Marisa Richmond, president of the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition

While nondiscrimination legislation is faring well at the federal and local levels, members of the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition (TTPC) continue to keep the pressure on at the state level, as well.

The group held its quarterly meeting on July 18 in Nashville, and while there was much to celebrate in terms of the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Act making its way through the U.S. House of Representatives and, surprisingly, the U.S. Senate, it was local issues that dominated the agenda.

The organization plans to throw its support behind the efforts of the Tennessee Equality Project (TEP) to pass a nondiscrimination ordinance in Nashville that includes sexual preference and gender identity. As of late July, an ordinance had been submitted to Metro Council and was working its way through the process.

At the state level, however, the organization’s efforts become a bit more complex due to several pieces of legislation that affect its members. The recently-ended session of the state legislature saw no action on bills that would have banned the teaching of diversity in the state’s schools, as well as an effort to restrict adoptions to married couples. But, those failed due to cost considerations, not because of a lack of support, said Marisa Richmond, TTPC’s president.

“That will be back,” Richmond said of the adoption bill. “As long as the economy’s bad, it will probably not go anywhere but they will continue to bring it.”

The group also is working on advancing hate-crimes legislation, and is working with state Democratic Party activists in less populated areas so that such legislation won’t have to rely on the urban vote. It’s a strategy that could pay off on other legislation as well, Richmond noted.

“There are a lot of other organizations who back the hate-crimes legislation, including everyone from the NAACP to the Tennessee Women’s Political Caucus,” Richmond said. “We want to play those angles as often as possible, and work with those people whenever we can.”

Also on the group’s radar is legislation it had introduced that would allow transgender individuals to obtain new birth certifications and voter’s registration cards. But, since House Republicans introduced and backed an amendment to the legislation that would create two new categories – M to F and F to M — (which would indicate on those documents that a person is transgender) the legislation must lag until the amendment is stripped.

With 2010 being an election year, Richmond said TTPC and other organizations have their work cut out for them, as many politicians up for reelection will be campaigning against the very measures that the groups are attempting to pass. Among those are nondiscrimination ordinances, which some legislators have said they wish to prevent local governments from enacting, as well as civil unions, another political hot potato.

“They’ll be coming out against hate crimes and other bills, and will probably introduce something that would ban civil unions in the state,” she said. “That’s a good issue for the other side and it’s one that they’ll make a priority while they’re campaigning.”

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