TEP plans statewide expansion to advance positive legislation

The Tennessee Equality Project has announced a new campaign highlighting it's statewide expansion. "It's Time" focuses on pursuing positive legislation to provide protections for the state’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community. 

TEP's first regional committee was established just over a year ago in Shelby County. After a spring and summer of organizing around the state, TEP has looked to the Shelby County Committee as the prototype for committees in Rutherford, Montgomery, Hamilton/Bradley, Knox, and Franklin Counties as well as the Tri-Cities, to give the organization a statewide presence.

“The Shelby County Committee worked hard at engaging candidates for City Council last year,” said TEP President Chris Sanders.  “They have turned those contacts into an impressive effort to move a nondiscrimination ordinance forward in Memphis.   We are building on their efforts and recruiting district captains in Metro Council districts throughout Nashville so that we can more effectively engage local government.  It’s time to advance positive legislation.”

Sanders said the committees are a critical resource in advancing local ordinances and will fuel the effort to influence legislation at the state level in January when the Legislature reconvenes.  More than 30 people came from Shelby County to Nashville in February to meet with their legislators to discuss issues like the birth certificate bill and the proposed adoption ban.

“We began organizing early and set a goal of having the largest delegation in the state at Advancing Equality Day on the Hill,” said Shelby County Co-Chair Tommy Simmons.  “Not only were we the largest group, but we played a role in helping defeat the adoption ban.” 

The success of the Shelby County Committee demonstrated to TEP the importance of establishing strong regional committees throughout Tennessee. It also helped the organization turn a corner from fighting negative legislation to pursuing positive legislation. 

“If we ever hope to pass a bill in the General Assembly that provides real protections for our community, we need support throughout the state,” said Jonathan Cole, Shelby County Co-Chair.  “We will announce legislation later this month that will benefit every member of Tennessee’s GLBT community.”

Board member and Middle Tennessee Coordinator Todd Hughes , who has led the effort in starting county committees, agreed. 

“Our strength lies in our ties to the local community," Hughes said. "By identifying and empowering members of any given community, we fortify the organization as a whole.”

The Tennessee Equality Project is a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote and sustain the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons in Tennessee.

Photo by Margo Amala on Unsplash

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