East Tennessee news and business briefs

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Miller divorce still pending

Tennessee State Senator Jeff Miller’s divorce from his wife, Bridgett Suzanne Miller, remains pending in Bradley County . Sources in the Bradley County courthouse say the case has not yet been scheduled for hearing in the Bradley County Circuit Court. Mrs. Miller filed divorce papers on Feb. 25 and is accusing her husband of “inappropriate marital conduct.”

Circuit Judge John H. Hagler, who was originally assigned to the case, recused himself, citing reasons “which I [sic] consider obvious.”

In his place, Senior Judge William H. Inman has been assigned the case. He will travel to Bradley County to preside over the divorce proceedings.

Inman, a Tennessee-Supreme-Court-appointed senior judge, served as counsel to former Gov. Lamar Alexander and, in 1986, was appointed commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance. He has provided legal counsel to the Walters State Foundation and served as its president, executive committee member and trustee. Inman currently serves as an appeals court judge in Knoxville .

UT students attend GenderPAC conference

Two graduate student representatives from the University of Tennessee – Knoxville attended the 10th Annual Gender Public Advocacy Coalition (GenderPAC) Conference in Washington , D.C. More than a thousand activists gathered to lobby Members of Congress in more than 60 meetings to discuss issues such as hate crimes, employment, nondiscrimination and a joint diversity pledge honored by both GenderPAC and the Human Rights Campaign. The pledge marks a commitment to nondiscrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression within the two groups.

Donna Dearmon, graduate student in communications, and Nikki Walles, graduate student in social work, traveled to D.C. together to participate in their first conference.

In addition to their lobbying efforts, the students attended workshops on various related topics and were able to move forward with plans to establish a GenderYOUTH chapter in Knoxville . Other campuses currently planning to launch new chapters include Bates College in Maine and the University of Florida . The groups plan to focus on combating bullying and school violence using peer-to-peer outreach, grassroots organizing and community education.

Walles’ previous policy paper on safer schools for GLBT youth, safe school policy and safe space programs led to her interest in GenderPAC.

Dearmon, who–along with Walles–is an integral part of the Lambda Student Alliance on UT-K campus, pointed to the need to explode stereotypes as a way to promote tolerance of all gender expressions.

“It’s all about the way people perceive gender. We are often so boxed up in stereotypes,” Dearmon explained.

Both students emphasized their gratitude for the scholarships they received which enabled them to attend the conference.

“We hope to have a larger group next year,” stated Walles in anticipation of the next conference. “I had a wonderful time and was able to meet people from all over the country, England , Germany and Ireland.”