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Nashville, Tennessee: Crazy Town or Crazy State?


Ari Ezra Waldman is a 2002 graduate of Harvard College and a 2005 graduate of Harvard Law School. After practicing in New York for five years and clerking at a federal appellate court in Washington, D.C., Ari is now on the faculty at California Western School of Law in San Diego, California. His research focuses on gay rights and the First Amendment. Ari will be writing weekly posts on law and various LGBT issues. 

Follow Ari on Twitter at @ariezrawaldman.

Large_nashville_tn_local"Crazy Town" is a song about Nashville, Tennessee. It tells the story of how hard it is to make it in a town as crazy as Nashville, or, "Hollywood with a touch of twang." It may indeed be hard to make it in Nashville, but just last month, the Hollywood of the Bible Belt tried to make life a little easier for its LGBT residents. Its town council proposed legislation that would require city government contractors to abide by the city's non-discrimination policy, which includes protections for LGBT persons.

But, yesterday, Andy posted about another proposal out of Nashville -- out of the state capitol building rather than city hall -- wherein municipalities in the state would be prohibited from passing their own anti-discrimination laws and would instead have to rely on the state-wide statute. The bill limits the state's non-discrimination policy to "race, creed, color, religion, sex, age or national origin."

Once again, it's hard to make it in Nashville.

This story seems like it is about discrimination against gays and lesbians in government contracts and employment. After all, but for Nashville's decision to include LGBT Tennesseans in its non-discrimination policy, conservative members of the state legislature would never have proposed this legislation. It is actually much more. The proposed state law proposes to eliminate the municipality as a recourse for LGBT political activity to achieve equality. It would narrow their recourse to changing state law, something that seems far less likely given Tennessee's conservatism.

Let's set aside for the moment whether this bill is a good/bad idea. I would imagine that many readers feel this is a bad bill. I want to ask a different question: Is this constitutionally permissible?

Continue reading "Crazy Town or Crazy State" AFTER THE JUMP.

Continue reading "Nashville, Tennessee: Crazy Town or Crazy State?" »

Belmont University Changes Non-Discrimination Policy to Cover Sexual Orientation

Late last year Belmont University soccer coach Lisa Howe was fired after she told students that she is a lesbian and her same-sex partner was pregnant. The firing made national headlines and inspired multiple student protests at the NAshville school. University President Bob Fisher denied the firing was because Howe was gay.

They recently, however, made a change: Howe

A university that came under fire from students for the departure of a lesbian women's soccer coach has added sexual orientation to its non-discrimination policy, but it was not clear whether it covered sexually active gays.


At the time of Howe's departure, Fisher said that the university does not consider sexual orientation in admissions or hiring decisions. On Wednesday, he said the policy change simply affirms the practices already in place. Asked whether his statements could be taken to mean that Howe was not pressured to leave because she came out to students, Fisher said he could not talk about any specific cases.

"This is a great victory for the values of inclusion, human dignity and respect," Howe said in a statement. "I am grateful to the Belmont board for recognizing that being gay and being Christian are not mutually exclusive. This is a landmark day."

Several reporters wanted to know whether Belmont was making a distinction between sexual orientation and sexual practice.

Belmont's student code of conduct lists sex outside of marriage as "sexual misconduct." Since gays and lesbians cannot marry in Tennessee, there is no way for them to be sexually active without violating the code.

Fisher would not say whether the new policy meant whether openly gay people could work at Belmont.

"I would put that in the category of a hypothetical," he said.

Watch: ESPN on Belmont Soccer Coach Lisa Howe, Fired After Coming Out to Her Team



ESPN's 'Behind the Lines' looks at the firing of Lisa Howe, who was forced from her Belmont University soccer coaching job after she told her players she was gay and her partner was pregnant.

Student have been protesting since Howe's departure, and the school on Friday passed two resolutions:

"In a closed-door session Friday, the faculty Senate passed two resolutions, one calling for sexual orientation to be added to the campus's nondiscrimination policy; another calling for the faculty, student, and staff handbooks to include language that prohibits harassment...The faculty Senate unanimously approved a resolution in support of gay members of their community. A copy of the resolution language won't be made available until Jan. 10, when the Senate returns to approve the minutes of Friday's meeting."


Continue reading "Watch: ESPN on Belmont Soccer Coach Lisa Howe, Fired After Coming Out to Her Team" »

Watch: Belmont University Denies Firing Coach for Telling Students She's Gay, as Students Protest


I posted about this briefly in the round-up the other day, but it deserves more attention.

HoweNashville's Belmont University President Dr. Bob Fisher today denied firing soccer coach Lisa Howe after she told students that she is a lesbian and her same-sex partner was pregnant. 

News Channel 5 reports:

Dr. Bob Fisher spoke at a news conference at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in the campus' Student Life Center. Up until now, Fisher hadn't spoken a word publicly about the controversy.

Fisher said, first and foremost, he has done a poor job communication with the public since the controversy started last Wednesday. He did not take any questions from reporters, and said he would not specifically talk about Lisa Howe's departure since it was a personnel issue.


Mike Curb, the founder of Curb Records and the name behind the Curb Event Center where Lisa Howe worked, said on Tuesday he wanted to see Belmont act like Christians and rehire the soccer coach.

Curb released this statement on Wednesday:  "President Fisher has asked me as a member of the Board, now that I've made my statement completely, to hold off making any further statements to give him an opportunity to resolve these issues so that this type of injustice can never happen again."

Students have been protesting since Howe's departure and show no signs of stopping.

Just after the controversy erupted, Marty Dickens, chairman of Belmont's board of trustees defended the school's actions, saying, "We do adhere to our values as Christ-centered, and we don't want to make apologies for that."

There is now a Facebook group demanding Dickens' resignation

Watch News2Nashville's report on the firing and protests, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Watch: Belmont University Denies Firing Coach for Telling Students She's Gay, as Students Protest" »

The Rapture is Coming on May 21, 2011, Noah's Ark in 2014


The rapture is coming on May 21, 2011, or so say more than 40 billboards around Nashville, Tennessee and eight other U.S. cities:

Fans of Family Radio Inc., a nationwide Christian network, paid for the billboards. Family Radio's founder, Harold Camping, predicted the May date for the Rapture.

Their message is simple — "He Is Coming Again" — and their aim is to get unbelievers to turn around quickly. But critics say the billboards are a waste of time, one more failed attempt to predict the end of the world. The Rapture is going to be a great day for God's people but awful for everyone else, said Allison Warden, 29, who orchestrated Nashville's billboard campaign.

Maybe somebody should tell taxpayers in Kentucky, so they money they're paying to fund a Biblical theme park with a full-size Noah's Ark won't go to waste! Tax breaks from the state for the Creationist park are expected to top $37 million.


The park, which Kentucky expects to draw more than a million visitors each year, is projected to cost $150 million, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported.

"Make no mistake about it," Beshear said, according to the paper. "This is a huge deal."

The amusement park will include a 500-foot-long wooden replica of Noah’s Ark complete with live animals, according to the project's website.

"We are constructing a full-scale, all-wood ark based on the dimensions provided in the Bible (Genesis 6), using the long cubit, and in accordance with sound established nautical engineering practices of the era," wrote Ark Encounters, one of the groups behind the project.

The ark is a collaboration between Ark Encounters LLC, a for-profit company, and a non-profit company, Answers in Genesis, which runs the Creation Museum — a museum that educates children about the Bible through interactive exhibits in Petersburg, KY.

The park also plans on having a Walled City, Tower of Babel, "first-century Middle Eastern village", a journey in history and a petting zoo.


That was a question asked at Governor Steve Beshear's press conference for the theme park, which, unfortunately, will never come to fruition because the rapture will have happened two years prior.

This is today's America.

Watch it, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "The Rapture is Coming on May 21, 2011, Noah's Ark in 2014" »

Watch: Images from the Nashville Flood


Videographer Michael Deppisch put together a stunning, somber, and haunting document of the historic flooding Nashville has experienced over the past week. Our thoughts go out to all those affected by this disaster.


Continue reading "Watch: Images from the Nashville Flood" »


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