LGBT Advocates See Nationwide Success

Despite more than 120 LGBT-unfriendly bills introduced across the country this year, advocates from the Human Rights Campaign say none have passed, reports The Washington Post. The failed legislation includes an adoption-refusal bill in Kansas and an attempt to add sexual reassignment therapy as a definition of child abuse in New Hampshire. Georgia, in particular, saw all legislation LGBT advocates opposed defeated.

Only one bill in the United States advanced beyond a legislative committee— the Tennessee “bathroom bill,’— but it died when the Senate’s companion bill did not get a second on a motion to be debated. Despite this progress, Oklahoma and Kansas still have proposed legislation that could allow religious adoption agencies to refuse to place children with gay people. Advocates remain hopeful that these bills will have the same outcome.

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Legislation Affecting the LGBT Community in Committees Today

The Tennessee Equality Project is urging supporters to contact state legislators in two House subcommittees as they debate the merits of two bills that affect the LGBT community, reports Out and About Nashville.
The first, SB2480/HB2620, an anti-trans bathroom bill, is on the agenda for the Civil Justice Subcommittee today (March 21). Last week, legislators in that subcommittee questioned the potentially far reach of the bill. While it would compel the state to represent any instance in which a school board is required to defend an anti-trans policy.
The second, HB0054/SB0127, popularly recognized at the Business License to Discriminate bill, is on the agenda for the State Government Subcommittee for today. That bill would prohibit government agencies from inspecting the internal business policies of organizations with which it contracts.
You can track the progress of both using these links: SB2480/HB2620; HB0054/SB0127
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Legislators Strike Back at California Ban on State-funded Travel

Tennessee's Senate and House speakers say no state funds will go toward funding lawmakers' attendance of the National Conference of State Legislatures that will take place this summer in Los Angeles, the Times Free Press reports. Officials cite California's ban on state-funded travel to Tennessee that came in response to the state's passage the ‘therapist bill’ in 2016 as the reason for this decision. 
Tennessee Senate Speaker Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, and House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, pointed out in their letter to National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) leaders that a Tennessee legislative resolution passed in 2016 urged Tennessee officials "to ban state-sponsored and state-funded travel within their respective jurisdictions to any state of the Union that has banned state-sponsored travel to Tennessee." "This is not an action we feel any pleasure taking," they wrote but later added, "it is California, not Tennessee, which set this chain of events in motion." 
Tennessee's ban, Senate Joint Resolution 111, was sponsored by Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, who chairs the Government Operations Committee. Bell said "I had no clue" that McNally and Harwell were going to bar state-funded travel to the NCSL. But he quickly added he's all for it. "I'm glad they've done it," said Bell. "I've already made the personal decision I wasn't going and glad the speakers have decided to not allow at least any of our taxpayer money to go to someone who may want to go to this conference."
California’s travel ban also made headlines this past week when the San Diego State basketball team had to pay out-of-pocket for a trip to Kansas for its NCAA Tournament appearance. Besides Tennessee and Kansas, Texas, Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina and South Dakota were affected by the ban as well.
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Gay Alumni Raise $300K to Save University of Tennessee Pride Center

A fundraising campaign launched by a gay University of Tennessee graduate, Chad Goldman and his husband, LGBT rights advocate Brian Pendleton, raised more than $300,000 on the Feb. 1 kickoff event for a plan to permanently fund the LGBT Pride Center at the university's campus in Knoxville.
The university's LGBTQ Pride Center was threatened with closure in 2016 after state lawmakers passed HB2248, defunding the university's Office for Diversity and Inclusion. Critics of the office accused it of promoting "political correctness" by encouraging the use of gender-neutral pronouns and supporting an annual student-initiated event called Sex Week, which involves panel discussions and forums addressing issues including sexuality, sexual assault prevention and sexually transmitted diseases.
"It's unfortunate we are in this place because of the politics of the legislature, but this effort is not at all about politics," Goldman told the Knoxville News Sentinel. "It's just about funding a place for LGBTQ and questioning students to go where they can find fellowship and guidance and support at a time that's very difficult."
State Sen. Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga), a lead sponsor of the State Senate version of the defunding bill accused the diversity office of being "very political and polarizing" and giving a "horrible reputation" to the university and the state. "If they clean up their act, then I'll focus my attention on something else," Gardenhire told the Knoxville News Sentinel. "But if that office continues to become very radical and polarizing, then I will, of course, focus my attention back on that to take that money away and apply it to something very useful instead of something very divisive."
UT Chancellor Beverly Davenport asked Goldman to raise funds for a separate, privately-funded endowment for the Pride Center, with a goal of $3 million. Goldman is confident the campaign will reach its goal, saying "if we can [raise $300,000] in one single night, I feel very confident that we are going to get there." More information on the Pride Center project can be found here.
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Meet Your Section Vice-Chair

Amber Buker is a Director of Client Relations at Bank Director, a privately-held company focusing on educational, informational and fiduciary interests of financial institutions based in Brentwood. Buker coordinates sales initiatives and manages client relationships at law, accounting and consulting firms across the country. 
Prior to joining Bank Director, Amber served as the Program Director for the Arts & Business Council of Greater Nashville. She earned her law degree with honors from Lewis and Clark Law School in 2015 and holds a B.A. in Psychology from Northeastern State University, where she graduated summa cum laude. 
In her free time, Amber serves as the Managing Director of Distraction Theatre Company, where she runs the day-to-day operations of the nonprofit and takes on numerous creative roles in company productions.
Amber Buker can be contacted by email or by phone at (615) 777-8478.


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Resolution Chastising California Clears Senate

A resolution criticizing California’s travel ban to Tennessee passed the state Senate last night, the Times Free Press reports. The updated version of Sen. Mike Bell’s (R-Riceville) bill removed language calling for a reciprocal ban. Tennessee was among four states – the others being North Carolina, Mississippi and Kansas – to which the California government banned all state-sponsored travel for passing discriminatory laws against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals.
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