George Takei | News | Tennessee

Tennessee Equality Project Chair Asks George Takei to Put His Money Where His Mouth Is


Earlier this week, George Takei put out another funny video in his campaign against anti-LGBT laws in Tennessee, which advertised the sale of his "It's Ok to be Takei" T-shirts, proceeds from which appear to be going to the Old Globe theater in San Diego.

Jonathan Cole, President and Chair of the Tennessee Equality Project wonders why they're not going to fight the legislation there.

Dear Mr. Takei,

I am a lifelong fan of your work. As a gay man, I was inspired by the ideals expressed in the Star Trek series. When I learned you were gay, it enriched that experience to Warp 10 for me. I am serving my third year on the board of the Tennessee Equality Project. My organization has fought against the Don't Say Gay bill for six LONG years. It's the bill that seems to never die. TEP is the boots on the ground here in Tennessee fighting this onerous bill. I am thrilled to hear that you've lent your name to fighting against this bill, but I am curious: to which charities are you forwarding the proceeds of your sales? Are you reinvesting those donations in TN to fight the anti-LGBT legislature in Tennessee? Since Tennessee Equality Project is the lead organization in fighting the Don't Say Gay bill in Tennessee, I've wondered when we might hear from you or your organization. We at TEP would love to help you put proceeds of your work to good use at the source of the problem --- right here in Tennessee. I'd love to talk more about this with you. Perhaps, we can both plot a course for equality here in Tennessee.

Added Porter: "I'm not aware of the Old Globe theater engaging in the fight for equality and safe schools in Tennessee."

Takei's video, reposted AFTER THE JUMP...

Tennessee Lawmakers: We Need To Chat from Allegiance - A New Musical on Vimeo.


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  1. Undoubtedly the Tennessee Equality Project is used to dealing with dickheads, but this doesn't seem like a very constructive way to treat someone who is supportive of their cause.

    Posted by: MammaBear | Mar 9, 2012 10:25:50 AM

  2. He makes a very good point.

    In the book "Losing Matt Shepard" about the the beating and eventual death of MS and the media circus that surrounded it, written by the straight faculty adviser for the local college gay group, one of her biggest complaints was about how the HRC came into town and slapped their logo all over the place as if they were sponsoring it, soaked up all the donations they could then p*ssed off back to Washington without doing a single thing to benefit the local gay community.

    If you're soliciting donations by using a tragic or infuriating local event like a hate crime the "don't say gay" bill, then use (at least some of) that money to benefit the local community. I don't really blame George Takei here because it's not like gay rights orgs are think on the ground in TN (I know because I live there) but it is the right thing to do.

    Posted by: Caliban | Mar 9, 2012 10:27:08 AM

  3. The Old Globe Theater is presenting George Takei's play about the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII. Another subject close to Mr. Takei's heart. Maybe you should do a little research.

    Posted by: Lisa | Mar 9, 2012 10:30:02 AM

  4. Couldn't the chair of Tennessee Equality write a private letter to Takei? Why call him out in public? It seems kind of tacky.

    Posted by: KP | Mar 9, 2012 10:45:38 AM

  5. here's more from Jonathan Cole complaining about not getting a cut of the money raised by Dan Savage earlier this year:

    Posted by: TN | Mar 9, 2012 10:56:35 AM

  6. The Tennessee Equality Project refuses to work with

    Posted by: TN | Mar 9, 2012 10:58:46 AM

  7. @KP: My hope is Cole tried to appeal to Takei personally first. Then, after being rebuffed, took his 'letter' to the public.

    @TN: If that's true (server isn't co-operating right now), that's justification enough for Takei to divert his fundraising to another cause.

    Posted by: Rodney Wollam | Mar 9, 2012 11:07:48 AM

  8. For the record, I contacted Mr. Takei privately regarding his interest in helping the cause for equality in Tennessee on January 12, 2012 (nearly two months ago). Mr. Takei or a representative of his organization never responded to our inquiry. Based on his lack of response, TEP accepts that he is not interested in supporting TEP's advocacy work. That's fine. That's his right. Our concern is that if resources are not directed to fight anti-LGBT legislation in Tennessee, that legislation will be enacted in our state and then exported to other states. Utah just passed a Don't Say Gay law in their state legislature. Nebraska considered a bill very similar to the HB600 workplace discrimination law that passed in Tennessee last year. There are real consequences to not dedicating resources at the source of the problem. At the very least, we hope this promotes some dialoque about the ethics and rationale of charitable giving.

    Posted by: Jonathan Cole | Mar 9, 2012 11:43:42 AM

  9. I hope it promotes some dialogue about the ethics of the Tennessee Equality Project.
    If anyone is considering donating money to Tennessee, the ACLU is a far more worthy recipient

    Posted by: tn | Mar 9, 2012 11:50:38 AM

  10. Thanks for the clarification Jonathan.

    For the record, your letter comes across as defensive - it seems like you are picking a fight with someone who is on your side, even if it's not in the way that you would like him to be. Surely you agree with the points that he raises in the video, and the focus of the video is NOT fundraising.

    I guess you would know better than me if that's a good way to proceed. Good luck to you.

    Posted by: MammaBear | Mar 9, 2012 12:04:00 PM

  11. If you're going to fund raise on events occurring in different community, you need to to either share some of the proceeds with that community or (at the very least) tell others how they can donate to organizations in that community.
    Buying a tee shirt from Mr. Takei doesn't do a single thing to impact the Tennessee Legislature. Giving money to the state GLBT organization (who has to pay its lobbyists) does.
    Takei is not a bad guy; he's a good guy, but I wish he would agree that it makes sense to help the affected area directly.

    Posted by: plinx | Mar 9, 2012 12:19:40 PM

  12. Well, I now will NOT be supporting Tennessee Equality due to this bitchy stunt. Takei is bringing widespread visibility that they, clearly, failed to do on their own, and this is how they handle it? No thanks.

    Posted by: Joey Y | Mar 9, 2012 12:36:01 PM

  13. Very bad PR move, Jonathan Cole, and you are setting a precedent that will invariably come back to haunt you.

    So Takei cannot speak to the issue in Tennessee without giving you money? Then you, of course, cannot mention Prop 8, or Amendment 2, or any anti-gay legislation anywhere outside of Tennessee, without sending the campaign there some money.

    You mentioned Utah - let's see a scan of the check your organization sends to the GLBTQ rights groups in Utah.

    See how it works? You have to live up to the standard your imposed on Mr. Takei.

    You should have thanked him unconditionally, and suggested that he might help with your fund-raising, rather than attempt to invoke public criticism to extort money.

    Posted by: Cassandra | Mar 9, 2012 1:01:54 PM

  14. I just think it's funny that the author of the post confused "Cole" with "Porter." That's a bit revealing.

    Posted by: Willo | Mar 9, 2012 1:16:42 PM

  15. Personally I'd like to know how many of you decrying Mr. Cole live or do business in the state of Tennessee.

    Posted by: Mike | Mar 9, 2012 1:22:20 PM

  16. I am please to share an update which includes some good news from George Takei's publicist (who appears hard to reach). Many thanks to Jared Burrow and to Towleroad for for helping to solve the mystery.

    Posted by: Jonathan Cole | Mar 9, 2012 1:31:21 PM

  17. Mr Cole
    Is it true that your organization doesn't support marriage equality?

    Posted by: GeorgeM | Mar 9, 2012 1:48:31 PM

  18. Jared Burrow is "Social Media Director at Three Guys Pizza Pies" in Memphis.
    can't wait to read that article he's working on

    Posted by: tn | Mar 9, 2012 1:58:37 PM

  19. George, the Tennessee Equality Project definitely supports marriage equality. They fought hard against Tennessee's voter-approved amendment barring marriage equality in the state. They are the only state-wide GLBT organization, and they have the thankless task of wrestling with a hostile, very conservative state legislature.
    Please ignore the posts by the troll "TN". He doesn't know what he's talking about.

    Posted by: plinx | Mar 9, 2012 2:23:17 PM

  20. Love Takei . . . but have to agree that a portion of the proceeds from Takei's shirts ought to go to Tennessee Equality Project. No part of those funds should, in my opinion, go to restoring a theater in California, or any state, but should go directly to benefit gay youth.

    I thought I wanted a Takei shirt, but I, like Jonathon Cole, would have to know who would be benefiting from the sales of these shirts.

    Posted by: Ricco | Mar 9, 2012 3:12:26 PM

  21. Did they refuse to work with freedom to marry as stated above?
    TN's not the first person to say this stuff about them, not saying he's right just want to know

    Posted by: GeorgeM | Mar 9, 2012 3:14:26 PM

  22. George,
    If you visit Freedom to Marry's web site at, you'll see that they link to TEP, describing it as the main LGBT organization in the state.

    I'm not sure what the relationship is between TEP and FTM, but LGBT organizations in super-gay-hostile states, who have very limited resources, don't always want to partner with national organizations chasing hopeless legislative goals. There are too many other important fights in their respective areas. As important as marriage equality is, it's not coming to TN short of a US Supreme Court ruling.
    Also, national organizations tend to vacuum up a lot of available donor money in these states, starving the local organizations of badly needed money.
    You'll note that Cole was pleased to see that Takei sends some proceeds to HRC, because HRC has previosuly provided some funds for projects in Tennessee.
    Hope this helps.

    Posted by: plinx | Mar 9, 2012 3:42:39 PM

  23. Thanks for the info!!

    Posted by: GeorgeM | Mar 9, 2012 5:09:36 PM

  24. Do you work for them or with them?

    Posted by: GeorgeM | Mar 9, 2012 5:12:07 PM

  25. I know many folks involved with TEP (I do not work for them), but they have no paid positions anyway (except for their lobbyist), so . . .

    Posted by: plinx | Mar 9, 2012 5:23:04 PM

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