a bill on Wednesday that would allow counselors to deny treatment to patients based on religious beliefs. That bill is heading to Haslam's desk for a signature.

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Monday, March 28, 2016

MGLCC Conducts LGBTQ Census

Posted By on Mon, Mar 28, 2016 at 4:28 PM

The Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center (MGLCC) has launched a census project to help them get a more accurate picture of the LGBTQ community. 

The anonymous survey asks questions about sexual orientation, gender identity, how comfortable a person is being "out" to family, co-workers, faith communities, etc. It also surveys participants on what LGBTQ issues are most important to the Mid-South community (i.e. making Memphis safer for trans people, preventing school bullying of LGBTQ students, housing LGBTQ homeless youth, etc.).

The survey will be available through April 8th online. Those who would rather fill out a paper copy may do so at MGLCC (892 S. Cooper) during regular business hours (Monday-Friday 2 p.m. – 9 p.m.).


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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Cherry Hula Burlesque Show

Posted By on Thu, Mar 24, 2016 at 1:42 PM

Spring may have just arrived, but it's already summer at Cherry — the monthly party for lesbians and their friends.

This month's installment — Hula Burlesque — will feature performances by burlesque, belly, and drag performers Kitty Wompas, Fatima Fox, Will Ryder, and Delilah, and as always, it's hosted by comedian Julie Wheeler. Cherry will be held at 5 Spot behind Earnestine & Hazel's on Saturday, March 26th, and shows begin at 9:30 and 11 p.m. 

There will be a limbo contest for VIP tickets to the next month's party. General admission is $10, and VIP tickets are $20.


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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Anti-Transgender Bathroom Bill Killed For Now

Posted By on Tue, Mar 22, 2016 at 12:07 PM

A Tennessee bill that would have prohibited transgender students at public schools and universities from using the restrooms that correspond with their gender identity has been sent to summer study, meaning it's essentially dead.

The Tennessee House Education Administration & Planning Committee voted to send HB2414 to study after the Tennessee General Assembly Fiscal Review Committee issued a fiscal note that stated, if passed, “federal funding to the state for education could be jeopardized.” Governor Bill Haslam has also expressed that the bill could endanger federal education funding. The state received $1 billion in federal funding for secondary and post-secondary education in this fiscal year.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee applauded the bill's death.

“We applaud the House Education Administration & Planning Committee’s vote to stop this discriminatory bill from advancing any further," said Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the ACLU of Tennessee. "The powerful voices of transgender students and their families who spoke out against this bill truly increased understanding of what it means to be transgender and moved legislators to recognize that this legislation was extremely harmful. Every child in Tennessee deserves to be treated with respect and dignity, which is why today’s vote is so important as we work to move Tennessee forward and ensure that all Tennessee children are treated equally under the law.”

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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Tennessee House Advances Anti-Transgender Bathroom Bill

Posted By on Wed, Mar 16, 2016 at 1:33 PM

Susan Lynn
  • Susan Lynn
A bill that would prevent transgender students from using the restroom that matches their gender identity passed a Tennessee House subcommittee on Tuesday afternoon and is up before the Senate education committee on Wednesday.

The bill would apply to students at public grade schools and universities, and the gender restrictions would extend to locker rooms as well.

Republican Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam has stated opposition to the bill, but it's being pushed by ultra-conservatives Rep. Susan Lynn (R-Mt. Juliet) and Sen. Mike Bell (R-Riceville).

Similar legislation was passed in South Dakota last month, but it was vetoed by their Republican Governor Dennis Daugaard.

"The Tennessee House of Representatives education and planning subcommittee showed ... that they only care about cis-gender students and not trans students," said Victoria Hester, an opponent of the bathroom bill who observed the subcommittee meeting on Tuesday. "It goes to show how much lack of understanding and hate there is in this state in regards to transgender and gender non-binary individuals. A very sad day."

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