LGBT

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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Tennessee Lawmakers Reintroduce Legislation to Prohibit Same-Sex Marriage

Tennessee lawmakers are again taking on same-sex marriages, The Tennessean reports. Sponsored by by Sen. Mark Pody (R-Lebanon) and Rep. Jerry Sexton (R-Bean Station), HB1369/SB1282 — known as the Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act — would prohibit government officials from recognizing any court ruling that affirms same-sex unions, prevent them from being arrested for noncompliance of those orders and require the Tennessee attorney general to defend the state's law on marriage in any resulting court challenge. Legislation of this nature has been introduced multiple times since the Obergefell v. Hodges decision, most recently failing to advance in the last legislative session. 

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Nashville Mayor's Order Recognizes LGBT-Owned Businesses

Nashville Mayor David Briley recently signed an executive order that recognizes LGBT-owned businesses as a category for Metro procurement and contracting, The Nashville Business Journal reports. Briley’s order aligns with recent changes announced by the Nashville Metro Council, which intends to address complaints that minority-owned businesses are not equally benefitting from the city’s economic growth. “It’s my job as mayor to make sure that everyone in our city, regardless of who they are or where they come from, has equal access to economic opportunities,” said Briley. “Today, we’ve taken an important step towards better equity for LGBT-owned businesses in Nashville.” Nashville will be the first city in the South to instill such a policy.
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Newly Elected Congresswoman Flies Pride Flag on Capitol Hill

Newly elected Virginia congresswoman Jennifer Wexton hung a transgender pride flag alongside the Virginia state flag outside her D.C. office to show solidarity with the LGBTQ community, Time reports. Wexton, who represents Virginia’s 10th District, was a vocal supporter of the LGBTQ community during her time in the Virginia General Assembly and vows to continue fighting for equality as a U.S. congresswoman. When asked about the flag, Wexton said, “The trans community has been under attack … I wanted to show my solidarity because we are talking about my friends and family.” The 116th Congress will be the most diverse in history, with 10 out, gay members sworn in last week.

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