'Silent amendment' a secret weapon for GLBT rights?

by Jenny Ford
Tennessee Equality Project Lobbyist

I bought a gun last Friday.  More specifically I purchased a 20 gauge shotgun for “personal protection” purposes.  Translated that means I got myself a real big gun for security at the cabin, located in the hill country of east Tennessee.  “Personal protection” apparently is a term of art when it comes to deadly weapons, as it was used by the gentleman who sold me the shotgun.

Now having a shotgun hasn’t changed my way of thinking about guns in general, but this 5 foot 4, 109 lbs. woman feels a lot more powerful—even if I don’t know how to shoot it.  Ownership of this black, shiny pump-action weapon brought with it a certain amount of responsibility and standing.  So I decided to take the next step to validate my new place in society as a proud gun owner and join the NRA.

Whoa!  I can’t do that now can I?  Well, the NRA must have good standing.  In the Tennessee General Assembly this year, they’ve blocked or passed just about every bill catching their attention or had the organization’s support.
Just think you too will soon be able to bring a weapon into a bar or liquor serving restaurant.  Don’t hold your breath on a veto. Even if Gov. Bredesen does veto the bill, a simple majority in the House and Senate with override his objection and it will become law.

Now, what does the NRA, veto overrides and such have to do with LGBT advocacy?  Nothing really.  But wouldn’t it be great to have the power to pass or kill legislation that is of importance to the community?

*    Transgender folks get their birth certificate changed—no problem
*    Co-parenting when adopting a child?—a piece of cake
*    Hospital visitation, partner benefits, hate crimes, school education curriculum

No worries about someone sneaking an amendment on a bill in an attempt to take away yet another right.  It sure would make my job as TEP’s lobbyist pretty easy.  Well, that’s a great daydream.

The truth is our state’s lawmakers and the NRA justify passage of legislation, like the “Guns in Bars” bill by citing the Second Amendment of our Constitution, the right to bear arms.  I understand and respect that premise.

Now, I challenge all to ask themselves, when referencing the Constitution why not consider the Ninth Amendment—Protection of Rights not enumerated in the Bill of Rights?  Known as the silent amendment, the Ninth Amendment was placed in the Constitution to cover rights not set forth specifically in the other nine amendments.  Would that not justify voting against some of those despicable bills attempting to take away rights?

I understand this is another way to think about rights, but hey, the NRA is currently the state’s most winning advocacy group- and they have their very own amendment.  Why can’t TEP identify the amendment our forefathers intended for us to use—the Ninth Amendment to the US Constitution?  Now, I am not a lawyer; just a lobbyist, but it makes sense to me.  Think about it.

In closing, I promise to learn how to properly use the shotgun, and I am still considering joining the NRA.  Maybe I can pick up a few pointers on how to utilize our Constitution to better serve TEP’s members.

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