TEP warns of 'tough years' with Republican takeover of Legislature

With its leader calling on Tennessee's GLBT community to focus on local issues, The Tennessee Equality Project is warning of some tough times ahead for GLBT Tennesseans after Republicans won enough seats in the Nov. 4 election to take control of Tennessee's House and Senate.

"Around the country, it was a difficult night for the GLBT community. Ballot measures banning same-sex marriage in Florida, Arizona, and California passed, though there is a legal challenge in California," explained TEP President Christopher Sanders. "In nearby Arkansas, voters passed a constitutional amendment banning adoption by unmarried couples."

Sanders said that while Democrats faired well on a national basis, the political landscape in Tennessee shifted dramatically.

"We woke up Wednesday to some important changes in Tennessee," he said. "Control of the Legislature has shifted. Republicans have expanded their lead in the State Senate and taken the State House by one seat. It looks as if we are in for a tough couple of years."

Some challenges that Tennessee's GLBT Community could be faced with include another try at banning adoption by same-sex couples or unmarried individuals.

"I would challenge Tennessee's  GLBT community to focus on State and local issues in 2009," Sanders said. "Without a doubt, issues in other states are important, but it's time for everyone to realize that equality is not going to trickle down to Tennessee from somewhere else.  We've got to make our stand here.  Equality starts at home."

TEP's Rutherford County Chair Kim Council encapsulated the sentiment when she returned from an election party in Murfreesboro.

"As high as the energy was, the loss of State Senate seats was not lost on me," Council said. And I have to say, the importance of my involvement in my community, my state and my country has never been more real to me."

In Memphis, TEP PAC’s candidate for City Council lost.  But Shelby County Co-Chair Jonathan Cole had this to say, "The results are bittersweet here in Memphis, but we look forward to engaging all Council members on issues that are important to the community."

"Our movement is hitting its stride around the state," Sanders said. "New regional committees are joining their strength to our efforts. The obstacles will come, but we’re not giving up. We can’t shrink from the challenges we’re going to face in January when the 106th General Assmembly convenes. If anything, we need to be more visible now than ever before."

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