Wednesday, November 18, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To see the full index, go here.

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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Lakeland Commissioner Makes Anti-Gay Remarks on Facebook

Posted By on Wed, Sep 30, 2015 at 10:56 AM

Clark Plunk
  • Clark Plunk
Lakeland City Commissioner Clark Plunk made a number of anti-gay remarks in a Facebook thread about a gay student from Christian Brothers High School who wasn't allowed to take his male date to last weekend's homecoming dance.

Plunk's comments, which included a statement calling gays "vicious spiteful people," were made in response to a post about Lance Sanderson, the CBHS senior who asked if he could bring his date to the dance. CBHS changed their policy after Sanderson's request was turned down by an administrator. The homecoming dance policy stated "CBHS students may attend the dance by themselves, with other CBHS students, or with a girl from another school. For logistical reasons, boys from other schools may not attend."

That dance was Saturday, and Sanderson did not attend. On Monday, when he came to class, he was asked to leave for the week. An administrator told him "had 890 other students to worry about and could not deal with me," Sanderson told the Flyer on Monday afternoon.

Here are screenshots of Plunk's comments.


The Tennessee Equality Project issued a statement responding to Plunk's comments: "Elected officials are meant to serve all their constituents. These kind of disparaging remarks are improper for an office-holder, especially for an official totally removed from the reach of this controversy."

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Monday, September 28, 2015

CBHS Sends Student Home After He Spoke Out Against Anti-Gay Policy

Posted By on Mon, Sep 28, 2015 at 1:22 PM

Lance Sanderson
  • Lance Sanderson
Lance Sanderson, the Christian Brothers High School (CBHS) senior who wasn't allowed to bring his male date to last Saturday's homecoming dance, was sent home from school on Monday morning. Sanderson said he was told by an administrator that the school staff "had 890 other students to worry about and could not deal with me."

Sanderson sent the Memphis Flyer a copy of a letter he wrote to the CBHS administration. Here is the letter:
Dear CBHS Administration,
Today I arrived at school around 6:30am. I sat down to complete my assignments for the classes I planned on attending today. At 7:30am, I was speaking to a teacher when an administrator walked into the room and told me to gather my books and come to the office. When I arrived at the office I was told that the administration “had 890 other students to worry about” and could not deal with me. I was told to go home for the week. I said goodbye to a few teachers and students, then drove home.

I am hurt by this exclusion. It goes against the Lasallian value of brotherhood that the school is supposed to stand for. You won’t let me dance with my date and you won’t let me go to class now either. I had hoped that today would be one for positive conversation going forward. Instead, I was sent home. I haven’t done anything wrong and haven’t hurt anybody. I want to be welcomed back to the school building today and I want this mean-spirited semi-suspension ended, so that I can do my classwork like anybody else.

As Martin Luther King Jr. once wrote from a Birmingham jail cell: “Let us all hope that the dark clouds of...prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.”

Lance Sanderson
Sanderson said the school isn't calling it a suspension, but they told him he was being sent home because the school was getting bad press. That press started last week after it was revealed that CBHS instituted a policy to prevent students at the all-male private Catholic school from bringing boys from other schools to the homecoming dance. CBHS declined to comment for this story.

After Sanderson asked to bring a boy from another school, CBHS "issued a policy on its website stating that 'CBHS students may attend the dance by themselves, with other CBHS students, or with a girl from another school. For logistical reasons, boys from other schools may not attend.'"

Sanderson launched a petition, and the Flyer posted a story about the situation last Wednesday. Within a day, the story had gone viral on national news and LGBT sites, including Towle Road, Wonkette, and Teen Vogue. This weekend, the CBHS Alumni Association held posters supporting Sanderson at the city's annual Mid-South Pride parade and festival.

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Scenes From Mid-South Pride

Posted By on Mon, Sep 28, 2015 at 8:41 AM

Photographer Frank Chin caught all the action at the 12th annual Mid-South Pride festival in Robert Church Park and parade down Beale on Saturday.

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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Mid-South Pride This Weekend

Posted By on Thu, Sep 24, 2015 at 3:47 PM

The 12th annual Mid-South Pride festival and parade is happening a little early this year.

In the recent past, Mid-South Pride was held in October around National Coming Out Day. But this year's festivities are on Saturday, September 26th.

The festival kicks off in Robert Church Park at Fourth and Beale at 10 a.m. and runs to 5 p.m. And the parade will kick off on Beale at 5 p.m., also a later start time than in year's past.

This year's Pride theme is Love Equals Love, and the emcee is Phillis M. Lewis, a.k.a. FreakNasty, and Miss Gay Tennessee Bella DuBalle. The festival will feature vendors, a kid's area, a VIP area, and a car show presented by the Lambda Car Group.

Here's the entertainment stage lineup:
★ Thomas Prunier (Comedian)
★ Blackberry Wednesday (Performer Band)
★ Jerred Price as ‘Almost Elton’ (Performer Music)
★ Tori WhoDat (Performer Music)
★ Inner City South (Spoken Word)
★ ARTISTIK APPROACH (Performance Art/Music)
★ Q & A from Playhouse on the Square(Theater Performance)
★ Bridging Souls Productions (Dance)
★ Mary Robyn (Performer Music)
★ Miss Mid-South Pride
★ Mister Mid-South Pride
★ Miss Gay America
★ Miss Gay Tennessee – Bella DuBalle


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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

CBHS Student Not Allowed to Bring Same-Sex Date to Homecoming

Posted By on Wed, Sep 23, 2015 at 4:29 PM

Lance Sanderson
  • Lance Sanderson
A Christian Brothers High School (CBHS) senior was told by school administrators that he wouldn't be able to bring his male date to the school's homecoming dance this Saturday.

Now the private all-boys Catholic school has issued a policy on its website stating that "CBHS students may attend the dance by themselves, with other CBHS students, or with a girl from another school. For logistical reasons, boys from other schools may not attend."

Lance Sanderson said he discussed bringing a male date from another school to the dance with an administrator last year and was told he could. But that administrator left over the summer.

"I was sitting down talking to one of the current administrators over the summer, and at the end of our conversation, I mentioned it, expecting him to say the same thing. And he had a very different response," Sanderson said. "He mentioned a [gay] couple in Texas and said I was a lot like this one person and said that the guy's boyfriend murdered him. It was a little rough."

CBHS declined comment on this story through its marketing and communications director John Morris.

Sanderson said CBHS convened a committee to look into the possibility of allowing same-sex dates, and the committee drafted the current policy that says boys from other schools are not allowed to come to the dance. Sanderson said the policy has been read over the school's intercom daily this week.

"The way they worded it is 'for logistical reasons, boys from other schools may not attend.' I asked about it in a meeting [Tuesday] morning, and they said they didn't want guys from our school getting into disagreements with guys from other schools," Sanderson said. 

Sanderson said he would be able to go with a male date from CBHS if he chose to, according to the policy, but he believed the administration would "paint it as we're just friends going together."

Sanderson has launched a petition to convince CBHS to change their policy.

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Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Outflix Kicks Off This Weekend

Posted By on Wed, Sep 9, 2015 at 12:28 PM

From In the Turn
  • From In the Turn
Outflix, the annual LGBT film festival, starts Friday, September 11th and runs through Thursday, September 17th. This year's festival showcases a mix of dramas, comedies, love stories, and documentaries. Tickets are $10 per film or $99 for a festival pass. For descriptions of each film and a full schedule, go here.

Here are a few highlights:

Baby Steps
Friday, September 11, 7 PM
Ridgeway Cinema Grill

Danny and Tate decide to hire a surrogate to carry their first baby, but Danny's mom is horrified by the idea of a surrogate carrying her first grandchild. When she finally gets used to the idea, she tries to control the process as the three travel to Bangkok for the embryo transfer. 

Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines
Sunday, September 13, 3:30 PM
Ridgeway Cinema Grill

Documentary looking at evolution and legacy of Wonder Woman and how representations of powerful women tend to society's anxieties about women's liberation. Behind-the-scenes look at Lynda Carter, Lindsay Wagner, comic writers and artists, and real-life superheroines such as Gloria Steinem, Kathleen Hanna and others.

Big Gay Love
Saturday, September 12, 1 PM
Ridgeway Cinema Grill

Feature about Bob, a slightly overweight man searching for love body image–obsessed Los Angeles. He meets a man, a successful chef/restaurateur, but Bob's insecurities about his body come to the surface when the pair get physical. Bob makes an appointment with a plastic surgeon to become "perfect." The synopsis on the Outflix website calls the film "a cleverly crafted a love letter to everyone who’s ever wanted to be accepted as themselves regardless of their color, shape, or size."

In the Turn
Saturday, September 12, 5:00 PM
Ridgeway Cinema Grill
Documentary about a 10-year-old Canadian transgender girl named Crystal who finds her support network in Vagina Regime, an international queer collective of roller derby players.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Emergency Planning Meeting Called To Address Transgender Homelessness and Unemployment

Posted By on Tue, Aug 25, 2015 at 3:42 PM

Homeless Organizing for Power and Equality (H.O.P.E.) is turning its attention to the issue of homelessness and unemployment among transgender Memphians.

The group will host a "state of emergency" planning meeting on Thursday, August 27th at 7 p.m. at the Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center (MGLCC) to discuss solutions addressing the lack of resources for trans people.

Currently, most (or all) Memphis homeless shelters will not allow trans patrons unless those patrons agree to present as their gender assigned at birth. And it's difficult for transgender people to find employment. These issues overwhelming effect trans people of color.

For more information on the meeting or to RSVP, see the event's Facebook page.


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Monday, August 24, 2015

The Unleashed Voice Magazine Coming This Fall

Posted By on Mon, Aug 24, 2015 at 4:23 PM

Mother and son team Gwendolyn and Davin Clemons have announced that they'll be releasing a bi-monthly LGBTQ magazine this fall.

The Unleashed Voice Magazine
will feature stories "of LGBTQ people with engaging and empowering conversation" and will focus on "the multicultural LGBTQ community," according to a press release.

The Clemonses are the hosts of a LGBTQ talk radio show called "The Unleashed Voice" that airs every Saturday at 5 p.m. on KWAM 990. They also host a series of empowerment workshops through their "Relationships Unleashed" brand. Gwendolyn is a counselor with the Department of Corrections, and Davin is a Memphis police officer, where he serves in the role of LGBTQ liaison for the department. 


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Monday, August 3, 2015

Memphis Author Raising Funds to Turn Lesbian Fiction Series Into a Film

Posted By on Mon, Aug 3, 2015 at 4:00 PM

Memphis author Skyy has launched an Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign to turn her novel series, Choices, into a film.

The novels in the Choices series "follow the destinies of four women who are navigating through life, its challenges, and the LGBT community, with the backdrop of a college university in Memphis, Tennessee. The heroines are dealing with all the common ‘growing pains’ ... trying finding out who they really are what is their path in life, deciding if it’s better to follow logic or listen to their heart and learning to fall in love again and after a bitter disappointment," according to Skyy.

Perks for those who donate to the film's crowd-funding campaign include access to the Freedom University Center (a private, online community that will provide access to exclusive content from Skyy and the film-making process), digital downloads of the books, and producer credits on the film.

"This has been a dream of mine since I wrote the first chapter. Myself, as well as the devoted fans of the series, have been waiting nine years for this and now is the time to make it happen", says Skyy. "Let’s bring ‘Choices’ to the big screen!”

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

New LGBT Magazine Launches in Memphis This Fall

Posted By on Tue, Jul 28, 2015 at 11:28 AM

Ray Rico
  • Ray Rico
In September, the first issue of Focus Magazine, a new publication for the LGBT community, will hit stands.

Focus will be published by Ray Rico Freelance, a Cooper-Young-based design agency. The magazine will be available in print and online and will feature news, arts, entertainment, community, lifestyle, and other trending topics.

“The LGBT population in Memphis and regionally is being overlooked when it comes to news that is just for LGBT persons. There are many organizations that serve the needs of this audience, but nothing that is published regularly with aggregated content that is completely LGBT-centric,” said Rico, owner of Ray Rico Freelance. “We want to fill that void.”

Memphis hasn't had an LGBT print publication in several years. The Triangle Journal, a newspaper published by the Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center, ceased publication in 2009. Family & Friends, a Memphis-based LGBT magazine, stopped publication about a decade ago.

The first issue of Focus will by titled "The Coming Out Issue." The publication will be free and available at area businesses, or readers can subscribe for a mailed copy for $1 per issue.

“We want everyone to have access to this important publication, so we are offering Focus Magazine for free online and in print,” Rico said. “The printed version will be published every other month while the online version will be uploaded frequently with new and engaging content.” 

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Friday, July 24, 2015

Cherry's Third Anniversary Party!

Posted By on Fri, Jul 24, 2015 at 12:41 PM

For three years now, comedian Julie Wheeler has been hosting burlesque and variety shows for her monthly Cherry series.

On Saturday, July 25th, Cherry regulars (and newcomers) will celebrate the party's anniversary with a film noir-themed burlesque and variety show at Earnestine & Hazel's/The 5 Spot. There will be two burlesque shows throughout the night with performances by Requi Emma, LadyDoo Moi, Spyke Styletto, and Delilah (a.k.a. Deborah Nguyen). Singer-songwriter Lisa Michaels will perform in between the two shows. DJ Leslie Christopher will spin dance tunes at the end of the night.

The 5 Spot's menu, featuring the cuisine of Chef Kelly English, will be available, and there's a full bar.

General admission is $10 or VIP (saved seat and a signed poster) is $20.


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Thursday, July 16, 2015

TEP Ice Cream Social

Posted By on Thu, Jul 16, 2015 at 4:45 PM

Sunday is National Ice Cream Day. And rather than gorging on Ben & Jerry's alone (while catching up on episodes of Orange Is the New Black), get out and eat ice cream with others.

The Tennessee Equality Project (TEP) is hosting its annual Ice Cream Social on Sunday, July 19th from 2 to 4 p.m. at Neshoba Church. The family-friendly event is doubling as TEP's 11th anniversary party. There will be all-you-can-eat ice cream, toppings, and sundae treats.

Plus, Magic Mr. Nick will provide face-painting, magic, and balloons for the kids.

The suggested donation is $10 per person or $25 per family.

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Friday, June 26, 2015

Couples Tie the Knot at Tennessee Equality Project Marriage Celebration

Posted By on Fri, Jun 26, 2015 at 7:53 PM

"It's my pleasure to introduce you to Mrs. and Mrs. Wallheimer," said attorney (and former Shelby County Commissioner) Steve Mulroy, as a couple hundred people gathered on the lawn of the Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center (MGLCC) Friday afternoon cheered and clapped. Mulroy was referring to Jennifer and Alisha Wallheimer (formerly Jennifer Ballheimer and Alisha Wall), who married today on the front porch of the MGLCC.

Steve Mulroy performs a marriage for Jennifer and Alisha Wallheimer.
  • Steve Mulroy performs a marriage for Jennifer and Alisha Wallheimer.

Mulroy was one of several volunteers with marriage-ordaining powers at the MGLCC's celebration of the U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 decision in favor of same-sex marriage in all 50 states. He and others married two other couples on-site in front of the gathered crowd. Before the ceremony, ministers roamed the crowd looking for anyone ready to marry.

"We actually had more ministers come out to perform weddings than we had people looking to get married," said Tennessee Equality Project (TEP) Shelby County Committee Chair Justin Smith.

Shelby County Commissioner Reginald Milton spoke at the event. He told a story about having to go to a segregated medical clinic when he was a kid followed by the words "An injustice to anyone is an injustice to all."

"I was too young to know the Civil Rights Movement, but I am honored to be here today as we stand for justice for every human being in this country," Milton said.

While the event was celebratory, TEP President and Chair Ginger Leonard cautioned that, once the celebrations were over, the community still had lots of work ahead.

"Just because we can get married doesn't mean we are no longer going to be discriminated against in housing, jobs, getting loans from banks, or in other areas," Leonard said.

She said TEP will begin to shift its focus on non-discrimination ordinances with specific language addressing sexual orientation and gender identity, anti-bullying legislation, housing for LGBT homeless youth, and LGBT senior care.

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Tennessee Attorney General Statement on Supreme Court Ruling

Posted By on Fri, Jun 26, 2015 at 2:18 PM

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery
  • Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery
Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III is not in favor of the U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 decision in favor of legal same-sex marriage across the country.

Slatery issued the following statement today: “Today’s United States Supreme Court decision not only changes the definition of marriage, but takes from the states and their citizens the longstanding authority to vote and decide what marriage means. To the Tennessee citizen who asks ‘Don’t we get a chance to vote on this in some way?’ the answer from the Supreme Court is a resounding, ‘No, you do not.’ For the Court to tell all Tennesseans that they have no voice, no right to vote, on these issues is disappointing. The Court, nevertheless, has spoken and we respect its decision. Our office is prepared to work with the Governor and the General Assembly, as needed, to take the necessary steps to implement the decision.”

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