Superman and Lex Luthor. Spiderman and The Green Goblin. Batman and Catwoman . . . and The Joker . . . and The Penguin. See when the comics are drawn, it’s quite easy to tell who the good guys and the bad guys are. But in real life, it isn’t always that easy. (insert evil, maniacal laugh here).
What happens when those you elect to protect you turn out to be the very antithesis of a hero? What happens when those in office look at equality the same way Superman looks at Kryptonite? It’s up to you to be the hero.
Here are five Tennessee state senators and representatives to keep your eyes on during this year’s legislative session.
Senator Mike Bell:
Tennessee State Senator Mike Bell (R-Riceville) tops our list of Villains for signing on to sponsor SB2566 after the bill’s original sponsor Sen. Brian Kelsey backed away. Although Bell moved for the bill to be bumped to general subcommittee (effectively killing it this year), we still have our eyes on Sen. Bell. After all, anyone who compares Stacey Campfield’s ejection from a Knoxville Bistro in 2012 to turning away LGBT consumers because of sincere religious beliefs has to be a joker, right?
Representative Bill Dunn:
The old adage that things happen in threes is pretty accurate for the recently defeated Turn the Gays Away bill. Tennessee State Rep. Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville) was the sponsor for HB2467, similar legislation to Senator Bell’s SB2566. With all the other issues Tennessee faces, when will Dunn be done and move on to issues affecting more Tennesseans?
Senator Jim Summerville:
Rounding out the defeated trifecta is State Senator Jim Summerville (R-Dickson), who signed on to SB-2566 as a co-sponsor. Notice a trend from our villains? Don’t they all look the same? And of course, they’re all Republicans.
Senator Stacey Campfield:
Seeing that State Senator Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville) is up for reelection this year we might be saved from his crazy Don’t Say Gay Legislation but that doesn’t mean we won’t get _any_ crazy. Look no further than SB2493, which as introduced, prohibits use of institutional revenues, including student activity fees, to engage visiting or guest speakers for events at public institutions of higher education. After the hoopla Sen. Campfield made last year about UT Knox Sex Week, it looks like he’s found legislation to circumvent that. So ‘Don’t Say Gay’ and ‘Don’t Talk About Sex’ . . . what about gay sex?
Representative Jimmy Matlock
We’re watching State Representative Jimmy Matlock (R-Lenoir City) because he is the sponsor of HB2450, the House version of Campfield’s higher education bill SB2493. It takes two to make a thing go right . . . or in this case terribly wrong.
You’ve met a few of the villains we’re keeping our eyes on this year, but for every villain we need a hero. And the Tennessee State Legislature has several heroes fighting for equality every day. Let’s meet them:
Senator Ophelia Ford
State Senator Ophelia Ford (D-Memphis) is a hero in our books as the state senate sponsor of SB0708, otherwise known as the Transgender Hate Crimes Act. It would add “gender identity or expression” to the Tennessee Hate Crimes Penalty Enhancement Act of 2000. Sen. Ford is also a co-sponsor on the Dignity for All Students Act and the sponsor of SB1216, or the Tennessee Non-Discrimination Act, that would ban discrimination based upon sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.
The Tennessee Transgender Hate Crimes Act is also championed by House Representative Gary Odom (D-Nashville) and the Tennessee Non-Discrimination act is sponsored by House Representative Sherry Jones (D-Nashville).
Senator Jim Kyle
State Senator Jim Kyle (D-Memphis) is the driving force behind SB1124, otherwise known as the Dignity For All Students Act. It is bipartisan legislation that would expand the definition of bullying and harassment in schools. Sen. Kyle is joined by Senators Ophelia Ford, Charlotte Burks (D-Monterey) and Rusty Crowe (R-Johnson City) in sponsoring the bill.
House Representative Karen Camper
State House Representative Karen Camper (D-Memphis) is the hero and champion of HB0927, the House version of the Dignity for All Students Act.
Rep. Camper is joined by a host of co-sponsors on both sides of the aisle that include: Representatives Joe Pitts (D-Clarksville), Gary Odom (D-Nashville), Brenda Gilmore (D-Nashville), Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley), Mike Turner (D-Old Hickory), Darren Jernigan (D-Old Hickory), Sherry Jones (D-Nashville), Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville), Harold M. Love, Jr. (D-Nashville), Bo Mitchell (D-Nashville), Jason Powell (D-Nashville), Bob Ramsey (R-Maryville) and Mike Stewart (D-Nashville).