As the state of Tennessee seeks to legislate out meeting the needs of the minorities of the state, a large crowd gathered in front of the towering steps of First Congregational Church in Memphis on June 12 to show solidarity in saying “no” to these laws and attempts at such legislation.
Michelle Bliss, Shelby County co-chair of the Tennessee Equality Project opened the peaceful rally. Though attended by several legislators, include U.S. Congressman Steve Cohen, Tennessee Senator Beverly Marrero, Tennessee Representative G A Hardaway, and Shelby County Commissioner Steve Mulroy, they were there for moral support and let the people do the talking.
Katie Smith, a registered nurse for Planned Parenthood, noted that the funding that is threatened to be taken from its organization is meant for the under- and non-insured for education, health and testing services, and those Title X funds have never been used for abortion services.
The city of Memphis public workers were represented by their union, AFCSME Local 1733, as the city seeks to take away their bargaining rights. "Don’t let city council privatize sanitation," one sign read.
Marion Bacon represented herself, a woman with a disability, who has fought being homeless before and faces that challenge again due to the passage of the Special Access to Discriminate Act (SAD) that allows landlords to deny housing to the disabled.
“The SAD act will allow landlords to refuse housing to individuals, who are disabled (like me) or depend on Section 8 or SSI as their only source of income,” Bacon told the crowd of a couple hundred. “ … It will effect me because if my physical conditions get worse and I am needing to quit my full-time job, then (I) most likely will lose my apartment.”
Gaby Marquez-Benitez, West Tennessee Organizer with Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, shared the fears of children being separated from their parents because of their documented status all because of what is referred to as the Arizona copycat law, an anti-immigration effort.
“We cannot allow that hate,” Marquez-Benitez said. “We gather as one community. We will not comply!”
Will Batts, executive director of the Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center, noting the combining of all the forces of the various groups targeted by Tennessee’s legislature said,
“We can move mountains with this power!" Batts said, his words met with cheers and applause. ”We are people first, then I am gay….then I am an immigrant…then I am a union member. Anyone who has been ridiculed or denied equal rights; we will stand together!”
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