TEP establishes task force on hate crimes

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The Tennessee Equality Project has established a task force to address a growing number of hate crimes across the state.

Recently this newspaper, as well as other media outlets, has documented hate crimes or anti-gay activities in West, Middle and East Tennessee, including the story about Neal Moffitt Anthony, who lives in the Irving College community in Warren County. Anthony’s home was marred with paintballs and spray-painted threats because of his sexuality.

TEP President Christopher Sanders said the TEP board of directors made the decision at a strategic planning meeting last week. He said the board felt it was important that GLBT Tennesseans could easily seek help through the new hate crimes task force.

“It’s our effort to meet the most pressing needs of the community,” said Sanders. “We don’t have time to figure out why these are happening. We have to address them right now. Then we’ll try to figure out why they are happening.”

Sanders noted that the enormous geographic diversity in Tennessee and the problems that have recently been reported in Martin, Nashville, and McMinnville, indicated that hate crimes were a growing issue throughout the state.

The TEP Hate Crimes Task Force will be lead by board member Rhonda White and board secretary Lisa Beavers, Ph.D., LPC, MHSP, will lead the task force. Sanders said TEP will also be adding web resources to develop a comprehensive approach that will include working with local law enforcement and media and added that TEP was cooperating with national organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign to pass the new inclusive federal hate crimes bill. 

“With several years experience of dealing with local law enforcement, Rhonda White is a superb advocate when these situations arise,” Sanders said. “Lisa Beavers knowledge of issues of sexuality and society will give her a unique perspective on these issues.”

Sanders said he thinks the increase in hate crimes could be the result of last year’s marriage amendment vote.

“Months of discourse about hate leading up to the election are now growing to full bloom,” he explained. “The seeds of hate that were sown leading up to the election are growing and being harvested.”

But he added that he thinks the Tennessee GLBT community has been united across the state and may feel stronger to report these types of incidents.

“What the Vote No on 1 campaign and our legislative work have taught us is that we have a great deal of work to do in becoming a presence throughout Tennessee,” he said.

TEP will hold its annual meeting on Saturday, May 12 at 2 p.m. at St. Ann’s Episcopal Church, 419 Woodland Street, in Nashville. Board elections will be held to be eligible to vote, you must be a paid member in good standing. To join or to renew your membership, go to http://tnep.org.