TEP: Challenges present opportunities for advocacy

The 109th General Assembly of the State of Tennessee just entered its second year and we all need to know what is in store for Tennessee’s LGBT community.

In some ways, it is as if the Legislature had never adjourned. As soon as the Supreme Court issued the Obergefell ruling for nationwide marriage equality, legislators began announcing plans to hold onto various forms of marriage discrimination. Those and other discriminatory proposals were announced throughout the fall leading up to General Assembly’s January 12 return.

Marriage: As of the first day of the session, the only discriminatory bill that we know we will face is SB1437/HB1412, which is called the “Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act.” This bill would attempt to return Tennessee to the days of marriage discrimination and require the Tennessee Attorney General to defend government officials who refuse to recognize equal marriage. Can it pass? Yes. Can it last? No, no serious legal scholar thinks it would hold up in court. Tennessee is already facing legal bills of $2.3 million from Obergefell. Continuing to resist marriage equality would be expensive for Tennessee.

Other marriage bills that have been discussed include a so-called pastor protection act, which would shield clergy from having to perform marriages with which they disagree. The First Amendment already accomplishes this goal. Other ideas under consideration include getting rid of marriage licenses altogether and bills to allow businesses and government officials to refuse to serve the LGBT community with marriage-related services.

Transgender discrimination: In November, State Rep. Bud Hulsey announced that he was considering a bill that would prevent transgender students from using restrooms and changing rooms that correspond to their gender identity. As of the first day of the session, the bill had not been filed. Rep. Hulsey has been seriously reviewing all the feedback he has been receiving about devastating effects the bill would have on transgender students.

Higher education diversity: In September a national controversy arose about efforts to provide education about gender-neutral pronouns at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. Legislators issued threats and held hearings. Special committees to investigate diversity programming at Tennessee’s public universities are being convened. The impact could be profound because our state’s schools are increasingly taking steps to protect LGBT students, faculty, and staff. We certainly do not want to see any interruption of these efforts.

Good bills out of reach: Because of the socially conservative composition of the Legislature, there are great proposals that likely will not get much of a hearing. Tennessee needs to allow the gender markers on birth certificates to be amended to protect transgender people. The Tennessee Human Rights Act should be amended to include sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression to protect LGBT people in employment, housing, public accommodation, etc. Our state’s hate crimes law should be updated to include gender identity and expression. State anti-bullying laws should be updated with more enumerated categories. There is great value in these bills for public education if they can get a hearing. That is a tall order given the political realities we face.

Taking action: Equality advocates around the state have been fighting back for months. Northeast Tennesseans protested the anti-transgender student bathroom bill this fall. More than 1200 people have contacted the State Senate against this proposed legislation. Volunteers canvassed conservative districts in Middle and East Tennessee to hone a message against the Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act. And hundreds of people have protested in red at their county commission meetings against anti-marriage equality resolutions designed to prompt the Legislature to pass discriminatory bills.

Sustaining the momentum is critical. The groups pushing discriminatory bills have been organizing for months and so have we. But even if you have not been involved, it is not too late. Bring your time and energy now. Go to the Legislature’s website at http://www.capitol.tn.gov/ and find your state senator and state representative. Contact them and express your opposition to these bills. Commit to attend TEP’s 12th annual Advancing Equality Day on the Hill on March 8. RSVP on the Facebook event page. You will benefit from spending time with other equality advocates from around the state and working to defend your own rights.

We have the better argument. Equality is a winning message. Over time, it overcomes the alternatives again and again. But if we want to speed up the process in Tennessee, we need numbers. Over 200 people in red beat an anti-marriage equality resolution in Blount County in October. You, your friends, and your family can give us the numbers to defend our community in this tough legislative session. As always, allies are welcome!





WhistlePig + Alfa Romeo F1

SHOREHAM, VT (September 13, 2023) — WhistlePig Whiskey, the leaders in independent craft whiskey, and Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake are waving the checkered flag on a legend-worthy release that’s taking whiskey to G-Force levels. The Limited Edition PiggyBack Legends Series: Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake Barrel is a high Rye Whiskey selected by the Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake drivers, with barrels trialed in their wind tunnel to ensure a thrilling taste in every sip.

The third iteration in WhistlePig’s Single Barrel PiggyBack Legends Series, the Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake Barrel is bottled at 96.77 proof, a nod to Valtteri Bottas’ racing number, 77, and the precision of racing. Inspired by Zhou Guanyu, the first Chinese F1 driver, this Rye Whiskey is finished with lychee and oolong tea. Herbal and floral notes of the oolong tea complement the herbaceous notes of WhistlePig’s signature PiggyBack 100% Rye, rounded out with a juicy tropical fruit finish and a touch of spice.

Keep readingShow less
by Spectrum Medical Care Center

Nurse Practitioner Ari Kravitz

When I started medical transition at 20 years old, it was very difficult to get the care I needed for hormone replacement therapy because there are very few providers trained in starting hormones for trans people, even though it’s very similar to the hormones that we prescribe to women in menopause or cisgender men with low testosterone.

I hope more providers get trained in LGBTQ+ healthcare, so they can support patients along their individual gender journey, and provide the info needed to make informed decisions about their body. I’ve personally seen my trans patients find hope and experience a better quality of life through hormone replacement therapy.

Keep readingShow less

Descanso Resort swimming pool and lounge area

Descanso Resort, Palm Springs' premier destination for gay men, just received Tripadvisor's highest honor, a Travelers' Choice "Best of the Best" award for 2023. Based on guests' reviews and ratings, fewer than 1% of Tripadvisor's 8 million listings around the world receive the coveted "Best of the Best" designation. Descanso ranked 12th in the top 25 small inns and hotels category in the United States. Quite an accomplishment!

Open less than two years, Descanso Resort offers gay men a relaxing and luxurious boutique hotel experience just minutes away from Palm Springs' buzziest restaurants, nightclubs, and shopping. Descanso has quickly established itself as a top destination for sophisticated gay travelers, earning hundreds of 5-star guest reviews and consistently ranking in Trapadvisor's top positions alongside brother properties Santiago Resort and Twin Palms Resort.

Keep readingShow less