East Tennessee activists gathered at the Mandarin House on Merchants Drive on Saturday, Jan. 8, in anticipation of the push for unity as the Tennessee Equality Project (TEP) begins to organize and spearhead the effort toward fighting the marriage amendment statewide. A second meeting to clarify goals and objectives was held Friday, Jan. 15, at Panera Bread on Kingston Pike.
TEP board member Christopher Sanders of Nashville met with a group of local activists in an effort to get the word out regarding TEP’s mission and goals.
Funds raised by TEP will go toward hiring a professional lobbyist to assist the statewide GLBT community in fighting a constitutional amendment to ban both same-sex marriage and civil unions that is expected to be brought to the floor of the legislature this session. The amendment passed the first test last year, one of two hurdles it must clear before the public will vote on it.
Plans are currently underway to designate Feb. 22 as Equality Day on the Hill. TEP members and other GLBT persons who want to participate can use this opportunity to visit with their state senators and representatives to give a human face to our issues.
Despite the fact that Democrats control the House, it is very conservative and will require diligent, coordinated, statewide efforts to prevent the amendment from going to ballot.
Volunteers are needed to write letters, make phone calls and travel to Nashville for Lobby Day in addition to helping to raise funds for lobbying efforts.
Representatives of Metropolitan Community Church of Knoxville, Equality Knoxville, Tennessee AIDS Support Services, Tennessee Guerilla Women, Knoxville Cares, St. Ninian’s Ministries and the Monday Night Gay Men’s Discussion Group contributed to the initial organizing efforts.
Members of the GLBT community in Nashville, Tennessee, founded TEP on June 15, 2004, in an effort to organize a group of committed citizens who believe in protecting the rights of GLBT persons in Tennessee.
Their mission is to promote and sustain the equality of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons in the state of Tennessee through the establishment of fair and equitable laws protecting these rights and the elimination of laws that would seek to counter this effort. Equality is meant to include the protection of human and civil rights and the elimination of prejudice and discrimination.