Tennessee Senate Committee Passes “Don’t Say Gay” Bill
April 21st, 2011
A Tennessee Senate committee approved a bill that would prohibit teachers from discussing homosexuality before the ninth grade, a measure that would jeopardize anti-bullying programs in middle schools.
The measure, SB49 (PDF: 36KB/1 page), was introduced by Sen. Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville). As originally written, it stated, “Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, no public elementary or middle school shall provide any instruction or material that discusses sexual orientation other than heterosexuality.” Sen. Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville) tried to sidetrack the measure, noting that current state law already prohibits such instruction because it falls outside the “family life curriculum” adopted by the state Board of Education. His amendment to refer the matter to the Board of Education for further study passed. But his efforts were effectively derailed when Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) proposed a further amendment, requiring that the Board of Education “shall adopt” Campfield’s original ban after the study is completed by February 1.
The bill now goes to the full Senate for a vote. Campfield has unsuccessfully pushed the “don’t say gay” bill for the past six years. An identical measure, HB229, has been introduced in the House by Rep. Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville) where it has been assigned to the Education Committee.
Campfield has come under criticism for trying to profit from his bill. He sought a $1000 “retainer” fee to debate his bill with an LGBT advocate. Tennessee law prohibits legislators from seeking payment related to their legislative duties outside their salary.
Catholic priest champions non-discrimination ordinance
March 15th, 2011
It isn’t that often that I have anything complimentary to say about the current state of the Catholic Church and its practices, so I’m not letting this opportunity pass by. (Gay Socialites)
Rev. Joseph Breen of the St. Edward Church in Nashville, Tennessee is standing up for the LGBT community.
Breen penned a letter to the Metro Council that also ran in the Tennessean this week encouraging the elected officials to get behind a bill meant to eliminate anti-gay bias when it comes to contracts with the city.
“I ask you to approve this bill banning discrimination by city contractors against gay, lesbian and transgender people,” Breen wrote in a letter sent to each member of Nashville’s Metro Council (and also published in the Tennessean). “I fully support the spirit of inclusion rather than exclusion in our great city and ask you to do the same with your vote of approval,” he added.
Clearly Father Breen has given up on any hope of ever becoming bishop and is now just seeking to better the lives of those in his parish, his city, and his community. I wonder if the Diocese will retaliate.
Tennessee Lawmakers Propose Ban on Mentioning LGBT People in Schools
February 23rd, 2011
Two Tennessee lawmakers, State Sen. Stacey Campfield and Rep. Bill Dunn, have introduced a bill in the state’s legislature that would ban schools from discussing any sexual orientation other than heterosexuality. The bill, House Bill 229 and Senate Bill 49 (PDF 36KB/1 page), says in part: “No public elementary or middle school shall provide any instruction or material that discusses sexual orientation other than heterosexuality.”
The “Don’t Say Gay” bill presents serious problems for students whose family members may be gay, or who may be gay themselves:
“The Don’t Say Gay bill raises all kinds of issues about anti-gay bias, free speech and government overreach,” said Ben Byers with the Tennessee Equality Project. …”It limits what teachers and students are able to discuss in the classroom,” Byers said. “It means they can’t talk about gay issues or sexuality even with students who may be gay or have gay family.”
Tenn. Lesbian Couple’s Home Torched
September 12th, 2010
The home of Carol and Laura Stutte in Vonore, Tennessee was destroyed by a fire on Saturday, Sept 4, that investigators are now calling an act of arson. The couple had been harassed and threatened by one of their neighbors for the entire five years that they had lived in the home. An anti-gay slur was spray painted on their garage.
The fire occurred while the couple was away in Nashville with a neighbor, celebrating their fifth anniversary of moving into the home from Oklahoma. Carol’s adult daughter from a previous marriage were also with them in Nashville. Carol says that her partner is too afraid to come back to the property since the fire. The home and everything in it was a total loss.
Carol says that, despite the arson, she has been very appreciative of the support from people in the area who have offered to help. The Maryville chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays is taking donations of clothing and money for the Stutte family. They can be reached at 865-368-6665.
Tennessee appeals court slaps down anti-gay activist judge – again
June 30th, 2010
In May 2008, Angel Chandler and her ex-husband Joseph Barker went before the judge to modify their parenting plan. But Ellis didn’t like that Angel was living with her female partner of nine years and decided that he was going to do a little legislating from the bench.
Now the 28th judicial district in Tennessee has Local Rule 23, whereby agreements have a “paramour clause,” a decision that denies custody or even visitation rights to parents who allow an unmarried partner to stay overnight. But this can be overridden by a court, something that Ellis decided he wasn’t going to do.
Now this is not the case of a judge siding with the straight parent; her ex-husband (who has remarried) didn’t ask for the clause or object to its removal. And it wasn’t over-reliance on a hostile child services worker; reports showed no harm to the children. This was simply the case of a judge going against the wishes of the parents and the children and the advice of the psychologist, and taking it upon himself to disrupt the life of this family out of his own personal biases and bigotries.
Angel’s and her partner moved into two halves of a duplex so they could live near each other but apart while they appealed the decision, but soon found the double households to be prohibitively expensive. But fortunately they won their appeal, with the court reminding Ellis that the state law requires the primary consideration for custody arrangements be what’s in the best interest of the children.
Well, Ellis didn’t need no stinkin’ law to do what he wanted to do, so he insisted that the paramour clause remain in place until he could have a hearing. Well in March of this year he had his hearing at which time he decided – without any evidence as support – that it was in the best interest of the children that Chandler and her partner be forced to live apart in order for her to have her kids visit. (Citizen Times)
“A paramour overnight, abuse of alcohol and abuse of drugs are clearly common sense understanding that children can be adversely affected by such exposure….”
(There is no mention of there actually having been abuse of alcohol or drugs, Ellis just sort of threw that in there for comparison. Ya know: alcohol, drug, lesbians – all just obviously not in the kids’ best interest to be around these things.)
So back to the court they went. And this time the appeals court was not amused that Chancellor Ellis had decided to impose his agenda over that of the law.
“The record is devoid of any evidence whatsoever to support the finding that a paramour provision is in the best interests of the children. In fact, the record contains evidence demonstrating that a paramour provision is contrary to the best interests of the children,” the court wrote.
So far I’ve been unable to locate any mention of this story by the usual crowd of anti-gay ranters. I guess their definition of “activist judge” is one who disagrees with them.
LaBarbera Award: Two Tennessee Tea Party Candidates
May 1st, 2010
Today’s LaBarbera Award is a two-fer, and goes to two Republican candidates for Tennessee’s 8th Congressional District. Ron Kirkland of Jackson and Randy Smith of Mercer were among the candidates speaking at a Tea Party forum in Paris, Tennessee, on Thursday evening. That forum included discussions about the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, the military’s ban on LGBT people serving openly. All five Tea Party candidates opposed the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” but Mercer and Smith excused violence toward gay people as a method for keeping them out of the military:
Kirkland, a Vietnam veteran, said of his time in the military: “I can tell you if there were any homosexuals in that group, they were taken care of in ways I can’t describe to you.”
Smith, who served in the first Iraqi war, added: “I definitely wouldn’t want to share a shower with a homosexual. We took care of that kind of stuff, just like (Kirkland) said.”
The Tennessee Republican Party had no comment about the candidates statements when contacted by The Associated Press on Friday.
The Tennessee Equality Project has demanded an apology from Kirkland and Smith. A spokesperson for the Kirkland campaign said that the candidate has no plans to do so. Smith, who has a 19-year-old lesbian daughter, said on Friday that he apologizes to those who were offended, but he maintained that he was “telling it how it is actually.”
When asked later whether either candidate had personal knowledge of violence against gay people, Smiths said that he only knew of it “in concept” but never learned of a specific incident. Kirkland dismissed the question, saying “it was a joke.”
Jonathan Cole, of the Tennessee Equality Project responded, “Without a sincere apology, I don’t consider it to be a joke. I would question his fitness to serve in elected office if he can’t show common respect for those who’ve put their lives on the line to protect the freedoms we enjoy in this country.”
Lesbian Couple Say They Were Assaulted At Baptist Church
August 24th, 2009
Rev. Kenneth Whalum, Jr., of New Olivet Baptist Church is running for Memphis mayor this fall. Monique Stephens and her partner were interested in supporting the Reverend in his mayoral run, and decided to attend the 11 a.m. service to get an up-close look at the man. That’s when things went awry:
An hour into service, Whalum told the congregation to bow to the ground and blow kisses to God, Stephens said, but she and her partner, who are agnostic, did not move. She said Whalum and church members began calling them “devil worshippers” and “gay,” among other derogatory names. Security guards surrounded and pushed them out of the sanctuary. Stephens said her glasses were broken and both she and her partner of three years have bruises and scratches from the altercation. No arrests were made, police said.
Rev. Whalum says the couiple were removed because they were being disruptive, not because they were lesbian. “If I put every lesbian out of church, we’d be putting people out of church all day long,” he said.
Nashville, Knoxville Schools Unblock LGBT Web Sites
June 5th, 2009
School districts in Nashville and Knoxville have responded to the American Civil Liberties Union’s lawsuit demanding that Tennessee school systems remove Internet filtering software which blocks students’ access to legitimate LGBT educational and informational web sites. The Knoxville superintendent said that the blocking software was against school board policy.
The school systems used filtering software provided by Education Networks of America, which categorized some 1,000 web sites as “LGBT” and blocked access to them. The same software however allowed access to ex-gay ministries. David Pierce, CEO of ENA, said that they have upgraded the system to distinguish between web sites which provide information and those are more adult oriented.
The ACLU says that they will now likely drop their lawsuit but they are holding off for now, pending assurances that the filtering software won’t re-block access to LGBT sites in the future.
ACLU: Tenn Schools Illegally Blocking Access To LGBT Websites, Allows Ex-Gay Sites
April 15th, 2009
According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), as many of 107 Tennessee public school districts could be illegally preventing students from accessing accurate and balanced online information about LGBT issues. The same Internet filtering software however allows access to ex-gay groups. In a letter sent to Knox County Schools, Metro Nashville Public Schools, and the Tennessee Schools Cooperative, the ACLU demanded that they unblock access to LGBT sites.
This is from the ACLU’s press release (not yet available online):
“When I found out about this web filtering software, I wasn’t looking for anything sexual or inappropriate – I was looking for information about scholarships for LGBT students, and I couldn’t get to it because of this software,” said Andrew Emitt, a 17-year-old senior at Central High School in Knoxville . “Our schools shouldn’t be keeping students in the dark about LGBT organizations and resources.”
…In its demand letter, the ACLU notes that websites that urge LGBT persons to change their sexual orientation or gender identity through so-called “reparative therapy” or “ex-gay” ministries – a practice denounced as dangerous and harmful to young people by such groups as the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Medical Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics – can still be easily accessed by students.
“One of the problems with this software is that it only allows students access to one side of information about topics that are part of the public debate right now, like marriage for same-sex couples,” said Karyn Storts-Brinks, a librarian at Fulton High School in Knoxville, pointing out that the software blocks access to organizations that support marriage for same-sex couples like the Religious Coalition for Freedom to Marry or the Interfaith Working Group while allowing access to organizations that oppose marriage equality. “Students who need to do research for assignments on current events can only get one viewpoint, keeping them from being able to cover both sides of the issue. That’s not fair and can hinder their schoolwork.”
The schools in question use filtering software provided by Education Networks of America (ENA). The software’s default settings blocks sites categorized as LGBT, which include:
- Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)
- The Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN)
- Human Rights Campaign (HRC)
- Marriage Equality USA
- Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry
- The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)
- Dignity USA (an organization for LGBT Catholics)
The ACLU is giving the districts until April 29 to come up with a plan to provide access to LGBT sites or any other category that blocks non-sexual websites advocating the fair treatment of LGBT people by the beginning of the 2009-2010 school year.
Knoxville Shooter’s Manifesto Made Public
February 14th, 2009
Jim David Adkisson, the gunman who opened fire in a Knoxville, Tennessee church killing two and injuring seven others, pleaded guilty last week to two counts of murder and six counts of attempted murder. He will spend the rest of his life behind bars for his July 27, 2008 rampage at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church.
During the course of the investigation, it was revealed that Adkisson left a hand-written manifesto in his pickup truck in which, according to police, he expressed “hatred of the liberal movement, Liberals in general, as well as gays.” Despite public calls for police to release the text of the letter, police kept it private as the investigation continued.
After last week’s sentencing hearing, Adkisson released the four-page letter to the Knoxville News Sentinel which posted it on its web site earlier this week. In the letter, which Adkisson intended to be a suicide note, he made clear that he hated all things “liberal”:
Liberals are a pest like termites. Millions of them. Each little bite contributes to the downfall of this great nation. The only way we can rid ourselves of this evil is kill them in the streets. Kill them where they gather.
I’d like to encourage other like minded people to do what I’ve done. If life ain’t worth living anymore don’t just kill yourself. do [sic] something for your Country before you go. Go Kill Liberals.
Tell the cop that killed me I said, “Thanks. I needed that!”
Adkisson was also clear that he considered his actions a hate crime. He made a special point in explaining that by emphasizing his hatred of “damn left-wing Liberals.” He also described his rampage as a “political act.” Matthew David Chamberlain, a 47-year-old nonviolent sex offender who shared a cell with Adkisson, told the News Sentinel, “He said if he got out (of prison), he’d do it again.”
In Adkisson’s letter, he listed all of the news networks that he believes are destroying America. His list included all major national broadcasters. Fox News was noticeably absent from the list. Adkisson also said he wanted to kill all Democrats in the House and Senate, as well as everyone listed in Bernard Goldberg’s book, 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America (And Al Franken Is #37). But since he judged them to be inaccessible, he decided to go after “the foot soldiers” attending the Unitarian Universalist church that Sunday instead:
Don’t let the word church mislead you. This isn’t a church, it’s a cult. They don’t even believe in God. They worship the God of Secularism. These sick people aren’t Liberals, they’re Ultra-Liberals. This is a collection of sicko’s, weirdo’s + homo’s. [sic] The UU church is the Fountainhead, the veritable wellspring of anti-American organizations like Moveon.org, Code Pink, and other un-American groups.
Those people are absolute Hypocrits. [sic] They embrace every pervert that comes down the pike, but if they find out your [sic] a conservative, they absolutely Hate you.
… I’d like someone to do an exposé on this church, it’s a den of un-American vipers. They call themselves “Progressive.” How is a white woman having a niger [sic] baby progressive? How is a man sticking his dick up another man’s ass progressive?
Reading this screed reminds me of some of the more entertaining comments we’ve collected on this web site, as well as some of the more colorful emails I’ve received on a few occasions. Yes, they are out there, and they’re not as uncommon as you might think. Consider just about any comment left on the WorldNetDaily web site, or even this comment on the Sentinel’s web site:
Ya know, with the exception of killing people, which is wrong under any circumstance, even liberals, he’s pretty much right. This so-called liberal movement will destroy the American way of life. Liberals hate America and are extremely dangerous to our freedoms and liberty. Mark my words, check back here in a couple years, if this Obama-Nation has not yet utterly destroyed itself, so I can say I told you so.
Knoxville Shooter To Receive Life Prison Term
February 5th, 2009
Jim David Adkisson, the man who opened fire at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee and killed two people, will receive two concurrent life sentences without parole for each of the two slayings in exchange for a guilty plea. Adkisson will also receive concurrent 25-year prison terms for six counts of attempted murder.
On July 27, 2008, Adkisson walked into the church carrying a shotgun he head hidden in a guitar case and opened fire. A children’s performance of the musical “Annie Jr.” was just getting started when Adkisson began firing indiscriminately. Greg McKendry, 60, was the first to confront Adkisson, and he was killed instantly. Also killed was Linda Kraeger, 61, who was a visitor to the church. Church members were able to wrestle Adkisson.
During the investigation following the shooting, police found a manifestoin Adkisson’s truck in which, according to police, he expressed “hatred of the liberal movement, Liberals in general, as well as gays.” Despite calls to release the letter, it hasn’t been publicly released.
Heterosexual Menace: Shock Collars, Shootings, Incest — But No Gay Adoption
February 2nd, 2009
From Xenia, Ohio, we have a father who disciplined his children by using shock collars:
The Caesarscreek Twp. man who used a shock collar and water torture to discipline three of his four children was sentenced to 16 years in prison by Greene County Common Pleas Court Judge J. Timothy Campbell Monday. David O. Liskany, 39, of Hussey Road, was sentenced to six years each for two counts of second-degree felonious assault and to four years for one count of third-degree attempted felonious assault.
“The only thing you didn’t do was wrap their faces in cheesecloth. They basically were waterboarded,” Campbell said before handing down his sentence, which was far harsher than the 4 years in prison recommended by state probation authorities. According to Campbell, Liskany abused three of his four children — who were 13, 11 and four at the time of the abuse — by using a dog’s shock collar on them, holding them underwater, subjecting them to cold showers and spraying water up their noses.
Authorities found out when the older boy ran away from home, walking fifteen miles to a relative. Liskany’s ex-wife Wendy Liskany pleaded for the court to not jail her ex-husband. “I don’t feel that incarcerating him will help,” she said.
Maybe Liskany had to use such creative measures because they spoiled their children when they were younger. These parents from New York were determined not to make that mistake:
A 5-month-old child is in critical condition Saturday in what police suspect is a child abuse case. Police say they have charged the girl’s father, Scott Archbold, 41, with causing the injuries including multiple bone fractures, internal bleeding and signs of prior abuse. Christina Benjamin, (above right) the infant’s mother, has been charged with child endangerment for allegedly failing to get the child medical attention after the infant’s grandmother suspected the abuse.
But at least Liskany and the Archbold-Benjamins didn’t just kill their entire families outright.
Armed with a handgun, [Ervin Antonio] Lupoe evidently roamed room to room starting as early as Monday evening, fatally shooting his wife and five young children — including two sets of twins.
Early Tuesday, Lupoe faxed a bitter, rambling two-page letter to a local television station blaming his employer for his actions. Though his wife and children were already dead, he also called the station threatening to kill his family, investigators believe. He followed this up with an incongruous call to police saying that he had returned home and that “my whole family has been shot.”
Fortunately, not all heterosexuals are so violent. This father loved his daughter so much, he had four children by her. He didn’t care much for his grandchildren-children though:
The father, Danial Rinehart, 47, is scheduled to appear in court Thursday. Authorities say three of the four babies he fathered by the second-oldest daughter, who is now 19, are dead. A 3-year-old boy is alive and in state custody. Rinehart is charged with second-degree felony murder, child endangerment, two counts of incest and two counts of abandonment of a corpse. The remains of two infants were found in chest-type coolers.
His wife, Linda Rinehart, is charged with child endangerment. Authorities say she was jealous of the relationship between her husband and daughter but helped with the babies’ deliveries.
Obviously, we need to put a stop to this sort of abusive family dynamics. That’s why a Tennessee state legislator is introducing legislation to ban adoption by same-sex parents. It’s also why a West Virginia judge thinks a 2-year-old girl would be much better off if she were ripped from the only parents she has ever known. Her lesbian fostor parents have cared for her since birth and now want to adopt her.
Anti-Gay Tennesee Republican Loses Sure-Thing Speaker Position
January 16th, 2009
A funny thing happened on Tuesday in Tennessee.
In the last election the Republican Party took control of the House for the first time in 40 years. And Jason Mumpower went on Tuesday to be annointed as the new Republican Speaker of the House.
But Mumpower’s day didn’t go as well as he imagined it would. To his surprise, all 49 Democrats voted for Republican Kent Williams… and so did Williams, giving him a 50 – 49 majority.
Williams went on to vote with the Democrats to elect Lois DeBerry as speaker pro tempore. Needless to say, this didn’t make Tennessee Republican Party Chairwoman Robin Smith very happy. She’s planning to expel Williams from the Party.
“Action will begin immediately to address the actions of Rep. Kent Williams,” said Smith. “His commitment today was not to Republican principles, but to the blind and shameless pursuit of personal power. He cast his vote for a pro-tax, pro-gay, pro-abortion, anti-gun liberal Democrat to preside in leadership against all 49 of his Republican colleagues.”
Now I don’t know how supportive Williams is of the community, but as for Jason Mumpower, the man he displaced,
One of the first bills Mumpower sponsored after his election was a 1997 measure to prohibit gay couples from becoming foster parents.
His bill didn’t pass in 1997 and now he’s lost his latest play for power but somehow I just can’t bring myself to feel sorry for Mumpower.
More Discrimination Alledged Against Tennessee Hotel Owner
January 14th, 2009
Remember the Brentwood, Tennessee, hotel owner who fired two employees because they were gay? Well since those stories came to light, more employees have come forward alleging discrimination based on gender and national origin, in addition to sexual orientation:
We were spoken down to,” former food and beverage manager Freda McAllister said. I guess in [the owner's] particular culture, women are second, so that was obvious from the treatment we got over there.”
“[We were told] we ‘didn’t know how to run businesses,’ and we should do things more like they do in India,” added Tamara Head, former controller.
Former front office manager Timothy Horne said that he was treated badly partly because of his young age and also because he was gay, a charge echoed by former hotel supervisor Sergeo Lleneza.
Federal law protects workers from discrimination based on race, religion, gender, national origin and disability. It does not protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation. While David Hill, one of the two gay employees who were fired, has filed complaints with the EEOC and the Department of Labor, those complaints aren’t likely to go anywhere.
But there does seem to be a modicum of justice in all this. Hotel owner Tarun Surti and his hotel are reportedly bankrupt.
Second Gay Employee Fired From Tennessee Hotel
January 12th, 2009
There’s a follow-up to the story of David Hill’s firing from the Artee Hotel in Brentwood, Tennessee. The hotel’s owner, Tarun Surti, had Hill fired when he found out Hill was gay. The Assistant General Manager, Leonard Stoddard, did the firing as ordered by Surti, and explained what happened to the local media. In the process, we learned that Stoddard was also gay, and that he expected to be fired as well.
Today we learn that other shoe dropped. Stoddard was terminated via email on Thursday. Surti wrote that Stoddard was fired because he alledgedly lied to the media about Hill’s termination. Stoddard and Hill plan on picketing outside the hotel on Saturday, January 17 at 9:00 a.m.