Taylor Swift Donates $113,000 to Fight Anti-LGBT Legislation in Tennessee

Pop music icon Taylor Swift yesterday donated $113,000 to the Tennessee Equality Project to help in the fight against anti-LGBT legislation, the Tennessean reports. The donation included a handwritten letter to the organization’s executive director Chris Sanders saying: “Dear Chris, I'm writing you to say that I'm so inspired by the work you do, specifically in organizing the recent petition of Tennessee faith leaders standing up against the 'Slate of Hate' in our state legislature … Please convey my heartfelt thanks to them and accept this donation to support the work you and those leaders are doing.” Sanders said that Swift has long been an ally of the Tennessee LGBT community.

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Clergy Sign Proclamation Opposing Religious Exemption for Adoption Agencies

A number of religious leaders in Tennessee are taking a stand against legislation allowing exemptions for adoption agencies to refuse services to LGBT clients, The Tennessean reports. The Tennessee Equality Project, an LGBT advocacy group, assisted with the pronouncement that was signed by more than 100 clergy. Tennessee Equality Project Executive Director Chris Sanders regarding the move said:  "These six bills attack our marriages, ability to form families, exist in public spaces, and they even undermine our ability to advocate with our own city governments for protection against discrimination.” One of the bills in question — SB1304 — will be considered by the  Senate Judiciary Committee on March 26.

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Friday: LGBT Law Annual Forum 2019

Register now for the TBA LGBT Law Annual Forum to take place on Friday, June 21 at the Tennessee Bar Center in Nashville. Timely topics for this year’s program will include laws concerning conversion therapy, an inside look at Vanderbilt’s Clinic for Transgender Health, ethical considerations regarding discrimination and employment law, ending the day with an LGBT community advocacy panel open to the public.
The forum will be held in conjunction with the 2019 Nashville Pride Festival, allowing attendees to take advantage of the fun and activities surrounding the celebration. Don’t miss what guarantees to be an insightful forum and one of the nation’s premier Pride festivals! Here’s the key info:
Attendees are also invited to Tennessee Equality Project’s Pink and Purple Pre-Pride Party following the program.
When: Friday, June 21, registration begins at 11 a.m., CDT
Where: Tennessee Bar Center, 221 Fourth Ave. N., Nashville
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Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus Enjoys Record Participation

The caucus that promotes LGBTQ rights within Congress relaunched on Monday with a record number of members, the Georgia Voice reports. Most U.S. House Democrats have joined the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, with 131 representatives and 18 vice chairs. Caucus Co-Chair Mark Pocan, regarding the group, said: “with a record number of LGBTQ Americans serving in Congress and the LGBT Equality Caucus experiencing its largest membership in history … I’m excited to have so many allies who will fight for legislation and change throughout the 116th Congress.” In all, 157 Democrats but no Republicans have signed on to serve.

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Bathroom Bill Cruises Through Criminal Justice Subcommittee

The bill that LGBT advocates say targets transgender people in Tennessee cruised through the House, with the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee spending just 16 minutes of discussion on the legislation, the Tennessean reports. The legislation — HB 1151, sponsored by Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge — would enhance the punishment for a person who commits indecent exposure in bathrooms, a move proponents maintain is to clarify ambiguities regarding the state's indecent exposure laws. However, detractors say it is a thinly veiled case of bigotry. The bill as initially submitted made direct reference to transgender persons, specifying: "a medical, psychiatric, or psychological diagnosis of gender dysphoria, gender confusion, or similar conditions, in the absence of untreated mental conditions, such as schizophrenia, does not serve as a defense to the offense of indecent exposure,” but the amended version removed this language. Members of the public gathered to protest the law expressed frustration regarding the quick action of the subcommittee and said they feel that they were not given adequate time to speak out against the measure.

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Methodists Reject Lifting of Ban on Same-Sex Marriage, Clergy

In what has become a hugely divisive issue in the church, United Methodists yesterday rejected a measure to lift its ban on same-sex marriage and LGBT clergy, USA Today reports. At a special session of its General Conference, delegates voted to uphold the church’s “Traditional Plan,” officially reinforcing its existing stance on the matter. Detractors say that adopting the Traditional Plan sends a hurtful message to LGBT members, and many had said they would be leaving the church if it passes. The plan was approved by a 438-384 margin of national delegates.

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Dickson County Cake-Baker Refuses Service to Gay Couple

A business in Dickson County is the latest to join in on what has become an anomalous form of activism — refusing to provide a wedding cake to a same-sex couple, Out & About Nashville reports. Susie Dennison, owner of Susie’s Sweets in Burns, after an initial consultation sent the couple a message saying: “I really enjoyed our time together and I truly wish you the best but after realizing that your union will be of the same sex, I cannot with my spiritual conviction and beliefs, do your cake!” Dennison’s husband, Paul Dennison, later confirmed the incident, further stating that this is not the first same-sex couple the baker has turned away. This is the second recent denial of service in middle Tennessee, with the Rhinestone Wedding Chapel in Nashville shunning a gay couple seeking to get married earlier this month.

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Human Rights Campaign to Honor Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) — the nation’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization — will honor Jennifer Nettles of the award-winning country music duo Sugarland at its 2019 HRC Nashville Dinner. Nettles will receive the HRC Ally for Equality Award for her support of the community and her work to raise awareness of the impact of hate speech and the importance of supporting LGBTQ youth. This annual staple will bring together hundreds of Nashville’s most active advocates while raising funds, which will be used to fight for LGBTQ equality. Email Nick Morrow for more info.

When: Saturday, March 2, 6:30 p.m., CST
Where: Renaissance Nashville Hotel, 611 Commerce St., Nashville
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Visit the TBA at the Nashville Pride Festival (June 22-23)

The TBA LGBT Section will hold its annual forum to coincide with the 2019 Nashville Pride Festival June 22-23. In addition to offering programming for lawyers and advocates who deal with issues affecting the LBGTQ community, the section will have a booth at the festival to provide legal resources and information of import to LGBTQ persons in the state. The section’s executive council would like section input on topics for this resource, or any ideas that they might have regarding TBA’s participation in the festival. Volunteers are also needed to staff the booth. Please send ideas, comments or volunteer interest to Section Coordinator Jarod Word.

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Tennessee General Assembly to Consider Religious Exemptions for Adoption Agencies

The Tennessee General Assembly is set to consider several bills that would allow agencies to deny adoptions to gay couples based on religious objections, The Tennessean reports. Sen. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, and Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, have sponsored one such bill, HB1152/SB0848, which as introduced specifies that a child-placing agency shall not be required to provide adoption services that conflict with the agency's sincerely held religious beliefs. It joins similar bills sponsored Rep. Tim Rudd, R-Murfreesboro, and Sen. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon. The measures are comparable to legislation passed in Kansas and Oklahoma just last year. When asked about his bill, Hensley said: "There's a lot of other adoption agencies that are not religious-based … There's certainly other options for people who want to adopt."

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