The grant will be used by the Tennessee Equality Project (TEP) to offset some of the cost of their legislative efforts, which include a paid lobbyist and other expenses.
Christopher Sanders, president of TEP, said the upcoming year would pose more legislative challenges for the GLBT community and that the support provided by HRC would prove invaluable.
“We anticipate more challenges to the GLBT community on issues like adoption, foster care, custody and guardianship rights,” Sanders said. “There may also be legislation filed on issues like civil unions. HRC has made a substantial investment that will support fairness in Tennessee. We are honored to have them as partners.”
Maria Salas, a local bankruptcy attorney who serves on the national HRC board of directors, said the grant was consistent with the grass-roots efforts by HRC.
“HRC has a long history of partnering with state-wide GLBT organizations and has increased, over the last several years, their efforts to work at the grass-roots,” Salas said. “The local HRC steering committee is thrilled to have funded TEP’s grant request and to assist in its lobbying efforts. We look forward to continuing our efforts to advance GLBT equality for all Tennesseans.”
In 2005 Tennessee lawmakers filed 17 anti-gay bills, many of which dealt with adoption, and foster care issues. In 2006 lawmakers took a similar but “stealth” approach on the same issues with many of the same lawmakers filing bills dealing with adoption and foster care. Among those lawmakers were State representative Debra Young Maggart, a Republican from Hendersonville, representing District 45 (part of Sumner County), who said most homosexual couples are unfit to parent, and that those couples have “numerous emotional dysfunctions and psychological issues.”
The 2007 legislative session marks the third year that TEP has contracted with lobbyist Jenny Ford, of Jenny Ford Government Strategies, to do their legislative work on capitol hill.
Earlier this year Georgia Equality received a $28,000 grant from HRC to hire a lobbyist to specifically combat any proposed bill to ban gay adoption or foster care.
Sanders said that despite the constitutional amendment that Tennesseans will vote on Nov. 7, that amendment, if passed, does not contain limits on domestic partner benefits or civil unions. He expects those issues to also come up in the 2007 legislative session.
TEP is registered as a 501C4 non-profit, with an affiliate Political Action Committee. For more information visit www.tnequalityproject.com.