In Memoriam: State Rep. Larry Turner

The death of State Rep. Larry Turner (D-Memphis) on Friday has added a note of sadness to the Thanksgiving holiday.

Larry Turner is unfortunately not a name that much of Tennessee’s GLBT community knows.  But I hope this small memorial corrects that in some way.  With all the attention on federal issues, most of us don’t know much about the allied, adversarial, and indifferent members of the Legislature.  But I hope you will mourn with me one of the best friends our community has ever had in government in Tennessee.

Representative Turner was not a man who drew attention to himself.  He always struck me as quiet, thoughtful, and calm.  Beneath that exterior was a highly principled advocate for those whose needs were underrepresented in state government. 

He was one of seven members of the Tennessee House of Representatives who voted against the marriage discrimination amendment in 2005.  He was a co-prime sponsor of HB 0335, which would add gender identity or expression to Tennessee’s hate crimes bill.  In his capacity as a member of the House K-12 education subcommittee, he worked in a cool and careful manner to help throw the Don’t Say Gay bill off track when it was first introduced in 2008.  He had even been one of the speakers at TEP’s annual Advancing Equality Day on the Hill.

Larry Turner never met most of you who will read this, but it is moving to realize that even in the face of so much socially conservative opposition in this state, he looked out for you.  He stood with you.  He fought for you.  I hope you’ll give thanks for the life and witness of one of Tennessee’s statesmen and I hope his example will inspire you to work hard in 2010 to defend our rights when the General Assembly reconvenes in January.

Photo by Margo Amala on Unsplash

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