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Tennessee Equality Project: It’s time!

Today, I’m ready to shout. I’m not shouting because I’m mad, I’m shouting out to every single reader of Clarksville Online. It’s an open call especially to the GLBT readership, but I’m also including every single ally that reads this article. How many are you? I would suppose that you’re hundreds, perhaps thousands. That’s a lot of people that I’m shouting to. My call is for you to show Clarksville that you care about your rights as a citizen in Tennessee. I’m a facts-based type of guy, so let’s start by looking at some facts.

• Did you know that a Tennessee State Constitutional amendment was devised and passed which took away your rights of marrying the person of your choice? These rights were written into our constitution and taken away from us. When I say “us,” I mean all of us. We are now constitutionally restricted as to whom we can marry.

• Did you know that Stacey Campfield, a Representative from a district that lies hundreds of miles from Clarksville, tried to legislate the removal of all mention of GLBT families and life from elementary and middle school curricula in the State of Tennessee?
• Did you know that a couple of legislators from Memphis, once again hundreds of miles from Clarksville, tried to legislate who can adopt children? I don’t think that you’ll be happy to know that it was their idea that only legally married couples can adopt children.
• Did you know that we live in the only state in the entire USA that has legislation on the books that says that you canot change the sex on your birth certificate? The only state in the entire country?

I know that you’ve heard and read about equality groups and thought “this has nothing to do with me.” You might think “just as long as I can go have a good time with my friends and meet new people, I’m fine.” Well, I’d like to challenge you to look beyond yourself. For example, there are people in your community who want to marry. There are children in your community who need to learn that being GLBT is not wrong, bad, immoral or “simply something that you shouldn’t talk about.” There are single men and women, gay and straight; and unmarried couples, gay and straight; right here in Clarksville, who almost lost their rights to adopt children. Clarksville has the shame of being one of the largest cities in a state that has the shining reputation of being the only state in the entire country with legislation on the books that says that you cannot change the sex on your birth certificate.

Haven’t heard enough? Let’s take it one step further. Imagine your straight brother, sister or friend being denied the opportunity to adopt a child because a man out in Memphis decides that he or she is incapable to be a parent. What about your friends who have been together for twenty years? No go, they don’t qualify.

How would you feel if your niece or nephew were taught in school that your sexual orientation is something that cannot be mentioned?

Is it hitting home now? It should be hitting home now. In fact, you should be concerned. The last three facts that I mentioned are examples of situations from the year 2008, not the year 1958. Considering that, can you imagine what might be introduced in the 2009 Legislative Session?

Now, you might be able to see my logic that an equality group has everything to do with you, your ability to have a good time with your friends and meeting new people. It has everything to do with the relationships that you have with your family. It has everything to do with what children are being taught in schools. It has everything to do with how the rest of the country looks at the State of Tennessee—your home.

We’re fighting so that you can have a family, we’re fighting so that children will have healthy attitudes toward you, we’re fighting so that you can be proud to say that you’re from a state where oppressive, backwards laws are on not on the books. We’re fighting so that even more bizarre legislation will not pass in the 2009 session.

We’re also fighting to help you in positive ways, providing opportunities for you to have the same rights as other residents of Montgomery County.

Sounds great? Of course it does. Here’s the down side. We need your help and it’s not coming through. The GLBT and allied communities in the Clarksville area needs to help us because Clarksville, unfortunately, is not our only battleground. Tennessee is a huge state. There are more than 500 miles to cover from Bristol to Memphis. We need to rely on local people to help us make Clarksville a better place. We’ll set you up. We’ll give you guidance. We’ll hold your hand through the initial learning process. But, we need local people to make this work for Clarksville. Be proud of your community and be proud to be a GLBT Clarksvillian. Write to me at todd@tnequalityproject.org to show us that you care about your community. We’ll put you to work and give you only the amount of work that you think that would interest you.

Todd Hughes
Todd Hugheshttp://
I'm the Director of the Language Center at Vandebilt University. I'm also interested in GLBT issues, and serve as the Middle Tennessee Coordinator for the Tennessee Equality Project. I'm here to serve you in the Clarksville area!

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