By Logan Langlois
NASHVILLE, TN — Tennessee Equality Project (TEP) took to the Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville recently to protest, donning flags, signs, and t-shirts speaking out against what they have dubbed the “Slate of Hate,” or a collection of bills led by a proposed “Flag Ban,” with House Bill 1605, along with other legislation TEP has described as a threat against LGBTQ+ rights. TEP Policy Researcher Jace
Wilder said the protest did an excellent job of sending a message to legislators that civil rights advocates will not be silent and will not be going anywhere.
Wilder said the protest began before legislators arrived and lasted until the evening. He said they were visited by several state representatives such as District 30 Sen. Sara Kyle (D-Memphis) and District 90 Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knox County). Johnson is currently seeking the Senate seat currently held by Senator Marsha Blackburn.
Wilder said each legislator spoke briefly to reassure the crowd that there were representatives against bills such as the “Flag Ban” and who have the best interests of LGBTQ+ citizens at heart. He said the protest largely focused on the “Flag Ban,” the bill proposed by District 61 Rep. Gino Bulso (R-Brentwood) that would call for all flags that are not the United States flag or the Tennessee State flag to be banned from public and charter schools.
“Which … not only gets rid of representation for LGBTQ and Black Lives Matter, and other flags that are considered social justice oriented but also other flags that represent our students such as other countries, other states, and even the POW flag that represents our Missing In Action folks,” Wilder said.
Wilder said the other legislation attached to the Slate of Hate attacks things such as health care for transgender people through an insurance ban that is currently frozen. He said the reason TEP labeled these bills as a “Slate” is because right-wing legislators continuously introduced additional bills that TEP considered to be an assault on LGBTQ+ civil rights.
“What our goal truly is, is to have a time in which we are able to support legislation, we don’t always want to be on the defense,” Wilder said. “We want to work with our legislators to make a better Tennessee, but the unfortunate reality is that we are constantly on the defense against our own legislator.”
Wilder said the Flag Ban has been TEP’s Slate of Hate public focus because it encapsulates many of the different issues into one bill and makes things more easily digestible for citizens trying to follow.
“Because it was one of the first to be introduced immediately into the session it gives us a, not to be redundant, gives us a flag of what their goals are for the session and gives us goals too,” Wilder said.
Wilder said that it is difficult to talk about so many different pieces of legislation being introduced at the same time. He said the constant juggling that TEP does to fight for civil rights has led to them developing ways to do so effectively over vastly different topics. Wilder said the way TEP can do this is by using its wide volunteer base to distribute different topics among its people based on specialty and will continue to do so to fight the Slate of Hate. “For myself, I’m in health policy and I work mainly in public health,” Wilder said. “So, I focus on the health care legislation, I focus on that foster care legislation, while other folks are more attune to that First Amendment-type, such as with the Flag Bill or last year with the Drag Ban.” (Source: TN Tribune)