Friday, June 5, 2009

School Systems Unblock LGBT Web Sites

This week, in response to a recent lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union, the Knox County School Board and the Metro Nashville School Board agreed to lift the filter being used to block access to websites on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender themes. These sites were of an informative nature and positive in theme.

The Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition applauds the work of the ACLU in bringing the lawsuit to stop school systems from limiting students' right to learn accurate infomation. We are pleased that students who seek accurate information about LGBT issues and concerns will now have access restored. Sadly, the filters did permit access to anti-LGBT sites, including those promoting widely discredited conversion therapies.

Ironically, in 2005, the Knox County School Board became the first school system in the state to adopt an anti-bullying policy that explicitly included sexual orientation and gender identity, while the Metro Nashville School Board followed suit in 2008 with both a fully inclusive anti-bullying policy and the first fully inclusive non-discrimination policy.

Hate Crimes:

The Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition is continuing the monitor details surrounding the May 27 shooting in Memphis of a person who appears to be transgender. At last report, the victim, shot at least twice in the face, remains in the hospital in critical condition.

The shooter, Terron Taylor, remains in jail on a $500,000 bond. We urge Shelby County authorities to prosecute Taylor aggressively and not permit the use of the trans-panic defense.

This latest incident is one in a long line of anti-trans violent crimes that have plagued Memphis recently.

We still await the trial of D'Andre Blake for the February 2006 murder of Tiffany Berry.

We still await the filing of assault charges by the Shelby County District Attorney for the February 2008 beating of Duanna Johnson by a Memphis Police officer.

We still await arrests in the July 2008 murder of Ebony Whitaker and the November 2008 murder of Duanna Johnson, as well as the December 2008 shooting of Leneeshia Edwards.

The violence against transgender people in Memphis must stop immediately, and it begins with acknowledgement of the humanity of transgender people and aggressive prosecution of those who commit such violent acts.

We also urge members of the Tennessee General Assembly to pass HB0335 by Rep. Jeanne Richardson (D-Memphis) and 21 others, and SB0253 by Sens. Beverly Marrero (D-Memphis) and Ophelia Ford (D-Memphis), as soon as they return in January. This bill would add "gender identity or expression" as a hate crimes sentencing enhancement factor to Tennessee Code Annotated 40-35-114. Passage of this bill will make it easier for state and local authorities to track and prosecute hate crimes against all LGBT Tennesseans.

If you do not know the names of your state legislators, go to

In addition, we urge members of the United States Senate to pass S.909, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The House of Representatives has already passed this legislation, which is supported by President Obama, by a vote of 249 to 175.

Please contact both of Tennessee's Senators, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker and tell them you want to them to support S.909.

We also ask everyone to continue talking to both Representatives and Senators about the importance of the fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act. We anticipate that ENDA will be introduced in the coming weeks. It is time to end job discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. If LGBT people can find, and hold, decent paying jobs, then we are less likely to end up on the streets where we become vulnerable to hate crimes.

Marisa Richmond


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