Tindell, TEP Board members meet with Knoxville community

by Hal Lee
Knoxville News Writer

KNOXVILLE – It was the first day of Chad’s new job. In his best business attire, Chad showed up early. His new boss came out to greet him: Chad was fired. Despite the resume and credentials that got him the job, some co-workers found Chad “obviously gay” and insisted that he be fired for that reason. With only ten days to find a job before losing his real estate license, Chad’s anxiety and loss are underscored by the lack recourse since GLBT people are not protected from such discrimination.

Chad ’s story was just one of many told in a round-table discussion with state representative Harry Tindell (D.-Knoxville, House District 13). Organized by the Tennessee Equality Project (TEP) and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) meetup group, the event brought more than 50 participants to Knoxville ’s GLBT community center, the Metropolitan Community Church on August 16. Representative Tindell was accompanied by TEP’s President Randy Cox, board members Beth Maples-Bays (East-TN,) Marisa Richmond, and TEP lobbyist Jenny Ford. Todd Cramer, HRC meetup group organizer, hosted the discussions.

Throughout the hour-long meeting, participants shared their real life hardship stories covering every aspects of life: work place, housing, co-adoption, child custody, medical aid for transgender people, the psychological costs of living in the closet, and many more – all because of a lack of legal protection for them and their families.

Most stories were told in person, and some were relayed by moderator Cramer.

In response, Representative Tindell, a Knoxville native and a long-time supporter of equality issues for GLBT people, relayed that many state representatives have not heard about the concerns and problems encountered by the GLBT people.

“There are more supports (for the GLBT people) in the State House than what the votes had shown.” Tindell told the audience.

There is also a looming battle next year to control the Tennessee General Assembly, which is currently under a Democratic majority. To bring out those supports, the GLBT community needs to actively participate in the legislative processes and the election next year. The people must persistently engage their state representatives in every district across the state.

Expressing her sympathy towards the hardship the participants faced, Ford said, “We should no longer live in fear, be scared, or be shamed.”

She implored the audience to be active in legislative issues and to build infrastructure around the state.

“It is a two-way-street,” she said. “We should think how we can help our representatives in addition to what we want for the legislature’s help.” Representative Tindell received a standing ovation when Ford thanked him for his support of GLBT equality issues.

TEP speakers told the audience about beating back twelve of the thirteen laws and amendments aimed at stripping away the basic civil rights of GLBT people. They also spoke of the “Advancing Equality Day on the Hill” event, during which GLBT constituents from all over Tennessee converged in Nashville to meet with their representatives and discuss the severe impact of the proposed laws on their lives. Tindell expressed his belief that the event’s impact was significant, suggested that the local community brainstorm to come up with general consensus regarding issues to bring into focus in the community. The suggestion was also made by TEP speakers that we identify supporters among the state representatives.

The meeting ended with many in the audience came forward for one-on-one discussions with Representative Tindell and other speakers.

More information can be found online for TEP (tnep.org), HRC Meetup (rightsforall.meetup.com/45/), and Representative Harry Tindall (www.legislature.state.tn.us/house/members/h13.htm).

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