Tennessee

Activists File Suit Challenging Tennessee Counseling Law

Jun 8, 2016
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Two gay rights activists have filed a lawsuit challenging a new Tennessee law that lets therapists decline to see patients based on religious values and personal principles.

Bleu Copas is an Anderson County man who says he was discharged from the Army under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Caleb Laieski is an activist from Virginia. Their lawsuit was filed Tuesday in Anderson County Chancery Court. It claims the new law targets gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, violating the right to equal treatment guaranteed by the Tennessee Constitution.

Gov. Bill Haslam's spokeswoman, Jennifer Donnals, says the governor's office is unaware of any lawsuits challenging the counseling law and has not seen the Anderson County suit.

The American Counseling Association last month canceled a planned conference in Nashville because of the law.

Elaine Thompson/AP

Texas, joined by a number of other states, has filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration in response to its directive that public schools allow students to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity.

The plaintiffs include Alabama, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Utah, Georgia, the governor of Maine and the Arizona Department of Education.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, says the federal government has "conspired to turn workplaces and educational settings across the country into laboratories for a massive social experiment, flouting the democratic process, and running roughshod over commonsense policies protecting children and basic privacy rights."

The LGBT advocacy group Human Rights Campaign called the move a "shameful attack on transgender youth."

The sponsor of a resolution to require Tennessee to sue the federal government over its refugee resettlement program is unhappy with Republican Gov. Bill Haslam for refusing the sign the measure.

Haslam last week allowed the resolution to go into effect without his signature, saying that he had concerns about one branch of government telling another one what to do. The governor also asked the state attorney general for a legal opinion on whether the Legislature has the power to hire its own attorney to sue over the matter.

Senate Republican leader Mark Norris of Collierville in a letter to Haslam on Tuesday said the governor had mischaracterized the resolution and that the federal government has not provided enough information to determine whether refugees could be linked to terrorism.

Kevin Willis, WKU Public Radio

The Tennessee chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is asking the federal government to intervene over a school district's policy prohibiting transgender students from using restrooms corresponding to their gender identity.

A letter from the ACLU asks the U.S. Department of Education to require that the school system in Sumner County make accommodations for transgender students.

The letter was written on behalf of a high school student who is a transgender girl.

Officials told the student's family that she would be disciplined if she continued to use the girls' restroom.

An attorney for the school system said in a statement that transgender  students are provided access to private unisex facilities.

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The American Counseling Association has cancelled its plan to hold a conference in Nashville next year in protest of Tennessee passing a counseling law that allows therapists to decline to see patients based on religious values and personal principles.

The ACA made the announcement on Tuesday that it had cancelled the already booked expo in the Music City.

The ACA, which has condemned Tennessee's new law as a "hate bill" that discriminates against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, has called the legislation an unprecedented attack on its profession. The organization says no other state has passed such a law.

Supporters of the law have said that it keeps the government from forcing people to counsel others to act in ways that conflict with a therapist's moral beliefs.

Danielle Atkins /Courtesy of Spring House Press

Nashville Hot Chicken is showing up everywhere lately, from fast-food marquees to trendy restaurant menus. But to find the real thing, you might start in a nondescript strip mall on the northeast side of Nashville, Tenn.

Here at Prince's Hot Chicken Shack, people line up long before the doors open to get their fix.

"Need my hot chicken," says construction worker Jose Rodriquez as he approaches the kitchen window to place his order. "I'm going to get two hot of the breast quarters."

Old-fashioned wooden booths line the walls of the small dining room. When a clerk calls out your order number, you pick up your paper plate of chicken, served on a red cafeteria tray. Drinks come from a vending machine on the back wall.

"Prince's is the ground zero for hot chicken," says Timothy Davis, author of The Hot Chicken Cookbook – the Fiery History and Red Hot Recipes of Nashville's Beloved Bird.

Mark Humphrey/AP

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has signed legislation that allows mental health counselors and therapists to refuse to treat patients based on religious objections or personal beliefs.

Critics of the law say it could result in discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. As Nashville Public Radio reported earlier this month:

"A group representing gay and lesbian Tennesseans [asked Haslam] to veto the legislation. ...

"The Tennessee Equality Project, an LGBT advocacy group, says the measure will make it harder for gays and lesbians to find counseling — particularly in rural parts of the state where religiously conservative therapists are common."

Haslam, however, said in a statement that he decided to sign the bill because it addressed two of his concerns. He said:

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The sponsor of bill seeking to designate the Bible as the official book of Tennessee has formally announced his bid to override Republican Gov. Bill Haslam's veto of the measure.

Haslam last week vetoed the bill over constitutional concerns of a government endorsement of religion and because he believes it "trivializes" the Bible. Supporters argue that measure seeks to honor the historic and economic significance of the Bible in Tennessee.

Republican Rep. Jerry Sexton of Bean Station filed notice of his intention to re-pass the bill during Monday night's House floor session, setting up a vote Wednesday.

The bill received 55 votes when it passed the House and 19 in the Senate. A veto override would require 50 votes in the 99-member House and 17 votes among 33 senators.

WKU Public Radio

Tennessee’s Attorney General is warning that the state could lose federal funding if a controversial bathroom bill clears in the General Assembly. 

The bill would require Tennessee students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond to the gender on their birth certificate.  Supporters say the legislation is necessary to protect the privacy of students.  Opponents argue the bill is discriminatory. 

State Attorney General Herbert Slattery issued an opinion Monday saying the bill would violate Title IX, which means the state could lose millions of dollars in federal funding. 

The Tennessean reports that Governor Bill Haslam and the state Education Department have raised similar concerns, but the Governor has not said if he would veto the legislation should it reach his desk.  The bill has so far cleared a House committee.

Trump, Clinton Win Tennessee Super Tuesday Primary

Mar 2, 2016
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Republican turnout in Tennessee outpaced Democrats by more than a 2-to-1 margin, a show of muscle that encouraged the state's GOP leaders even if they didn't back winner Donald Trump.

Trump took nearly 39 percent of the Tennessee primary vote. Ted Cruz was second, with 24. 7 percent, and Marco Rubio finished third, with 21.2 percent.

Gov. Bill Haslam and U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander endorsed Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who was in third place behind Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

The governor said he was "encouraged" by the voting totals, but he hasn't yet said whether he would support Trump if he ends up the GOP nominee.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton won in a landslide. She took 66 percent of primary vote, with Bernie Sanders a distant second, with 32 percent.

A debate over how to teach religion to public school students in Tennessee is rocking school districts around the state. Activists and concerned parents worry middle school students are being “indoctrinated” with a sanitized version of Islam.

The issue has made its way to the state legislature. One proposal would restrict discussion of religion until the end of high school. Chas Sisk of Here & Now contributor WPLN has the story.

Tens of thousands of Tennessee students steadied their clammy, test-day hands over a keyboard several days ago. And, for many, nothing happened.

It was the state's first time giving standardized exams on computers, but the rollout couldn't have gone much worse.

In lots of places, the testing platform slowed to a crawl or appeared to shut down entirely. Within hours, Tennessee scrapped online testing for the year.

The move comes after schools spent millions of dollars to buy additional PCs and to improve their wi-fi networks.

Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, via Facebook

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is adding confirmed cougar sightings to a new online map. The Cougar Action Team, or CAT, is a new agency working to organize evidence submitted by the public and developing a policy for dealing with this subspecies of cougar, which is not native to Tennessee. 

The first confirmed sighting in more than 100 years was in Obion County last September

Tennessee Wildlife Biologist Joy Sweaney says cougars are secretive animals and aren't typically a threat to humans. If you do encounter one, she recommends acting like 'the hardest prey to kill' and they will leave you alone.

DNA samples from hair found in the Carroll County location identified the animal as a western cougar subspecies similar to those found in South Dakota. She says there is possibly more than one cougar in Tennessee, expanding out from their home range. Western cougars have a range of 150 square miles and while it's rare to spot one, they are more commonly found in the Midwestern states.

Teachers, parents and politicians have long wrestled with the question:

How important is preschool?

A new answer comes in the form of a study — out of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. — that is as clear as it is controversial.

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A business research magazine has released its annual list of the Best and Worst states as favored by business executives, ranking Tennessee at number 4.  

“Chief Executive” surveyed over 500 leading CEOs across the country making measuring in three categories: tax and regulation, workforce quality, and living environment. That last category includes education, cost of living, affordable housing and crime rates. 

Texas took the top spot, followed by Florida, North Carolina and Tennessee, which was in the number 3 spot last year. 

CEOs say they picked the Volunteer state for its low taxes and Right-to-Work status calling it a hotbed for automotive manufacturers. 

Kentucky ranked in at 28 with CEOs noting a high-value living environment, but concern about tax and strong regulatory policies. 

Illinois maintained its rank amongst the worst states at number 48.  

See a full-listing of Chief Executive rankings here

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