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Last month, we printed a story highlighting HIVMidTN, a digital ‘211’ HIV/AIDS resource, and it’s 300 to 12 campaign. After its publication, we received several messages questioning the article, organization and its claims. Here is one such letter:
Publisher : Jerry Jones
I’m writing in response to last month’s article entitled “HIVMidTN launches digital ‘211’ HIV Service.” I admire any effort to raise awareness about HIV and combat related stigma. I love and support the organization’s stated vision of zero new infections. An aspirational slogan of “From 300 to Zero” would have been terrific. Sadly, the purportedly evidence-based “From 300 to 12” campaign is misguided for a number of reasons. It represents an unfortunate level of misunderstanding, misinterpretation, and misapplication of the current science, constitutes miseducation, and could result in increased stigma, shaming, and coercion. The HIVMidTN.org website references a single study as the basis for the campaign, and Nancy Reece stated in your article: “if those 300 recently diagnosed people received the care that is available to them on an ongoing basis, that number would automatically drop to 12 [new cases of HIV per year].” I’m intimately familiar with the referenced HPTN052 study, having followed its progress and results since attending an early NIH meeting on its implementation. Unfortunately Ms. Reece’s statement and similar assertions made on the website are inaccurate. Here’s why: First, the majority of new infections are believed to originate with undiagnosed individuals, which in the US represent 16% of living HIV-positive persons overall and dramatically higher percentages in youth and gay and bi men of color. Linking recently diagnosed persons to care will not have an impact on these transmissions. Second, the inherent assumption that the 300 recently diagnosed individuals were infected by 300 previously diagnosed persons who were not in ongoing care is false. The reality is more complicated than that. It is much more likely that they originated in a smaller number of individuals, since not every positive individual transmits the virus, and others may transmit to more than one person. Third, HPTN052 was conducted in committed heterosexual couples where one partner was HIV positive and one partner was HIV negative. It is believed that nearly all of the risk in the study was from vaginal exposure. Obviously, not all transmissions occur via this route. While it is believed that a substantial protective effect from successful treatment is also realized in IV drug users and the gay and bi men who represent the majority of newly infected individuals in our region, we do not have the same kind of evidence for them and can’t know whether it will offer the same reduction in risk. Likewise there isn’t similar data for folks who are not in these kinds of committed relationships which could well have had an impact on outcomes. Such studies are now underway. Fourth, it is reasonable to expect outcomes in the less controlled, broader environment of real world application will be less robust than those in a clinical trial. Fifth, our best efforts to date in the US to get the total population of infected folks through the process of diagnosis, linkage to care, treatment, and achieving an undetectable viral load have only yielded about a 28% success rate. My “back of the envelope” estimate indicates that given these facts an optimistic evidence-based goal might be a reduction from 300 to 200 diagnoses over a period of years. This is reasonably consistent with the 5-year U.S. National HIV/AIDS Strategy goal to reduce new infections by 25% and a similar Tennessee Department of Health goal. Since HIVMidTN decided to opt for an evidence-based vs. an aspirational campaign, it might have been better to create one consistent with established goals. Why does this matter? Failing to recognize that the HPTN052 did not include any significant participation from gay and bi men or transgender women is insensitive to these incredibly affected populations. Conveying false precision about treatment as prevention’s potential to reduce the risk of HIV transmission, particularly in the most at risk communities, may complicate existing education efforts and have the paradoxical effect of reducing use of other effective prevention strategies. Basing a campaign on the idea that it is always easy or simple to start and succeed with treatment or to help diagnosed folks do just that risks shaming patients who achieve less than ideal success and disrespecting the hard working professionals who take on the task of supporting them. An intense focus on treatment of diagnosed individuals as a singular means of dramatically reducing new infections is not justified by current science. Placing the responsibility for halting the transmission of HIV solely on the shoulders of those who know they are living with the virus is unreasonable and unjust. Finally, the “From 300 to 12” campaign is insensitive to the importance of avoiding any coercion of individuals to begin treatment before they are ready, a concern currently being addressed by the international “Community Statement on Treatment as Prevention.” If HIVmidTN is serious about helping the incredibly rich and capable network of organizations already effectively fighting HIV/AIDS in our region, it would be wise for it to put a hold on this campaign, obtain substantial education and understanding of the issues, and seek real collaborative engagement with that network before moving forward. I’d be happy to be part of such an effort. Sincerely, Mark Hubbard
Mark Hubbard is the educational liaison for the Tennessee Association of People With AIDS, the recipient of a community educator scholarship to the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections for the last five years, and represented the community on the Nashville Health Management Foundation board of directors in 2010 & 11.
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HRC releases its 2014 Corporate Equality Index One Tennessee corporation earns a perfect score
Last month, the HRC released its annual corporate report card, the Corporate Equality Index, ranking the nation’s top places for the LGBT community to work. Compared to the 13 companies who received perfect scores in 2002, a recordsetting 304 corporations earned perfect scores in the 2014 index, including Tennessee-based Nissan. And for the first time in the history of the HRC CEI, more than 60% of Fortune 500 companies include both sexual identity and gender identity protections. “This will go down in history as the year that corporate support for equality left the boardroom and reached each and every corner of this country,” said HRC president Chad Griffin in a letter accompanying the report. “Not only do fair-minded companies guarantee fair treatment to millions of LGBT employees in all 50 states, but now those same companies are fighting for full legal equality in state legislatures, in the halls of Congress, and before the U.S. Supreme Court.”
SO HOW DID
TENNESSEE COMPANIES RANK?
AutoZone, headquartered in Memphis, TN: 30 (received 15 points each for equal employment opportunity policies that cover sexual orientation and gender identity/expression). Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz PC, law firm Memphis TN: 85 (half-credit on ‘soft’ benefits and no trans-inclusive health insurance coverage).
Bridgestone, headquartered in Nashville, TN: 70 (offers no partner health/medical benefits, half-credit on ‘soft benefits, and no trans-inclusive health insurance coverage).
Community Health Systems, headquartered in Franklin,TN: 30 (15 points for equal employment opportunity policies that cover sexual orientation and gender identity/expression). Cracker Barrel, headquartered in Lebanon, TN: 45 (no gender identity/ expression discrimination policy, no partner health/medical benefits, half-credit on ‘soft’ benefits, no transinclusive health insurance coverage, no firm-wide competency programs). Dollar General, headquartered in Goodlettsville, TN: 70 (offers no partner health/medical benefits, half-credit on ‘soft’ benefits, and no trans-inclusive health insurance coverage). Special note: Dollar General rises from a 45 last year to a 70 this year. Eastman Chemical, headquartered in Kingston, TN: 15 (only provides discrimination protection based upon sexual orientation).
FedEx, headquartered in Memphis, TN: 85 (half-credit on ‘soft’ benefits, and no trans-inclusive health insurance coverage). First Horizon National Corp., headquartered in Memphis, TN: 70 (offers no partner health/medical benefits, halfcredit on ‘soft’ benefits, and no transinclusive health insurance coverage). HCA, headquartered in Nashville, TN: 30 (only offers employment protections based upon sexual orientation and gender identity/expression).
International Paper, headquartered in Memphis, TN: 45 (no gender identity/expression protections, half-credit on ‘soft’ benefits, no trans-inclusive health insurance coverage, no firm-wide competency programs and no public LGBT outreach). Regal Entertainment Group, headquartered in Knoxville, TN: 35 (no gender identity/expression protections, half-credit on ‘soft’ benefits, no trans-inclusive health insurance coverage, no company LGBT groups/councils and half-credit for public LGBT outreach).
Nissan, headquartered in Franklin, TN: 100 (up from a 75 last year). Unum, headquartered in Chattanooga, TN: 60 (half-credit on ‘soft’ benefits, no company LGBT groups/councils, LGBT public outreach, trans-inclusive health insurance coverage and no firm-wide competency programs). Vanguard Health Systems, headquartered in Nashville, TN: 15 (only sexual orientation employment discrimination policy). You can view the full report at hrc.org
Top 10 National/International News Stories of 2013 LISA KEEN
Even before 2013 began, everyone knew what the big news story for 2013 would be. The U.S. Supreme Court had, in December 2012, agreed to hear to two high-profile marriage cases: One testing the right of the federal government to refuse equal benefits to same-sex married couples, and the other testing the right of a state to ban same-sex couples from marrying. What no one knew for sure was how the court would rule. And speculation in December 2012 was all over the map. Even long-time court observers who routinely cautioned against predicting how the court might rule couldn’t resist predicting how the court might rule. There was unprecedented media attention and public interest in the oral arguments, held on successive days in March. And then, on June 26, the court ruled. The results were not everything the LGBT community wished for but they were far more than many in the community expected to see in their lifetime. Those two rulings alone made 2013 perhaps the “Best Year Ever for the LGBT Movement” toward equal rights in this country. Their impact was deep and wide, politically, symbolically, and literally. But there were other breathtaking developments –including the unexpected— that secured 2013 as the most successful year in the movement’s seven decades of organized struggle. Here are our picks:
10 9 # THE U.S. SENATE GETS ITS FIRST OPENLY GAY MEMBER.
U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, a seventerm representative from Madison, Wisconsin, who embodied the polite, witty, but determined temperament of a Midwesterner, added another “first” to her already long list of accomplishments. Before January, she was already the first open lesbian elected to the Wisconsin Assembly, the first openly gay person elected to the U.S. Congress, the first open lesbian in the House, and the first woman elected to Congress from Wisconsin. After being sworn in to the 113th session, she became Wisconsin’s first woman senator and the U.S. Senate’s first openly gay member. Her colleagues praised her diplomacy in the successful effort to get ENDA approved by the Senate was praised and she became the first rookie senator to win the U.S. Senate’s “Golden Gavel” award for having presided over the chamber’s activities for more than 100 hours.
# CONGRESS GETS ITS LARGEST EVER LGBT CAUCUS.
Not only was U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin in the Senate, as of the start of the 113th Congress, there were six openly LGBT members in the U.S. House, and by year’s end, there was seven. Prior to 2013, the LGBT Caucus numbered four and, with the retirement of Rep. Barney Frank at the end of 2012, it looked like it might dwindle to three: Baldwin and Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and David Cicilline (D-RI). But fresh off newcomer victories in November 2012, the four new openly LGBT reps were sworn in: Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Sean Maloney (D-NY), and Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.). And, in November, Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine) came out in an op-ed to ward off a whisper campaign by his opponents in the 2014 Maine gubernatorial race. The Caucus size doubled to eight over the previous high.
O U T A N D A B O U T N A S H V I L L E . C O M
# THE U.S. SENATE PASSES ENDA FOR THE FIRST TIME.
The Senate had voted on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act once before in the bill’s nearly four decades as the LGBT movement’s flagship piece of legislation. In that first tally, taken in 1996, it lost by one vote. This year, it passed 64 to 32, and only one senator spoke against it (longtime gay civil rights opponent Dan Coats, a Republican from Indiana). A Republican-dominated House gives the bill virtually no chance to even reach the floor there, but passage in the Senate signaled that a new and friendlier political landscape had been established in LGBT civil rights.
# PRESIDENT OBAMA’S SECOND INAUGURAL PROMOTES EQUALITY.
He had already “evolved” to the point where he stated publicly, in July 2012, that he supports the right of same-sex couples to marry. And while LGBT leaders always hope a major presidential address will at least mention LGBT people when identifying the nation’s strength in diversity, no one had expected President Obama to go beyond that in his second inaugural. But he went much further: “We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall. ... Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”
# NJ DROPS APPEAL OF COURT RULING THAT STRUCK STATE MARRIAGE BAN.
Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in U.S. v. Windsor that the key provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was unconstitutional, Lambda Legal asked a state court judge in New Jersey to rule in a pending case, Garden State v. Dow, that the state ban on marriage was harming same-sex couples by preventing them from having access to federal benefits associated with marriage. The judge did just that in late September and ordered the state to comply starting October 21. When Republican Governor Chris Christie sought an emergency stay of that order, the state supreme court rejected the request and New Jersey became the 14th state with marriage equality. The unanimous and forceful reasoning in the court’s refusal prompted Christie to drop his appeal of the ruling, providing another powerful political sign that acceptance of the right of gay people to equal protection of the law was becoming the new expectation.
# FIVE STATE LEGISLATURES PASSED MARRIAGE EQUALITY LAWS.
Rhode Island (April), Delaware (May), Minnesota (May), Illinois (November), and Hawaii (November). In the ten years prior, only four state legislatures and the District of Columbia had approved marriage equality legislation and seen it signed into law. The debate in each legislature was marked by emotional and dramatic testimony, much of it from former opponents of same-sex marriage who had evolved on the issue. A Rhode Island senator spoke of being a life-long devout Catholic who said “I struggled with this for days and weeks and have been unable to sleep.” In the
end, she said, she could not vote against friends and constituents in same-sex relationships. In Hawaii, where same-sex couples mounted one of the first legal challenges in the country in the 1990s, opponents organized an unprecedented flood of citizens to public hearings – literally thousands of people expressed anger and threats of political retribution. But the resolve of legislators willing to stand “on the right side of history” held firm. Editor’s note: At press time, both New Mexico and Utah had marriage equality bringing the total to 18 states and the District of Columbia.
# RUSSIA PASSES LAWS OUTLAWING “PROMOTION” OF HOMOSEXUALITY..
In June and July, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed laws to prohibit the “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations around minors,” any public displays of affection by same-sex couples, public events related to LGBT people, and any adoptions of Russian children by couples from countries where marriage equality is law. One Russian law even allows authorities to arrest and detain anyone suspected of being gay or pro-gay. LGBT activist groups immediately pushed back, some calling for a boycott of the Winter Olympics scheduled for Sochi, Russia, in February 2014. The boycott idea quickly faded, but many U.S. officials found ways to register their unhappiness over the draconian legislation. President Obama said that countries participating in the Olympics “wouldn’t tolerate gays and lesbians being treated differently” during the 2014 Olympics. He also canceled his one-on-one meeting with Putin at a September G-20 summit, citing “human rights and civil society” issues. Pressure on corporate sponsors of the events elicited statements in support of LGBT people and one international human rights organization called on the Obama administration to include LGBT leaders in its official delegations to the opening and closing ceremonies. cont. on page 9 © copyright 2013 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.
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# PRESIDENT OBAMA RESPONDS TO SUPREME COURT RULINGS.
In 2003, when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down laws prohibiting private intimate contact between samesex partners (in Lawrence v. Texas), then President George W. Bush had nothing to say and his administration took no action to determine to what extent the Lawrence ruling might apply to various federal programs. Following the two landmark rulings in marriage equality cases before the Supreme Court in 2013, President Obama issued an immediate statement in support of the rulings and “directed the Attorney General to work with other members of my Cabinet to review all relevant federal statutes to ensure this decision, including its implications for Federal benefits and obligations, is implemented swiftly and smoothly.” Two major federal departments announced that their interpretations of the U.S. v. Windsor opinion would bring benefits to married same-sex couples regardless of whether a couple’s state of residence recognizes the marriage. And the Internal Revenue Service announced that legally married same-sex couples “will be treated as married for all federal tax purposes,” including for income tax filing, gift and estate taxes, individual retirement accounts, and in other tax regulations where marriage is a factor.
# SUPREME COURT LEAVES INTACT RULING THAT STRUCK DOWN PROP 8. With Chief Justice John Roberts writing for 5 to 4 majority, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the defenders of Proposition 8, the California voterapproved ban on same-sex marriage, did not have proper federal standing to appeal a district court judge’s ruling that the measure was unconstitutional.
# SUPREME COURT STRIKES DOWN KEY PROVISION OF DOMA.
It was not, in other words, a ruling on the merits of the underlying legal issue in Hollingsworth v. Perry. But by refusing to accept the Yes on 8 appeal, the court left the district court judge’s ruling intact, and same-sex couples began obtaining marriage licenses once again in California. Reaction was understandably euphoric from LGBT legal activists and the thousands of supporters of same-sex marriage gathered outside the Supreme Court building in Washington and town hall in San Francisco where the case began in 2009. The Perry decision, and another that struck down the key provision of DOMA, were issued on the tenth anniversary of the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas decision, which struck down state laws that prohibited intimate relations between partners of the same sex. And while the Perry decision fell short of declaring all state bans on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional, it set off a tidal wave of new litigation seeking to do just that. At year’s end, Freedom to Marry’s Executive Director Evan Wolfson estimated there are 44 lawsuits in 19 or 20 states “moving forward.”
With Justice Anthony Kennedy writing for a 5 to 4 majority, the U.S. Supreme Court declared on June 26 that the key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was unconstitutional. That provision (known as Section 3) had barred any federal entity from recognizing for the purpose of any benefit the valid marriage license of a same-sex couple. The majority opinion in U.S. v. Windsor said DOMA Section 3 violated the constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process. The DOMA decision, said GLAD Civil Rights Director Mary Bonauto who organized the first lawsuit against Section 3, “not only strikes DOMA but makes clear what we’ve been saying all along –that DOMA is discriminatory and that it is an effort by the federal government to deprive samesex couples of their rights and to demean them.” The decision began working like the first domino to fall in a long line of laws, state and federal, that deprived same-sex couples if equal benefits. State legislators cited it during debates over marriage equality bills; state and federal courts cited it to strike down other DOMA-like laws and regulations. “It seems fair to conclude that, until recent years, many citizens had not even considered the possibility that two persons of the same sex might aspire to occupy the same status and dignity as that of a man and woman in lawful marriage,” wrote Justice Kennedy. “For marriage between a man and a woman no doubt had been thought of by most people as essential to the very definition of that term and to its role and function throughout the history of civilization. That belief, for many who long have held it, became even more urgent, more cherished when challenged. Accordingly some States concluded that same-sex marriage ought to be given recognition and validity in the law for those same-sex couples who wish to define themselves by their commitment to each other. The limitation of lawful marriage to heterosexual couples, which for centuries had been deemed both necessary and fundamental, came to be seen in New York and certain other States as an unjust exclusion.”
Top ten O&AN stories for 2013
Same-Sex Couples File Marriage Recognition Lawsuit in Tennessee
The lawsuit wasn’t filed until late October but that didn’t stop this story from being in our top 10 for the year. Four Tennessee couples, including Dr. Valeria Tanco and Dr. Sophy Jesty of Knoxville, filed to have their out-of-state marriages recognized. Brought in part by Gay Faves Lawyer Abby Rubenfeld, the case has yet to be heard but O&AN will continue to provide news about the path to equality in Tennessee.
Nashville Untucked: Says Sayanora to Sara Andrews In June, O&AN readers were crushed when they found out their ‘sweet sensation’ Sara Andrews was packing it up for the sunny sights of Florida. Thousands of fans logged on and left love for one of Nashville’s beloved performers.
National Hiv Vaccine Trial, Here are the top stories online for O&AN in 2013. Hvtn 505, Vaccinations Stopped O&AN broke this national story when the trials for HVTN 505 were discontinued and readers from across the city (and nation) logged in to get this first look.
Gay Faves Voting/Nominations
This year’s re-launched Gay Faves sent thousands of readers to our website to first nominate and then vote for their Gay Faves in over 40 categories.
O&AN Transgender Day of Remembrance Coverage
This year Nashville celebrated its largest Transgender Day of Remembrance when nearly 200 community members from more than 30 organizations joined with Vanderbilt University’s Office of LGBTQI Life to remember those from our state and around the world who have lost their lives to anti-trans violence.
Grizzlies Almost Bare It All
Nearly naked men and of course the clicks will go crazy. This year the Grizzlies did not disappoint with their 2014 calendar. Their steamy set of photos, shot by Christopher Malone, are helping to raise funds to get the team to this year’s Bingham Cup in Sydney. It is available on their website now.
Seen Out & About Photos
Say Cheese! Our photo pages were some of the most viewed . . . ever. From Nashville Pride to the LGBT Chamber’s Tastefully Unpredictable, readers know when they leave an event to log-on to O&AN for photos
Ani DiFranco brings fall tour through Nashville
Activism. Motherhood. Bisexuality. You name is and Ani DiFranco has done it. Her fierce guitar playing and progressive insight has played in our ears for years and we were excited to chat the performer up before her Nashville show at Marathon Music Works.
Davidson County Couple ABCs Nashville goes gay Attempts to Apply for Whoa, did they just do that? When Tennessee Marriage License closeted, hunky showman Will Lexington O&AN was on hand and filming when Jef Laudieri and Will Peyton attempted to get a Tennessee marriage license from Davidson County. Did they get it? Nope. But their efforts were enough to put them on our November cover.
(Chris Carmack) tried to plant one on Gunnar, we knew ABC finally got it right. And that was only season one. Juliette did some lady lip-locking in the show’s second soapy season. Nashville, we’re hooked. Who are we kidding? We already were!
American Chronicles: The Ar t of Norman Rockwell has been organized by the Norman Rockwell Museum, Stoc kbridge, Massachusetts.
This exhibition is made possible with the generous suppor t from National Endowment for the Ar ts, American Masterpieces Program; the Henr y Luce Foundation; Cur tis Publishing Co.; Norman Rockwell Family Agency; and the Stockman Family Foundation. This exhibition is suppor ted by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the ar t and Humanities.
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The Frist Center for the Visual Ar ts gratefully acknowledges our Picasso Circle Members as Exhibition Patrons.
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Norman Rockwell. Christmas Homecoming (detail). Cover illustration for The Saturday Evening Post, December 25, 1948. ÂŠ 1948: SEPS. Norman Rockwell Museum Collections
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Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce The Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce raised more than $700 worth of gift cards for the Oasis Center at its annual holiday party.
The event was held at ReCreations Furniture.
What does the striking down of DOMA mean for you?
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The Story of Belmont United Methodist Church ERIC PATTON
I grew up in church, attending nearly every Sunday, so when I came out of the closet, my religion was never something I wanted to leave behind. There was a struggle between my sexuality and spirituality until a trip to Washington, DC revealed what a welcoming, reconciling church was. There were actually people who believed that God loved gay people. It was then I knew the reconciling ministry was going to be something I needed to focus on. When gay people look for a church, often times it is hard to find one we feel comfortable in. I know, personally, when I moved to Nashville, I looked for clues on several church websites to see if they would be welcoming of a single gay man. Belmont United Methodist Church (UMC) has become that place. With roughly 2000 members, Belmont UMC recently passed a welcoming statement that includes sexual orientation and gender identity. MISSION STATEMENT “We believe every person is of sacred worth and created in God’s image. We commit to Jesus’ example of inclusive love, care, and intentional hospitality with persons of every race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, faith story, physical or mental ability, economic status, or political perspective. We respect our diversity of opinion and expressions of faith. Therefore, as God loves us, so let us love and serve in the name of Christ.” I never dreamed I would get to be a small part of another church coming to the same conclusion I did, that Jesus loves everyone, including the LGBT community. In the year I have been in attendance, I have witnessed a congregation of mostly straight middle aged to older adults, many with rather “traditional” families, decide that it was the right thing to do to start formally welcoming people who identify as LGBT into their congregation.
WHAT IS A RECONCILING MINISTRY? Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) is a global organization of United Methodists who believe that everyone has a place at the table of God. The group advocates for social justice in regards to LGBT matters in the United Methodist Church. Local congregations and churches usually join RMN after making statements of welcome so they can work alongside the network, giving the group stronger support within the church as a whole.
HOW IT BEGAN
Belmont United Methodist Church 16
The Reconciling Committee at Belmont (BUMC) began in 2005 after a retired missionary to Africa, Dot Anderson, recommended to the Outreach Committee that Stephen Mallet and Bill Harkey attend Hearts on Fire,a biannual RMN conference. Even though Belmont once touted thirty different cultures amongst its membership, some of the congregation’s leaders thought they might not be doing enough for the LGBT community. When Stephen attended the conference, he discovered that was certainly the case. “I cried through the whole four day weekend. Never had I experienced such (…) words of welcome that were so affirming and inclusive of everyone,” Mallet said. He was so moved that he came back and began what is now the Reconciling Committee at Belmont.the in these events and it wasn’t long
A Welcoming Congregation:
Probably more hearts and minds were changed in the process,
WHAT TOOK SO LONG? The current Methodist Book of Discipline, the governing document of the Methodist Church, says, “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” That line and others like it in the past were a big stumbling block. Of course, the UMC took a harder line than Belmonters did; the topic was just foreign for most of them. Unaware and unaffected by the struggles of LGBT community trying to be accepted in churches, it was indifference rather than an act of intentional malice. Change began to take form when Pam Hawkins came to Belmont UMC as a new associate pastor. Described as the gas to the flame, Hawkins began by incorporating a reference to sexual orientation in her weekly greeting, welcoming members no matter whom they love. “Pam created an atmosphere where church members knew the conversation was real,” said Mallet. The Reconciling Ministry Team took that atmosphere and ran with it. They started showing films like For the Bible Tells Me So,” hosting listening sessions and meetings to talk about the congregations’ feelings on LGBT matters, shortly after that, a book was published called Our Stories: Welcoming Voices From Belmont United Methodist Church. Several members of the church, including myself, wrote personal stories of why we were reconciling Methodists.
There was a renewed interest before the church started having more meaningful discussions, eventually adopting a whole new strategic plan, used as a guideline as to how we function as a church, that included the welcoming statement posted at the beginning. “These things take a long ‘gestation’ period,” said Louis Jordan, now Co-Chair of the Reconciling Committee at BUMC. “Could we have pushed the welcoming statement faster and harder? Probably. But, in the end I think the longer path is probably a better path.” “Probably more hearts and minds were changed in the process,” Mallet added. Even though he was agitated it took so long, he was happy that, in the end, people really had changed their mind, instead of the issue being forced through and done quickly, with people having their feelings hurt in the process. There was not just a change in rules, but the change came because everyone agreed on it.
could have easily been just any other couple joining Belmont. Furthermore, at the last meeting of the Reconciling Team, we placed welcoming statement stickers onto the Our Stories books, discussed ideas of how to have a fundraiser for local LGBT organizations, and planned for a few of the ladies to get together and make rainbow stoles for the pastors to wear at the next conference. Joining RMN is still, hopefully, in Belmont’s near future.
While the RMN supports marriage equality and the ordination of gay clergy, registering with the RMN will not take away any of the church’s decision-making power.There are three things required: a welcoming statement inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity, statement in church’s bulletin, and annual $250 donation.
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WHERE BUMC IS TODAY Belmont passed the welcoming statement at the Administrative Board meeting in October. There was a long discussion about the topic, but it was a nearly unanimous decision. Jordan’s greatest fear was that no one would speak. “I wanted there to be some healthy discussion. I think what’s just as important as being a welcoming church, is that we’re a community that accepts diversity on all sides.” In a church, on a topic as controversial as homosexuality, it is important that everyone is pretty well on the same page. Most that spoke that day were in complete support of the movement, except for a few when it came to joining the national organization, RMN. It was decided to pass the welcoming statement, but leave RMN for another day. The reasoning behind postponing that decision was a fear of being a part of a national organization and committing something they, as a whole congregation, may not be ready for. It’s a steady journey. Last month, a gay couple that has been in attendance for a few months joined the church together. The Reconciling Team gathered around them as the ceremony was performed. It wasn’t a big scandal. No one was angry about it. If you weren’t thinking about it, it
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JAMES A. GRADY
When Lieutenant David Leavitt, supervisor of Nashville Metropolitan Police Department West Precinct’s night shift, shows up in the middle of the night to check in on Play or Tribe, it’s not the beginning of a crackdown. No, it’s far more likely that this long arm of the law will be greeted by regulars as “Officer Dave,” his numerous promotions notwithstanding. Lt. Leavitt is not only a friend to many of Church Street’s fixtures, but also one of the first, if not the first, openly gay male police officers in Metro PD. Leavitt joined the police force about twelve years ago, after serving as a paramedic for seven. It was only after his divorce about five years ago, however, that Leavitt revealed his sexual orientation openly. One might have expected that this would have slowed his rise through the ranks, given the traditional image of police forces as dominated by heterosexism and machismo. “In the end,” Leavitt says, “I faced no real challenges. If you’re looking to hear about mistreatment or lack of opportunities, I haven’t experienced, or heard about, any of that.” Leavitt’s impression is that, “the chief wants people in the right position, regardless of gender, sexuality, race, etc. What’s important here is that you do your job, because your fellow officers and community safety depend on that - we can’t afford for the best people to be excluded from the jobs they’re best at for irrelevant reasons. It doesn’t make sense when lives are on the line.” Leavitt’s own rise through the ranks to become the highest ranking, openly gay male in the Nashville Metro PD seems to bear this out. It’s not just his superiors that Leavitt has found to be welcoming. Though he admits that not all of his fellow officers were immediately overjoyed at the idea of openly gay cops, Leavitt says that, by doing his job well and being who he is, he thinks that he’s helped change some peoples’ perspectives. “An officer came to me recently and told me that another officer, really old school, had told him that I was gay but that I wasn’t afraid to get out there and be a cop when the job requires it! Before he worked with me he
probably didn’t feel the same way about gay cops as he does now.” Recently, when officers requested assignments, so many officers requested to work in Leavitt’s detail of over thirty cops that some had to be turned away. “All my sergeants have stuck with me. The officers who work for me don’t seem to care about sexuality - they want someone who cares, who they can depend on and turn to when they need to. To them I just happen also to be gay.” In his career, Leavitt has found that it’s not just his fellow officers who have misconceptions that affect the relationship between the police and the LGBT community. “The impact that I have that I’m maybe most proud of is on the LGBT people I bump into in the street who think that all cops will discriminate against them. Meeting me seems to give them hope, and faith that they can turn to an officer if they’re in need.” Lieutenant Leavitt recalls Play cast member, the Princess, telling him, after they became friends, that he had completely changed her perspective on cops. This is an experience that has been repeated often. Recently, Leavitt himself went out to make a bar check at Play. While there, he approached a friend, and at the sight of Leavitt, his friend’s friend got “so nervous he was trembling! When I put a hand on his shoulder and said, ‘Don’t worry, it’s okay!’ and told him I was gay and that the cops really weren’t there to hassle anyone, he sighed and just said, ‘That’s so cool!’” Nashville Metro PD as a whole, and the West Precinct in particular, has made a conscious effort to reach out to the LGBT community. “As a rookie cop,” Leavitt said, “I made a call to Tribe and they said they don’t usually call us because they know the police don’t want to deal with places like this, and I told him not to assume things like that.” That situation has already changed a great deal. “We have a great relationship with Church Street - businesses don’t hesitate to call us anymore. I think we’re building a great rapport now.” Leavitt credits his superior officer, Commander Marlene Pardue, for doing a lot to facilitate this
shift. “She’s done a lot to establish and maintain communication with the businesses around Church Street and elsewhere, and she encourages a respectful atmosphere.” Nashville Metro PD has also reached out at Nashville Pride, where the department has had a recruiting booth for the last few years. “Once they know I’m gay, I get approached all the time by people in the community and asked, ‘Isn’t being a gay cop hard?” For Leavitt, letting young people know that they can do what he’s done is a great source of pride. “It’s great to know that some of those people who came to me now work in this building.” The number of LGBT officers who are open with
People are more comfortable every day. I’m PROUD to think that I’ve had some small part in helping that shift along.
their sexuality remains small, but it’s growing, and many others who are not out have spoken with Leavitt privately. Commander Marlene Pardue says of her precinct, “Our philosophy is to treat everyone fairly - background, class orientation don’t matter.” Leavitt echoed that sentiment in different words: “The cops I know don’t care if the person they pull over is gay, or any other minority. For the most part, we just try to treat people the way we’d want our family to be treated in that situation.” Commander Pardue reflected that many people who might be feeling like officers are targeting them specifically are often “giving too much credit” to what the officers are thinking
Openly gay police lieutenant changes attitudes
Church Street Blues
Our philosophy is to treat everyone fairly...
about. “Police officers most likely haven’t given a thought to things like race or sexual orientation. We’re usually too focused on the job, on enforcing the law and making sure everything is done safely. I’m sure that there have been exceptions but they’re just that exceptions.” Among the police, Leavitt reflects, “people are more comfortable every day. I’m proud to think that I’ve had some small part in helping that shift along.” As one of the earliest openly gay officers, and the first to be promoted to such a high rank, Leavitt’s career has been a source of inspiration and hope. “When I got promoted to lieutenant, I got calls and messages from officers, gay and straight, expressing their hope that this says great things for the future and expressing gratitude for my willingness to be out there.” But
perhaps even more promising than the attention his career has drawn is the lack of attention he draws. “I’m just another policeman to most people. My partner Will and I took my daughter to Niagra over the summer,” he said, pointing to a picture of the three of them displayed proudly and prominently on his desk at the West Precinct. “I try to host quarterly events for my guys to thank them. Will came with me to the most recent one, a fish fry, and also to the Halloween cookout hosted by the boss.” Just like any other family in the larger Nashville Metro PD family. For more information about working for Nashville Metropolitan Police department, visit their website at: http://www.nashville.gov/PoliceDepartment/Get-Involved/Become-aPolice-Officer.aspx JANUARY 2014
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OutCentral announces programming and partnerships to help with your New Year’s Resolutions JOSEPH BROWNELL & LINDA BREWER
If you name it, OutCentral probably hosted it in 2013. From art exhibits and book clubs to Lesbian Film Night and WANGL (a weekly group focusing on recovery), OutCentral boosted the level of its programming in 2013. Their annual Pride run, the Gay 5K, was a runaway success and the turnout for this year’s Autumn Honors exceeded years’ past. So as the center strives to secure its place within the Nashville LGBT community, it’s unveiling a wave of new programming and partnerships for 2014. First up, help turn those New Year’s Resolutions into New Year’s Realities by centering yourself with Yoga at OutCentral. Whether you’re looking for serenity or just a healthy activity, the 75-minute sessions, held weekly on Tuesdays beginning at 5:45 p.m., can help you with both. “Yoga helps us be less reactionary, especially in the face of harsh prejudice
or judgment by others,” says instructor Mary Irby. “In this way, I think it is helpful to everyone, but maybe even more so to the LGBT community. Many times, those in the LGBT community may struggle with their sexuality, judging themselves for feeling the way they do, or having trouble accepting their own feelings. Also, they endure not only the stresses of life we all share but the added burden of extreme judgment of their lifestyles. Yoga teaches us to question why a person is so threatened by our race, gender, sexual orientation or religious beliefs instead of becoming angry or judging them in return. In this way, it may help us develop compassion even toward those who wrong us, which can only bring us more peace.” And there’s no better time to invest in your health and happiness than right now. For the month of January, new students can purchase a 6-class card for only $30. That is only $5 a class. The pass is good for 90 days and must be
used by the same person. Purchase your pass on the OutCentral website now. OutCentral is also partnering with several community businesses in order to provide information the Nashville LGBT community needs. If planning your financial future ranks high on your resolutions, then you’ll want to attend the January 8 event with Radian Partners. If healthcare and learning how to navigate the current landscape of options is important to you, OutCentral
is partnering with Humana and the first event is January 22. If exploring your sexual freedom is a New Year’s resolution, join Kink 101 on January 26. And finally if you just want to meet new friends, then come down for Family Dinner, a monthly Sunday potluck dinner beginning January 19. You can visit Outcentral online at www.outcentral.org for a full calendar of events and to become a member today.
We wish you a Happy and Blessed New Year! Check out our website for worship & other event times!
6727 charlotte pike | nashville, tn 37209 615.352.3838 | HolyTrinityCommunityChurch.com
George Manus and Out Front on Main lead the way for queer -friendly art JOSEPH BROWNELL & JAZ DORSEY
Murfreesboro is more than just MTSU but it’s unlikely that you envision it as an incubator for “edgy and thoughtprovoking contemporary entertainment.” But, why not? George W. Manus Jr. and his Murfreesboro storefront theatre, Out Front on Main, have been providing an outlet for a dynamic range of performing arts since 2011. Almost from the start, Manus was a theatrical rebel—a renegade of sorts. “I remember when I was fifteen,” Manus said. “I was performing pieces from works like Torch Song Trilogy and Bent in the acting categories and reading Dr. Seuss as poetry. Even at this early age, I was pushing the envelope with daring material. In the end it paid off and I placed sixth in poetry and second in solo acting for the entire state of Tennessee.” After high school, Manus attended and earned a theatre degree from MTSU. Next, Manus crowd-surfed through a myriad of Middle Tennessee theatre companies, earning praise for progressive productions and being hailed as a rising theatre star. His list of credits includes producing and directing Pvt. Wars at the Darkhorse Theatre and both Torch Song Trilogy (in its entirety) and Equus with the Actor’s Playhouse of Nashville. Manus was recognized as a Top Five Nashville Director for his work with the latter. Out Front on Main is not Manus’ first theatre; he previously owned DreamWeaver on Third Avenue in Nashville. It was there that Manus fully tasted his artistic freedom—his first foray into edgy and thought-provoking entertainment. Productions included the Pulitzer winning play The Shadow Box, a two-act tale examining diminishing mortality with strong LGBT themes, and Edward Albee’s 1960s dissection of American family dynamics, The American Dream. But for some, there’s a predestined direction built into being at the top of your game. “I felt unstoppable,” Manus somberly reflected. ”Unfortunately a struggle with alcoholism showed me that I was not.” In an effort to reclaim his career Manus jumped at any chance to perform following rehab including extra work on
the set of the 2001 film The Last Castle starring Robert Redford and Mark Ruffalo. Manus then turned his attention to multi-tasking his theatre talents when he took a position at Murfreesboro’s Center for the Arts. There, Manus served as a youth coordinator, staff director, publicity director and parttime acting teacher. But Manus wasn’t always afforded the opportunities to present the type of productions he wanted. Creatively suffocated, Manus started his own production company, Out Front Productions. Out Front Productions has been a decade long Manus adventure yielding productions of The Laramie Project, Daddy’s Dyin’ Who’s Got the Will, and The Great American Trailer Park Musical and a lauded performance as Brother Boy in Sordid Lives. But the home for these productions was always a temporary one. “It was our ultimate goal to turn Out Front Productions into a physical theatre in Middle Tennessee,” Manus said. And nearly four years ago Manus moved into East Main Street in Murfreesboro. In its four years, Out Front on Main has established itself as a premier destination for “queer and queer-friendly entertainment.” Dispel any gay- movie stereotypes you may hold, Manus and Out Front on Main are also producing quality theatre work. Over the last two years, Manus and Out Front on Main have been awarded twenty-three awards in excellence in both performance and technical theatre including awards for Manus for Acting and Directing and Best Community Theatre from Broadway World Tennessee. But it’s not all theatre. The space routinely features LGBT and LGBTfriendly comics. And sitting adjacent to MTSU, Out Front on Main has hosted drag performances and provided MTSU Lambda, and the growing Murfreesboro LGBT community, a safe performance space. Manus works really hard to give young artists an outlet for their creativity. “With declines in attendance to live theatre, it is the responsibility of established artists to provide training
grounds for younger artists to keep theatre alive and thriving,” Manus declared. “This is especially true in Tennessee. It is my personal goal to keep live theatre, stand up comedy and performance art ‘Out Front’ and in the spotlight.” From the laughable to the left of center, Out Front on Main continues to evolve. This year they will experiment by hosting a singer-songwriter night on Thursdays and karaoke on Fridays. As for their upcoming season, Out Front on Main has some exciting
productions planned for 2014. First on the schedule, Evil Dead: The Musical in January. That will be followed by Agnes of God in February and the LGBT-themed Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love in March. With a lineup like that, looks like we’ll be in front of the line at Out Front on Main. For more information including tickets prices, dates and more, visit Out Front on Main online at www. outfrontonmain.com or on Facebook and Twitter (@outfrontonmain).
COMING IN 2014! For more details, stay tuned to our website.
REWIND: Here are some of the picks that were played around our office all year long: Diane Birch Speak A Little Louder Diane Birch’s sophomore album could’ve been called Produced A Little Darker. The shiny arrangements on her debut Bible Belt that heralded comparisons to Carole Kings have been replaced with a collection of tunes that would be more at home on the current season of American Horror Story. She channels Stevie Nicks on “Tell Me Tomorrow,” Roxette on the 80’s rock-pop perfect bonus track “Hold On A Little Longer,” and casts a spell on us with the haunting hallmark of hope, “Unfkd.” And it’s totally worth getting the deluxe version of this album. Catch Diane Birch when she comes to Nashville on March 20 at Mercy Lounge. Key Tracks: “Superstars,” “Pretty in Pain,” “Unfkd,” &“Tell Me Tomorrow” Sara Bareilles The Blessed Unrest Hopefully, Sony plans to take full advantage of the unexpected Album of the Year Grammy nomination for Bareilles’ third studio album The Blessed Unrest, and promotes a second single, pronto. Might we suggest a marriage-equality themed video for the waiting-in-the-wings pop smash “I Choose You,” the Prince-lite funky “Eden,” or the subtle ballad “Manhattan.” Point is, this album is that good and it feels like it’s just been languishing. Key Tracks: “Brave,” “I Choose You,” “Eden” & “Manhattan”
Brandy Clark 12 Stories You might not know her name but Brandy Clark is the Nashvillebased singer songwriter responsible for some of this year’s biggest country songs. With co-writes on hits from Kacey Musgraves, The Band Perry and Miranda Lambert, Clark blew away the competition this year with her debut album 12 Stories. Whether it’s a crime of fashion preventing her from shooting a lover in the humorous “Stripes” or the big fat joint she rolls to get by in “Get High,” Clark, who is openly gay, is shepherding focus from the current crop of bro-country back to great songs in country music. Even Clark’s take on her own songs are much more refreshing than their big name counterparts (LeAnn Rimes “Crazy Women,” Reba “The Day She Got Divorced”). Key Tracks: “Take a Little Pill,” “Hold My Hand,” “Get High” & “Stripes” Miley Cyrus Bangerz If you got past the half-naked twerking, misguided cultural appropriation and the Cyrus/sledge hammer video tonguing, then you realized that Bangerz was part party and part emotional unveiling of a brokenhearted 20-year-old girl. Miley has critics across the board but they shouldn’t be coming from our community. Do you remember being 20? Enough said. And c’mon even “SMS (Bangerz)” might be the bestselling thing Britney had her name on all year.
Catch Miley at Bridgestone Arena on April 18.
Key Tracks: “Drive,” “FU,” “Wrecking Ball” & “Maybe You’re Right”
The National Trouble Will Find Me There’s an accessible ache in lead singer Matt Berninger’s baritone that makes almost every track on The National’s sixth studio album a journey into one’s consciousness. The destination? Being painfully selfaware. When Berninger sings ‘there’s a science to walking through windows without you’ on the gliding “Graceless,” for a second you believe he’s perfected the art of it. Or at least of making us believe he has. Plus, the band made a cameo appearance on The Mindy Project this year and what’s cooler than that? Key Tracks: “Graceless,” “Slipped,” & “Don’t Swallow the Cap” Myla Smith Hiding Places In September, we chatted with Memphis singer-songwriter Myla Smith, whose latest album Hiding Places struck a chord with us when it was released this fall. Sprinkled with hints of Patty Griffin’s sincere songwriting style, none of the album’s ten tracks would be out of place if featured on an ABC or CW drama series this fall. Smith’s previous releases have sometimes sounded schizophrenic, searching for an identity in a sea of increasingly murky genres, but Smith’s work with producer Brad Jones on Hiding Places, is her strongest material to date and showcases a delicious combination of honesty, vulnerability and resolve. No more ‘come out, come out, wherever you are,’ Myla Smith is no longer hiding. Key Tracks: “Hiding Places,” “Human Condition,” “Happy Song” & “Yellow Paper Lanterns”
Beyoncé Beyoncé Beyoncé commands bitches to bow down on “Flawless” from her surprisingly lastminute, self-titled 2013 album release. And everyone should. The album dropped on December 13 at midnight without a warning, after a full year of false starts and speculation. So how is it? Flawless. Beyoncé delivers an ambitious product that combines intelligence and sexuality (we’ll never look at skittles the same way again). Plus, Queen Bey released visuals to accompany the album’s 15 tracks. Bey and J are proving its a new age in music with daring successful release ventures and now that the Ryan Tedder-produced “XO” and the Jay-Z assisted “Drunk in Love” have been announced as singles, we expect this album to make our Best of 2014 list too. Key Tracks- “XO,” “Heaven,” & “Pretty Hurts” Tegan and Sara Heartthrob Some slammed Tegan and Sara’s seventh studio album Heartthrob and accused the duo of selling out, but we couldn’t help but feel a little bit ‘closer’ to the Canadian lesbians when they painted a synth-pop sheen on ten new songs. When you get to the heart of Heartthrob, it’s a Tegan and Sara album through and through—complete with big chorus breakup tunes. Only difference now is you can dance while crying and/ or moving on. Our only complaint? This album, even the bonus track deluxe version, just wasn’t long enough. Key Tracks: “Closer,” “Drove Me Wild” and “Now I’m All Messed Up”
For more Rewind 2013 music picks and a look ahead at 2014, visit us online at www.outandaboutnashville.com Nashville – 636 Old Hickory Boulevard Chattanooga – 7734 Lee Highway Knoxville – 230 Papermill Place Way
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Post-DOMA news you can use Since the landmark Supreme Court decision in June, readers have asked us a wide variety of questions about taxes and immigration that we’ve unfortunately been unable to answer . . . until now. With tax time right around the corner, O&AN caught up with Joyce Peacock of Peacock Financial to talk about the implications of a post-DOMA world on your taxes We also asked Yvette Sebelist from Siskind Susser PC-Immigration Lawyers about what the implications of a post-DOMA world is for binational couples living in Nashville.
WHAT DOES THE DOMA RULING MEAN FOR YOUR TAXES?
By now you have certainly heard about the overturning of DOMA by the U.S. Supreme Court in June of this year. But what exactly was DOMA and what does the Supreme Court action mean to us? DOMA refers to the Defense of Marriage Act which was passed in 1996 by Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton. The U.S. Supreme Court specifically struck down Section 3 of this law which stated that for federal purposes and laws, “ the word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word ‘spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.” This provision of the law prevented the federal government from recognizing legally married same-sex couples and according them the benefits available to other married couples. By declaring this section of the law unconstitutional, the Court opened the door for sweeping change in the lives of GLBT couples. Never before have we been granted so many legal protections and benefits in so brief a time. Let’s look at some of them:
••• Effective immediately, all legally married couples must file as married on all future federal tax returns. ••• Amended returns may be filed back to 2010 if doing so will benefit the couple. ••• All tax provisions affected by marital status will now apply to married same sex couples (there are over 700 of them). ••• This provision applies to all legally married couples regardless of whether their current state of residence recognizes the marriage. Thus, couples may be married for federal purposes but not state. ••• Married couples must file jointly to claim rental losses, education credits, student loan interest, dependent care benefits, child credits and the earned income credit. ••• Same-sex surviving spouses will be exempt from estate taxes.
••• Married couples will no longer be taxed on domestic partner benefits. ••• Employers may file amended payroll tax returns to recover FICA taxes paid on past domestic partner benefits.
••• Federal and military pension benefits and protections will be extended to same-sex spouses. ••• IRA contributions will be permitted for non-working same-sex spouses. ••• Social security benefits may be available to widows and widowers. However, in most cases, the couples must live in a recognizing state at the time of application.
••• Same-sex married couples may now file a joint petition of bankruptcy. ••• Bi-national same-sex couples now have the same rights and benefits as other married couples regarding immigration and citizenship issues. ••• Same-sex spouses receive rights to creative and intellectual property. ••• FAFSA rules will be applied the same as for all married couples.
We are just beginning to understand the broad spectrum of change affected by this historic ruling and the interpretation of it by our federal administration. The overturning of DOMA has been a monumental move forward for equality. Hopefully, the momentum will continue as more and more states affirm justice for all loving couples.
US Immigration Opens the Door for Binational Same-Sex Spouses
For Steven Brooks, a Colombian man married to his U.S. citizen partner, the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) couldn’t have come at a better time. Brooks was in the middle of deportation proceedings when an intern from his lawyer’s office brought a copy of the ruling to the courtroom. New York City immigration judge Barbara Nelson adjourned the hearing, and now the petition for permanent residency that Brooks’ husband, Sean, filed for him in 2011 will finally receive due consideration. Immigration benefits are chief among the many entitlements DOMA restricted to straight, married couples. It was Section 3 of DOMA, which denied more than a thousand federal benefits to same-sex partners, that prohibited the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) from recognizing gay and lesbian marriages as beneficiaries of family-based visas. Since the Supreme Court found Section 3 unconstitutional, USCIS has moved swiftly to ensure that foreign born spouses in same-sex marriages are given appropriate attention. The Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Janet Napolitano, immediately issued a directive to USCIS to review the cases of all married couples equally and fairly. USCIS has kept a record of same-sex spouses whose petitions were denied over the last two years, and these decisions will now be reversed for applicants who meet the standard qualifications for permanent residency. Just two days after DOMA was overturned, the first green card was granted to an American citizen’s samesex partner. Although the recipient, Traian Popov, and his spouse live in Fort Lauderdale, Florida where same-sex marriage remains prohibited, state laws had no effect on the outcome of their case. So long as a marriage is valid in the place where it is performed it will now be recognized for immigration purposes. The Supreme Court’s ruling on DOMA has had a significant, positive impact for people like Steven Brooks
What does the striking down of DOMA mean for you?
and Traian Popov, but a number of issues remain unresolved for American citizens and their partners in binational, samesex relationships. Some of these matters are primarily logistical. Adjudication under immigration law involves several agencies within DHS (i.e. USCIS, Customs and Border Patrol, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement), as well as U.S. consulates throughout the world. It will take time to develop practical guidelines for reviewing a greater volume and wider variety of petitions across the board. Other problems are more direct. Guidance issued by DHS refers specifically to family-based immigrant petitions filed on behalf of same-sex spouses. It fails to address employmentbased or non-immigrant petitions, which would make partners eligible for dependent or derivative status. However, the Department of State has provided same-sex benefits to employees since 2009 and is expected to facilitate visas for the spouses of authorized immigrant and non-immigrant workers. Civil unions and domestic partnerships are still unrecognized on the federal level and so continue to be excluded from consideration for immigration benefits. Until these issues are resolved we may find that some same-sex petitions are met with delays, confusion, lack of consistency, and perhaps rejections. Further, with new benefits come new obstacles, and it may be particularly difficult for same-sex couples to provide documentation of their lives together. All green card applicants who file based on marriage to a U.S. citizen must submit proof that their relationship was entered into in good faith and not merely for the purpose of gaining lawful status. Start by collecting proof of your courtship, family life, joint insurance policies or finances, common residence, and shared property. Meeting this condition can be challenging for some gay and lesbian spouses, as social barriers have often discouraged couples from sharing finances, living together, or raising children. Because same-sex marriages remain unrecognized in Tennessee, individuals who want to change state documents to reflect their married name are being denied driver licenses. It presently takes a court order for a spouse in a gay or lesbian marriage to obtain a new license. Other kinds of
evidence, like jointly filed income taxes, are just now possible to obtain. Despite these difficulties, samesex couples have already begun to benefit from the new immigration opportunities. USCIS has approved family petitions for same-sex couples in a steady stream since DOMA was overturned and past applications that For more information or questions were denied solely because of DOMA JOYCE PEACOCK & are and reconsidered. Webeing are reopened a full-service immigration law firm. PEACOCK FINANCIAL Moving forward, it is important can be found online at • Family petitions www.peacockfinancial.com to take the initiative if you or your • areBusiness immigration spouse eligible for marriage-based immigration benefits. Couples may • Employer compliance marry in any marriage equality state or • Asylum and removal defense country, reside in Tennessee and still Contact Yvette benefits. SebelistSince new obtain immigration waters are being tested, it is important for all your immigration needs. to615.345.0266 | email@example.com seek legal counsel before taking steps to file for permanent residency and begin the application process. And YVETTE SEBELIST & Lawyers as with any case, itSiskind Susser, PC, Immigration is important to THE LAW OFFICES OF 2300 21st Avenue South, Suite 201 in Nashville, Tennessee 37212 seek expert legal advice to determine SISKIND SUSSER whether your foreign national spouse can be found online at www.visalaw.com/nashville.html meets the other general requirements to obtain status.
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Nashville Untucked Miss Venus Knight
The Diva Delight Miss Venus Knight is all the rage in the drag scene lately, scooping up titles left and right. “I stepped out into the world of drag without fully knowing what was ahead and without expectations,” Knight told O&AN’s Nashville Untucked. Who knew her journey would lead her to become Miss Gay Nashville America 2013, Miss Gay Tennessee America 2013, and Miss Tennessee Continental 2013? “Becoming Miss Gay Nashville and Tennessee America was a dream I have been dreaming for a while and have now accomplished,” said Knight. “The day I became a Miss Gay Nashville and Tennessee America was a day of celebration—a day to celebrate all the hard work that has gotten me to the place where I am today. Every day is a day of thanks—a day to thank all the family, friends, and fans who has helped and supported me to get me to where I am today.” Outside of drag, Venus has captured many other titles. She is the first PHOTO COURTESY OF MARGARET ELLIS member of her family to graduate from college. She has a double minor in Family Studies and American Sign Language and a Major in Social Work and a Masters in Social Work and she plans to further her education with a Doctorate in Marriage and Family therapy. You think you know, but you have no idea. Check out this month’s Nashville Untucked with our Q&A with Miss Venus Knight.
When did drag begin for you? The first time I dressed up was for a 2008 Pride show in Bowling Green, Kentucky. I dressed up to be a goofball never knowing anything could ever come from it. At the show I was watching the other performers and the person in charge of the show pointed to me in the crown and mouthed, “You need to be up there.” I looked around to see if he was talking to someone else. So he repeated and this time I laughed and said no I could never do that. Within a week or two, I received a call asking me to perform. I finally said yes. Venus Knight was born on July 5, 2008 at 10:18 p.m.. After being on the stage for the first time I knew this was going to be something new and exciting! I never knew it would lead me to where I am today!
How old were you when you realized you were gay? Who said I was gay? It is never good to assume (laughs). I really don’t believe in labels. I am more attracted to guys, but if the right person comes
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along and steals my heart that is who I will be with. I knew my brother and I were different when I was 3 years old. At that age though, I didn’t know what that could mean… just knew we were very different.
Have you ever experienced prejudice for being attracted to boys?
Yes! I hate to say it, but I have. Although, I don’t believe I have experienced prejudice because of just my sexuality. I am a bi-racial male who also is a female impersonator. I believe that puts a lot of negative views on me. Sadly, I have experienced difficulties with some members of my family.
Who has been a big inspiration to you in your life? Who has been the biggest inspiration to you in your drag career? There are many people who have inspired me in so many ways. Even though my mom and I don’t get along
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all the time, she has helped mold me into the person I am today. My grandmother, Nakita Riggsbee, is really my rock. Also, Tony King, the best boyfriend I’ve ever had. He has shown me a love that only seems to exist in movies. There are many people who have not only inspired Venus but also myself for my career as a female impersonator. Ivy White has been a huge help and role model for me. I really look up to her in more ways than she will ever know. Kara Bell has helped me when others were not able or willing and always follows through on her word. Oscar gave me the opportunity to start performing at PLAY Dance Bar. Joey Brown for getting to know me on a different level than just business and help me grow within his business. There are many others who I have come in contact with that have helped me grow as a performer even some who may not even be close to me.
I am a person huge on learning; I enjoy learning about different systems. I am more driven because just like my guy persona, I do not want Venus to be limited. I have a Masters in social work and considering getting my Ph.D in Marriage and Family Therapy. Like I said, I don’t want to be limited. I want as many options and opportunities as possible. As for Venus, I feel like she is also working on her Masters. She is a city and state title-holder, but no nationals …yet. I am not sure how many titles I have won for sure but I believe 5-7 (laughs). But all of them hold the same value to me. Each one is a symbol of my hard work and dedication.
How would you describe your drag persona? Does your actual personality differ from your stage character?
It was an amazing feeling. I went into the pageant saying I was going to win. I worked on preparing for that title for a year! I believe every day is an opportunity to change my life. I believe Miss Gay Tennessee America has opened up doors for me. It was very good competing. I knew I had grown a lot since Miss Gay America 2012. I learned that just because you have improved does not mean you are going to place as high as you believe you should.
I am a very independent person. I do a lot of things on my own because I have trust issues with others. Over time, people have told me they want to help or will do something and never follow through with it. So, growing up I have just always done for myself. My mother says that I had an independent personally as a child. As most people already know, I don’t drink or smoke or do drugs. I have never even had a soda before in my life. I mainly only drink water. I am a person who always tries to give 110% on and off stage. My actual personality is pretty different. I really do not like going to clubs. I enjoy being home reading, enjoying time with family and close friends.
Being a “pageant queen” what would you say drives your interests to the pageant scene? How many titles have you won in your career? Which one holds more value to you?
I knew my brother and I were different when I was 3 years old. At that age though, I didn’t know what that could mean… just knew we were very different.
What’s next for Venus Knight?
Who knows (laughs). I am right now focusing on my obligations for Miss Gay Nashville and Tennessee while getting ready for Nationals next year. I am determined to be a National title-holder.
Where can our readers follow you?
The best place right now would be Facebook. I am so not up-to-date on anything. I do not have a Twitter, Instagram, etc. (laughs). I also perform at PLAY Dance Bar. For now, you can catch me there pretty much every Wednesday, but for weekends it is a hit or miss—never know when I am going to be booked.
What was it like to win Miss TN Gay America and compete in MGA 2013? What have you learned from your experience?
Would you consider yourself an advocate for the gay community?
Yes! I believe the best way to help the LGBTQ community is to educate others. So, one thing I have done, which may not be as big to many people, is focus my papers and projects in college on the LGBTQ community. Another thing I feel I have done is simply be myself. I look around sometimes and see LGBTQ people trying to be something or someone they are not for many reasons. I believe each one of us are made to be who we are not what society wants us to be. JANUARY 2014
New Year from
Timberfell Lodge! Visit our website for upcoming events in 2014.
Come visit us in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains. 2240 Van Hill Road Greeneville, TN 37745 FOR RESERVATIONS:
EVERY TUESDAY Yoga at OutCentral
Join Mary Irby from White Crow Yoga at OutCentral for a weekly Hatha Yoga instruction. Get a special 6 classes for $30 this month only.
Join rotating hosts Paige Turner and Veronika Elektronik for their weekly Drag Bingo show. You never know what’s gonna come out of their mouths.
LOL Nashville, an LGBTinclusive Improv Troupe presents their short and long form Imrpov show.
OutCentral and HRC Nashville present Bridegroom, the poignant , enraging film that opens a window onto the issue of marriage equality like no speech or lecture ever will.
12th and Porter
Girl on Girl Comedy and Revue
MAC Productions presents LGBT Parent Meetup & Potluck Pageant Meeting
Play Dance Bar
Join Girl on Girl Comedy for their monthly LGBT and LGBT friendly comedians. Tickets are $10 7:30 p.m.
Join LGBT parents from across Calling all Drag performers, MAC Productions will hold a pageant meeting Metro-Nashville for their meet-up and potluck social. with lists of pageants, tip and judges. 7 p.m.
Young, Hot & Gay Tour
Open to the public, a new social, potluck dinner group opens its doors for their new monthly event, Family Dinner. 6 p.m.
A two-night event as Jordan Pease, Heather Turman and Tara Egnation, three young gay comedians, bring their tour to Nashville. First on January 21, catch the trio at Canvas Lounge for a benefit for OutCentral. Then catch the trio at Zanies on January 22. Tickets for their Zanies’ show are $10. January 21 & 22 7:00 p.m. / Doors: 6:30 p.m.
Nashville Grizzlies Glo Party Tribe
Join Humana for a monthly Join Nashville Grizzles’ and health initiative partnership purchase their 2014 calendar to help send the team to Sydney, with OutCentral. Australia. 6 p.m.
Presented by Radian Partners, this monthly event is aimed at helping the LGBT community plan for their financial future.
Humana Health Initiative
Financial Planning for LGBT community
HotMess Dodgeball Season Mixer Tribe
The brains behind HotMess Kickball brings HotMess dodgeball to the table for its inaugural season. Register online at hotmesssports.com. Season begins January 26. January 24
Nominations for 2014 LGBT Chamber Excellence in Business Awards due The Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce invites nominations for the Excellence in Business Awards presented by CURB Records. The Chamber is accepting nominations for the following categories: ¤ Corporate Diversity Award ¤ Entrepreneur of the Year ¤ Business Leader of the Year ¤ Ally Award ¤ Leadership in the Arts Award ¤ Community Service Award Nominations can be submitted online at www.nashvilleglbtchamber.org January 17
at outandaboutnashville.com for Your Gay Week(end), our weekly LGBT news blast about events around the Nashville community.
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MARY CHAPIN CARPENTER
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