TEP to fight marriage amendment

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by Christopher Sanders
Contributing Writer

The Tennessee Equality Project (TEP), an organization formed last year to promote and sustain the equality of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons in the State of Tennessee, has launched “Advancing Equality,” a campaign to fight the marriage amendment in Tennessee and to increase the political involvement of the State’s GLBT community.

Passed in 2004, the proposed amendment to the Tennessee Constitution would define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. If it passes in the 2005, the amendment would appear on the ballot in November 2006.

“Our campaign has two parts,” explains Tennessee Equality Project President Brandon Hutchison. “We are focused on providing a sustained presence in the Legislature to fight the amendment. But we also know the importance of building a grassroots movement of citizens from across the State to address a variety of issues such as adoption, safe schools, and hate crimes.”

TEP has begun the process of hiring a lobbyist to present the GLBT community’s case against the amendment to members of the Legislature. “A lobbyist brings a degree of professional focus and engagement with the Legislature that will be valuable to our cause,” according to TEP public policy committee chair Jenny Ford. “We stand a much better chance of defeating the amendment and advancing other issues with the strategic options that a good lobbyist brings to the table. We’re going to try to stop the amendment before it gets to the ballot.”

To afford the services of a lobbyist and reach citizens across the State, TEP has increased fundraising and recruiting efforts. According to Hutchison, “We hope to raise about $35,000 this year to give us the ability to fight the amendment and bring together people from Memphis, Knoxville, Chattanooga, Jackson, Johnson City, Rhea County, Nashville, and everywhere in between. We need the broadest possible movement in order to be successful.”

For more information, visit www.tnep.org on the Web.