TEP goes greek with Olympus fundraising event

The Tennessee Equality Project will hold its first annual gala fundraiser at Nashville’s Parthenon on Sept. 22.

In keeping with the venue’s Greek roots, the event’s theme is “Olympus.” In addition to raising funds for the organization, which advocates equal right for Tennessee’s GLBT community by working to advance GLBT-friendly legislation at the state and local levels, it also raises awareness on bullying and other community issues.

Olympus will also serve as a platform to honor Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero, Metro Nashville government and the Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center.

Metro Nashville Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors will serve as honorary co-chair of the event, which also will raise TEP’s profile as it preps for the fall elections and an incoming Tennessee General Assembly that’s likely to be as unfriendly to GLBT issues as the recently adjourned one was. It also will showcase the positive work being done for the community in the face of such strong adversaries, said TEP President Chris Sanders.

“The 107th General assembly presented significant challenges for our community, but we are still seeing important advances in equality in West, Middle and East Tennessee,” Sanders said. “We are brining together all three grand divisions of our state to celebrate these champions of quality.”

Rogero, who was elected mayor in 2011, shepherded nondiscrimination ordnance through the Knoxville City Council in April. It extended protections based on sexual orientation, gender identity, disability and ethnicity to those already on the books. The ordinance passed unanimously, and Rogero followed that by becoming the first Knoxville mayor to ever speak at Knoxville Pridefest.

Metro Nashville has passed two nondiscrimination ordinances. A 2009 effort protected Metro employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and a 2011 follow-up that protected Metro contractors from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The state legislature promptly passed HB600, which nullified the 2011 ordinance, and the Metro Law Department has filed an amicus brief in a court challenge to the state legislation.

Metro also has passed resolutions honoring high school students who protested the “Don’t Say Gay” bill that continues to be brought up in legislative sessions.

The evening’s third honoree, the Memphis Gay & Lesbian Center, was chartered in 1989 and provides a wide array of programs for the Mid-South GLBT community. In addition to health-related programs such as free HIV testing and support groups, the center produces the annual Outflix Film Festival.

“The attacks on our community are alarming and grab the headlines, but it’s important to celebrates those who are taking positive steps to make Tennessee a more welcoming place,” Sanders said. “We’ve designed Olympus to celebrate the champions of equality and raise funds to fight back against the forces that seek to deprive us of equal rights.”

Olympus will be held at the Parthenon in Centennial Park on Sept. 22 from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tickets are $50 and tables are $500. Sponsorships also are available. For more information, visit www.OlympusTEP.org.

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