TEP and Nashville Jewish community plan public forum on marriage

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Renee Kasman is a member of the Tennessee Equality Project (TEP), the grassroots organization charged currently with the task of ensuring a “no” win for the marriage amendment vote to be held this November.

Early last month, as part of TEP’s outreach efforts, she contacted the Nashville affiliate of Hadassah to see if anywhere in the Jewish community the “vote no” campaign could find any support.

“I called Hadassah and they jumped on it,” she said, clearly still surprised during this interview that the response would be so immediate and so favorable. “It’s an opportunity for this community, and the larger public, to debate the amendment before the election.”

Founded in 1912, Hadassah is American Judaism’s largest women’s group, numbering some 300,000 in membership. Earlier this year, from the New York based headquarters of the organization, a resolution passed overwhelmingly that “strongly opposes efforts at the federal and state level that would selectively limit or deny civil rights to same-sex couples and their families.”

With this resolution in mind, Kasman approached the local affiliate; entirely unsure of what response she’d receive in light of a proposed marriage amendment here in Tennessee. “There is some disagreement within Hadassah,” she told me, “but everyone I’ve spoken with just loves the idea. And the Jewish community center is very open, and welcoming.”

On Thursday, September 14, the Gordon Jewish Community Center will host the public forum, tentatively scheduled from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The Gordon JCC is located at 801 Percy Warner Blvd, Nashville, Tenn., 37205 (www.nashvillejcc.org).

Panelists include current TEP President Chris Sanders, GLBT attorney/activist Abby Rubenfeld, Rabbi Alexis Berk of The Temple and Shelley Klein, who is the director of advocacy from Hadassah’s national office. The moderator will be local attorney Norman Solomon.

Klein will be visiting from the national office to explain how the organization came to support same-sex marriage. Kasman said, “I told them, ‘you know, we don’t have a lot of money. We can’t really support bringing her here,’ but they said they’d take care of it.”

Also invited, but yet to respond, are Jeff Miller and Bill Dunn, the state house and senate sponsors of the amendment.

In addition, chef Elaine Taubin and her partner Mary Cornelius, of the Loews Vanderbilt Plaza, plan to donate food. The event is free and open to the public.