TEP's Advancing Equality Day on the Hill

The Tennessee Equality Project (TEP), a statewide organization advocating equal rights for Tennessee’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community, will hold its 9th annual Advancing Equality Day on the Hill on Tuesday, March 12 in Nashville.

This year’s events

-feature a clergy prayer breakfast at Legislative Plaza and constituent meetings with 17 senators and 37 representatives followed by a press conference

-highlight new fronts in the battle for equality in Tennessee,

-are designed to address bills affecting the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community, which are up for key votes this week and the next.

The Legislation

SB514/HB1185—This bill would allow students in counseling, psychology, and social work programs at Tennessee’s public universities to opt out of serving certain clients if they have a religious objection. The examples cited by advocates for the bill and even mentioned during a recent Senate Education Committee hearing focus on opting out of serving the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community. The bill is set for a vote by the full Senate on Monday evening (March 11).

SB234/HB1332—The new Don’t Say Gay bill includes provisions that would require school personnel to out students who come to them about issues of sexuality and gender. A recent MTSU poll showed that a clear majority of people in Tennessee oppose the bill. Rep. John Ragan, the House sponsor, has received over 1400 emails and hundreds of phone calls urging him to withdraw the bill. His legislative assistant has told citizens calling his office that the bill is being rewritten.

SB1241/HB1150—The bill is a new version of legislation designed to punish Vanderbilt University for its inclusive all-comers non-discrimination policy for student clubs. It threatens Vanderbilt with removal of its police force. The harms to public safety embodied in the bill are obvious, as is the animus toward gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. The bill is up in the House Education Subcommittee on March 12 and up in the Senate Education Committee on March 13.

SB1241/HB927—For the first time legislation has been introduced to enhance the state’s anti-school bullying efforts by adding protections enumerating factors such as disability, gender identity, and sexual orientation since these factors are often the basis for bullying. The bill should be up in committee in the next two weeks.

The Events

Gathering- 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Gather at the Rymer Gallery located in downtown Nashville at 233 5th Avenue North. We'll provide a light breakfast and some information about the day along with a policy briefing. From there, we'll go together to Legislative Plaza to begin meeting with our legislators.

TEP Foundation and Clergy for Justice Anti-Bullying Prayer Breakfast—The event takes place Tuesday, March 12 from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. in the Legislative Plaza cafeteria. Clergy and other guests will hear presentations on school bullying issues to help them advocate for safe schools in Tennessee. Learn more here.

Constituent meetings with Legislators—Citizens from Memphis, Jackson, Nashville, Murfreesboro, Cookeville, Crossville, Chattanooga, Knoxville, Maryville, and the Tri-Cities will meet with their senators and representatives throughout the day on March 12 to discuss bills important to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community.

Appointments with legislators go throughout the day. This link will take you to a current list of appointments that have been made or are in process. Feel free to join the appointments for your legislators. If you have an appointment that is not on the list or would like to make an appointment with a legislator who is not on the list, contact us at chris@tnequalityproject.com.

Press conference—TEP will hold a press conference at 1:00 on March 12 at the top of the escalator in Legislative Plaza to discuss important legislation and to make public the Tennessee Human Rights Statement and the businesses, religious organizations, and community organizations that have endorsed it. The Tennessee Human Rights Statement provides a stark contrast to the discriminatory legislation filed this session and shows the beginnings of a new inclusiveness emerging in Tennessee.

Looking for transportation? Van service will be provided from Memphis and Knoxville early on the morning of March 12 to the event. For Memphis information, contact board member Felicia Oglesby. For Knoxville information, contact volunteer Larry Kitchen.

Click for more information on the Tennessee Equality Project

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