1. MammaBear says

    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.

  2. Caliban says

    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.

  3. Lisa says

    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.

  4. KP says

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

  5. says

    @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.

  6. says

    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.

  7. tn says

    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

  8. MammaBear says

    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.

  9. plinx says

    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.

  10. Joey Y says

    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.

  11. Cassandra says

    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.

  12. says

    I just think it’s funny that the author of the post confused “Cole” with “Porter.” That’s a bit revealing.

  13. says

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

  14. plinx says

    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.

  15. Ricco says

    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.

  16. GeorgeM says

    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

  17. plinx says

    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.

  18. plinx says

    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 . . .

  19. LuckyLinden says

    Cole: “Based on his lack of response, TEP accepts that he is not interested in supporting TEP’s advocacy work.”

    Dear Mr. Cole:

    Uhm, no. The fact that he’s making these videos at all and using his TREMENDOUS social platform and reach (have you seen his Twitter and Facebook numbers, not to mention that his viral video was covered on major news and entertainment programs internationally) to bring attention to your cause means he is SUPPORTING your cause. But because you haven’t gotten cash, you tell others he isn’t interested in supporting you. Classless.

    Right now Takei has a cause that is close to his heart that NO ONE at his level of visibility seems to be raising money for except him. He’s funneling his own money into it and trying to raise awareness and money for it. WHILE doing it, he’s also bringing more attention to your cause that gives you a springboard for fundraising that you would never have had without it. Even if he had only donated his time as a celebrity spokesman (which is essentially what he did), the “in-kind” donation (the cost it would have cost you to hire him outright) was EXCEPTIONAL and generous.

    You can argue legitimately whether it was as sensitive as it could have been–or even good taste–to fund raise for the cause most important to his heart (the cause that is currently taking up all of his spare income) or you could be grateful that, if not for George Takei becoming your unofficial spokesman (I learned about the orginal “Don’t Say Gay” bill from the Rachel Maddow show showing his initial viral video, for example) Tennessee’s challenges would forever be a story buried deep in the pages of most mainstream news…and certainly not on ACCESS HOLLYWOOD or the like.

    Your stunt here has soured me toward you and your organization. If there are ways in the future I can support your cause (giving to candidates who are challenging the bigots, or other organizations), I will do it. But YOU will never see a penny of this activist’s money as I deplore divisive tactics and publically calling otherwise good people out as much from my own community as I do from the hateful conservatives we are all working against.

  20. Zlick says

    I had to watch the video again (which was a pleasure) and it doesn’t even imply that the merch sales will go to any particular charity.

    It’s the same merch, by the way, that he sells for any number of videos he does, so how on earth would he know for which particular bit of advocacy some Joe Blow in Tennessee or Utah or California or North Carolina or Maine or Washington State they wanted their $1.50 t-shirt profit to go to? Sheesh.

    But best of luck there in Tennessee. Take the inspired advocacy of Mr. Takei, gratis by the way, and be a little grateful for that.

  21. Caliban says

    I don’t mean it as criticism of George Takei at all because I admire him and appreciate his efforts on behalf of gay rights, but “Just say Takei” is a satirical effort and really doesn’t address the law or the legislature who will vote on it in any meaningful way. And the size of George Takei’s Twitter following means f*ck all on the ground in TN, and I know that because I live there.

  22. Zlick says

    Well, maybe so, Caliban, but would you prefer that someone help to at least bask the backwoods legislation in some sunshine, even if largely preaching to the choir, or would you rather it remain in the dark?

    It’s not anyone’s particular responsibility to do this bit or that – but merely what they’re moved to do. Celebrities lend their voice. They’ve got a built-in following, that sometimes (as in Mr. Takei’s instance) grows with their advocacy of whatever causes are dear to them. That celebrity is what they have to offer. Others have other things.

    And with all due respect, it’s largely up to those on the ground in Tennessee to effect positive change in Tennessee. We outside Tennessee offer what support we can. Mr. Takei is offering more than most.

  23. sl in tn says

    I live in Tennessee, and although I don’t know the people at TEP personally, my impression is they are a self serving elitist group that has very little impact on the lives of ordinary gay Tennesseans. I signed the petition asking them to work with Freedom to Marry, along with a couple hundred other people. They have sucked up to the Mayors office in Nashville for years, and when given the opportunity to actually use that relationship to benefit the gay community, they turn their backs. If they forced the Mayor to state his opinion they might not get invited to his parties. Again, that’s just my opinion, but I suspect it is shared by many others in the state.

  24. Sudaria says

    Takei’s t-shirt sales are misleading, although his heart is in the right place. If you were to listen to someone talking about clubbing baby seals and selling t-shirts with seals on them, you wouldn’t expect that money to go to orphanages in Peru.