Tennessee Hub




Attackers Beat Tennessee Store Owner Unconscious, Write 'Fag' on His Forehead: VIDEO

Healthythyme

The owner of a health food store in Paris, Tennessee (about 90 miles northwest of Nashville) was beaten unconscious by three men who used anti-gay slurs before robbing him and writing a three-letter anti-gay slur on his forehead on Wednesday night, WBBJ reports:

Paris police say as three men beat the man they called him defamatory names. The victim told police he awoke to see two of the men pouring gas on the floor.

Receptionist with the local clinic, Barbra Rader, says businesses in the area are shocked about what happened. "Now we all tend to be more cautious and lock our doors, you know, so that people can't come in after hours," Rader said.

No arrests have been made and that has Amanda McDaniel, a local spa receptionist, on edge. "Knowing that it could just happen across the road is pretty frightening," McDaniel said.

Police reports say the suspects, described as white men were last seen running down an alley...

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Chattanooga Expected to Become Third Tennessee City to Provide Domestic Partner Benefits

Chattanooga, Tennessee may soon become the third city in the state to provide health benefits to its domestic partners, Nooga.com reports:

ChattanoogaThe City Council voted 5-4 Tuesday evening to approve the Extended Benefits and Equity Ordinance, proposed by Councilman Chris Anderson. The legislation extends health benefits to the domestic partners of city employees, including those in same-sex relationships. A second legislative component adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the city’s nondiscrimination policy.

"I’m excited that our city took a great step toward equality and fairness for all our employees," Anderson said to reporters after the vote. "It’s a great day for Chattanooga."

Mayor Andy Berke issued a statement Tuesday evening that praised the City Council’s decision.

"In the 21st century, we must ensure we attract talented employees and remain competitive with local, regional and national employers," Berke said. "That means hiring employees based on merit and offering a benefits package that retains and recruits the very best employees possible."

Another vote, expected to be 5-4 again, must be taken next week for the proposal to become law.


Gay Couples Explain the Lawsuit Demanding Tennessee Recognize Their Marriages: VIDEO

Rubenfeld

Yesterday, Towleroad reported that four gay couples in Tennessee are suing the state for recognition of their marriages. They held a press conference yesterday shortly after the suit was announced at which the lead attorneys and plaintiffs spoke out, the Tennesseean reports:

The four couples were married in New York or California, where same-sex marriages are legal, and argue that Tennessee’s refusal to recognize their marriages violates their constitutional rights. The couples hail from across the state: Matthew Mansell and Johno Espejo, of Franklin; Valeria Tanco and Sophy Jesty, of Knoxville; Ijpe DeKoe and Thomas Kostura, from Memphis, and Kellie Miller and Vanessa DeVillez, of Greenbrier...

...“Like other families, we want to have rights and obligations and protections under the law,” she said. “Val and I are pregnant. We’re expecting our baby girl in March and honestly it’s frightening to me to consider if something goes wrong at the time of the delivery, because as it stands right now I don’t have a legal right to make decisions on Val’s behalf, decisions on our baby’s behalf.”

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Four Couples File Suit Challenging Tennessee's Gay Marriage Ban

Four gay couples filed suit in Tennessee today challenging the state's ban on same-sex marriage, according to a press release from the National Center for Lesbian Rights:

TennesseeThe couples, who include a full-time Army reservist and his husband and two professors of veterinary medicine, all formerly lived and married in other states and later moved to Tennessee to pursue careers and make new homes for their families. Tennessee law currently prohibits recognition of their marriages and treats the couples as legal strangers.

The lawsuit argues that Tennessee’s laws prohibiting recognition of the couples’ marriages violates the federal Constitution's guarantees of equal protection and due process and the constitutionally protected right to travel between and move to other states.

The couples are Dr. Valeria Tanco and Dr. Sophy Jesty of Knoxville; Army Reserve Sergeant First Class Ijpe DeKoe and Thom Kostura of Memphis; Kellie Miller and Vanessa DeVillez of Greenbrier; and Matthew Mansell and Johno Espejo of Franklin. The couples are represented by Nashville attorneys Abby R. Rubenfeld, William Harbison, Scott Hickman, Phil Cramer and John Farringer of the law firm of Sherrard & Roe, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), and attorneys Maureen T. Holland of Memphis and Regina Lambert of Knoxville.

Minter“Getting married not only enabled us to express our love and commitment to one another, but it also provided us with the protections we would need as we started our new lives together,” said Dr. Jesty, who moved to Tennessee with her wife in 2011 to accept a teaching position at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine in Knoxville, where her spouse also teaches. “When we moved to Tennessee, we lost those protections. Now that Val is pregnant with our first child, having those protections is more important than ever.”

Sergeant DeKoe, who served a tour of duty in Afghanistan, said: “Fairness and equality are the guiding principles of our government, and as a member of the armed forces, I have fought and will continue to fight for those principles. After returning to Memphis with Thom, I was saddened to learn that Tennessee law does not live up to those ideals in the way it treats married same-sex couples.”

Said NCLR legal director Shannon Minter (pictured): “Married couples should be able to travel and to live in any state knowing that their family is protected. Tennessee’s current law hurts same-sex couples and their children without helping anyone.”

Read the complaint HERE.


LGBT 'Safe Space' Posters to Remain Down Following TN School Board's Review of Anti-Bullying Policy

TN Safe Space

You may recall last month's backlash facing middle Tennessee's Rutherford County Board of Education and its decision to remove all of GLSEN's 'Safe Space' posters from classrooms on the grounds that the poster's content was too 'political' and 'sexual' because it contained the words 'lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender.'

With both the state and national American Civil Liberties Union having spoken out against the homophobic policy, the school board held a meeting Wednesday night to gage public opinion on the issue and discuss a potential review of the policy. The Daily News Journal reports board members told the standing-room-only crowd at the meeting that they will study the district's anti-bullying policy but took no further action

Odom"We have a desire to protect the interests of all students in our school system," said Don Odom (pictured), director of Rutherford County Schools. "Our staff attorney, Jeff Reed, will look at the policy to see if there are changes to be made in order to make (the policies) more inclusive."

The teacher from whose classroom the poster was removed, Allen Nichols, spoke at the meeting and said that the issue here is more than just anti-bullying resources for students. At stake are the free speech rights of students, a notion that senior Bethany Howard appreciated was being kept in mind.

"It means so much to me that Mr. Nichols has taken a stand for student speech," Howard said. "This is a very charged issue, and it's not often that someone takes a stand like he has. And I've never heard him talk about his personal beliefs on politics, religion or any social issues."

Others at the meeting, however, spoke out against Nichols and the poster. Penny Johnson, director for Parents for Truth in Education, said she thought the posters unfairly privileged one group of students over others.

"We have to treat all children from all aspects equally and fairly," said Johnson. "By putting a special poster up for specific group in that area, you're giving them special treatment regarding bullying."

Considering LGBT teens are disproportionately targeted for bullying in schools, I wouldn't exactly consider the poster "special treatment." 88% of LGBT students in Tennessee have been verbally harassed and 43% have been physically harassed in the past year because of their sexual orientation, according to GLSEN's "2011 Tennessee State Snapshot"


TN School Board Removes LGBT 'Safe Space' Posters From Campus, Claims They Were Too 'Sexual'

Screen Shot 2013-08-23 at 4.11.44 PMThe Rutherford County Board of Education in central Tennessee is under quite a bit of fire from the state and national American Civil Liberties Union after deciding to remove all of GLSEN's 'Safe Space' posters (pictured) from classrooms at its Central Magnet School. The reason? The school board claimed the poster's content was too 'political' and 'of an inappropriate sexual nature' because it contained the words 'lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender.'

The ACLU, however, says the school board's claims are "obvious mischaracterization[s]" and "grossly misconstruing the nature of the poster." Additionally, the ACLU says that legal action may be required if steps are not taken to reverse the decision:

"Removal of these posters is a violation of the free speech rights of students and teachers," said Thomas H. Castelli, ACLU-TN Legal Director. "Permitting some student groups but not others to display posters amounts to unconstitutional, discriminatory censorship." 

GLSEN has also responded, stating that many students in Tennessee already feel unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation, which can cause absenteeism, lowered academic achievement, and poorer psychological well-being.  88% of LGBT students in Tennessee have been verbally harassed and 43% have been physically harassed in the past year because of their sexual orientation, according to GLSEN's "2011 Tennessee State Snapshot." 

"Removing a GLSEN Safe Space poster that promotes a positive learning environment free from harassment is alarming given that a majority of LGBT students in Tennessee report feeling unsafe in school because of their sexual orientation or gender identity," said Dr. Eliza Byard, GLSEN's Executive Director. "Every student deserves to feel safe in school and our Safe Space posters, a part of GLSEN's Safe Space Kit, play a vital role in conveying that very message. Students know they have an educator to turn to for support when they see our poster displayed in a school classroom or office."

The school board has yet to respond to the ACLU letter, which can be read here.

Tennessee is no stranger to silencing the voices of LGBT students and allies. The "Don't Say Gay" bill that was reintroduced in the Tennessee Senate earlier this year comes to mind...  


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