Viewing the Facebook page of the Middle Tennessee chapter of GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network), it is evident that their mission is not just to promote the organization, but to share the current events, activism and advocacy that effect the entire LGBT community; most recently, Tennessee’s anti-gay legislation. The “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which just advanced to the Senate, would prohibit educators from discussing, not just teaching, sexual orientation in classrooms with students kindergarten through eighth grade. The bill proposes that discussion and education be “limited exclusively to age-appropriate natural human reproduction science.” Stacey Campfield (R), the bill’s sponsor, was quoted as saying “homosexuals don’t naturally reproduce”. Her belief is that parents should make the determination on when the appropriate time is to talk to their children about homosexuality, however isolating omission of acknowledging all orientation would be for those children affected.
Also in the spotlight is the anti-gay Bill (HB 600/SB 632) backed by the Tennessee State Chamber of Commerce. The bill is raising big concern with gay activists as well as some major national corporations. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) signed into legislation the bill which prohibits local governments from instituting anti-discrimination policies that are stricter than the state policy. Currently Nashville is the only city in Tennessee that prohibits discrimination in the work place based on gender identity and sexual orientation. The bill, proposed to unify discrimination policies across the state, would take away Nashville’s thriving civil rights ordinances. The Tennessee Chamber of Commerce’s board is comprised of many representatives from major corporations such as Nissan, FedEx, AT&T, Comcast, DuPont, Pfizer, Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS), Caterpillar, KPMG, Whirlpool, Embraer, Alcoa and United HealthCare. Many of these corporations currently have strict anti-discrimination policies in effect to promote diversity in the workplace as well as protection and benefits for LGBT employees. The bill could ultimately affect how they do business in Tennessee in the future. Gay activists and the Human Rights Campaign are putting the pressure on these corporation representatives to lobby the Governor to veto the bill. The Middle Tennessee Chapter of GLSEN is no exception.
GLSEN Middle Tennessee chapter has stepped beyond the classroom and is taking advantage of advocacy through social media networks. Originally known as Tennessee Safe Schools on the popular site Facebook, GLSEN Middle Tennessee has been forced to create their newest page after maxing out the number of “fans”, or followers, the previous page could attract. With the majority of our youth utilizing the Internet as a means of obtaining and exchanging information, the Facebook page has proven to be an effective tool in the fight to “ensure safe schools for ALL students, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity”, as well as gain the exposure needed to take LGBT rights campaigning to the next level.
National GLSEN’s history can be traced back to a local group that formed in 1990 comprised of over 70 gay and lesbian educators originally named Gay and Lesbian Independent School Teachers Network (GLSTN). By 1995 with chapters forming across the country, GLSTN became a national organization. In 1997 the organization changed its name to the current one Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, GLSEN and held a national conference in response to legislation that would ban all student groups in an attempt to prevent Gay-Straight Alliances from forming. At the onset of the organization, only two Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs), the student based student organizations, intended to provide a safe and supportive environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth and their straight allies, were registered. Today that number exceeds 4,000.
UPDATE: Tennessee Chamber of Commerce, which had originally thrown its weight behind the bill, changed its mind and opposed it , publicly releasing a statement only shortly before the governor signed the bill into law:
“The Tennessee Chamber supports a standard regulatory environment at the state level as opposed to potentially conflicting local regulations covering employment practices. That principle was the only interest the Chamber had in this bill. Because HB600/SB632 has turned into a debate on diversity and inclusiveness — principles which we support — we are now officially opposing this legislation in its present form.”Adopted unanimously May 23, 2011
DEB WOOLLEY, PRESIDENT
TENNESSEE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE & INDUSTRY
Related articles on Out Impact and other media outlets:
- Injustice at Every Turn: New study examines the hardships of transgender life (outimpact.com)
- The anti-gay Tennessee bill no one’s talking about (salon.com)
- Bullying Among Children and Youth on Perceptions and Differences in Sexual Orientation (education.com)
- Anti-Gay, Anti-Disability Law in Tennessee About To Be Hit With Lawsuit (lezgetreal.com)
- “Tennessee Anti-Gay Bill, Backed By State Chamber Of Commerce, Puts Big Business In A Tough Spot” and related posts (huffingtonpost.com)
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