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For Immediate Release: Dated August 2, 2008
Accused Murderer of Tiffany Berry Kills Again
Last night, WREG-TV in Memphis reported that the man who was charged with the February 16, 2006, murder of Tiffany Berry, has now been arraigned on a second murder charge. On Thursday, authorities in Shelby County charged DeAndre Blake with the murder of his own two year old daughter.
At the time of this second murder, Blake was walking the streets of Memphis as a free man on a $20,000 bond. According to Berry’s family, Blake admitted he had killed Berry because he did not like the way she had “touched” him.
“We believe these ‘trans panic’ and ‘gay panic’ defenses need to be rejected and that local law enforcement needs to begin aggressive prosecution of all such cases as hate crimes,” said Dr. Marisa Richmond, President of the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition. “If the judge had set a more appropriate bond, or if the Shelby County District Attorney had been more aggressive at scheduling a trial date, this man might not have been out walking the streets for two and half years and that child might still be alive,” continued Richmond.
This latest tragedy is just one more in a growing number of anti-GLBT hate crimes across Tennessee. The Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition insists that the murder of Tiffany Berry be prosecuted as a hate crime. We also insist that the Memphis Police Department officers who brutally beat Duanna Johnson, an African American transgender woman, on February 12, also be prosecuted on hate crimes charges. We also urge the Memphis Police Department to step up its investigation of the July 1 murder of Ebony Whitaker, another African American transgender woman.
In other parts of Tennessee, we insist that local authorities aggressively investigate and prosecute additional hate crimes including the murder of Nakia Baker in Nashville on January 7, 2007, the ongoing harassment of a gay man at his home in McMinnville, and last weekend’s tragic shooting in the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville. All of these events show that there needs to be increased education across Tennessee about the GLBT community, and a more serious look at hate crimes covering both sexual orientation and gender identity.
We also urge members of the Tennessee General Assembly to address the inadequacies of Tennessee’s hate crimes statute in Tennessee Code Annotated 40-35-114 (23), as soon as they reconvene in January. This should include adding “gender identity or expression” to the language. It is also time for the United States Congress to pass the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act.
We also wish to extend our condolences to the other family members of the child who lost her life so senselessly this week.
The Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition (TTPC) is an organization designed to educate and advocate on behalf of transgender related legislation at the Federal, State and local levels. TTPC is dedicated to raising public awareness and building alliances with other organizations concerned with equal rights legislation.
For more information, or to make a donation, contact:
Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition (TTPC)
P.O. Box 92335
Nashville, TN 37209
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 18, 2008
(212) 549-2568; firstname.lastname@example.org
ACLU Sues Old Dominion Freight Lines Over Firing Of Transgender Trucker
KNOXVILLE, TN – June 18 -The American Civil Liberties Union filed a sex discrimination lawsuit today against Old Dominion Freight Lines for illegally firing a truck driver for impersonating a female after she informed the company that she was transitioning from male to female. A prior EEOC investigation into the firing sided with the driver, Kaylee Seals, finding there was reasonable cause to believe that Old Dominion discriminated against Seals based on sex and sex stereotyping.
“Getting fired was one of the worst things that ever happened to me,” said Kaylee Seals. “I was always taught that you should be judged based on how hard you work. I gave my all to Old Dominion, working extremely long hours under very difficult conditions. Yet none of that mattered when my bosses learned that I was transitioning.”
Seals, 33, worked for Old Dominion for approximately 2½ years during which time she was given several awards for her service and safe driving. In November 2005, Seals, who was still living and dressing as a male at the time, was sent from Morristown, TN, to Jacksonville, FL. While there, a manager at the company began harassing Seals because she had been given a voucher to stay in a motel rather than a company bunk house. According to the manager, male employees were supposed to stay in the bunk house. Although Seals was dressed in gender neutral clothing (sweat pants and a sweat shirt), the employee began aggressively questioning Seals about her sex and her appearance. Unaware that the bunk house was even still operational, Seals readily agreed to stay in the bunk house for the remaining night of her stay.
When she returned to Tennessee, Seals informed her immediate supervisor, whom she trusted, about the harassment she received and also mentioned that she was diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder and intended to complete the transition to the female sex.. Shortly after this conversation, Seals was summoned to a meeting with the supervisor and other managers at the company. At this meeting, an Old Dominion supervisor, noting Seals’ “feminine voice” and the fact that Seals wore jewelry, accused Seals of imitating a woman in order to be able to stay in the motel. The supervisor then terminated Seals, claiming that Seals’ actions violated company policy. The EEOC did not find this explanation credible since four other male employees also received motel vouchers at the Jacksonville location during the same time period and had not been disciplined.
“No one should be fired simply because she does not fit traditional gender roles,” said Christine Sun, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Project. “Fortunately, sex stereotyping discrimination is illegal and Old Dominion will now find itself defending this case in court.”
Marisa Richmond, President of Transgender Political Coalition, added, “Transgender employees need to be able to earn a living and support themselves just like everyone else. Through this lawsuit, I hope all employers learn that they should respect transgender employees, because if they don’t, they can be held liable for illegal discrimination.”
Seals took the firing especially hard. She became severely depressed and was house bound for three months. Through the help of a co-worker, she eventually sought legal help and made a complaint to the EEOC, which found that her claim had merit. According to government statistics, only five to six percent of EEOC investigations result in a finding that there was reasonable cause that discrimination occurred.
The ACLU has filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Seals against Old Dominion for sex discrimination. In the complaint filed today, the ACLU charges that Old Dominion violated Title VII federal sex discrimination laws by terminating Seals on the basis of sex and sex stereotyping.
Seals has since found employment with another trucking line but is now earning significantly less. After living as a woman for more that a year, Seals is anxious to begin sexual reassignment surgery, but due to the loss of income, is unable to afford it.
The lawsuit, Seals v. Old Dominion Freight Lines, was filed in Federal District Court in Knoxville. A copy of the complaint, photographs of Seals and additional information is available at:
In Massachusetts he is married and has changed his name. Now in order to travel he must change his name back.
Legislative Update 03/09/2008
When was the last time you were dissed after sharing a positive experience when volunteering for a project or event? Examples of volunteerism may be handing out flyers for an upcoming TEP event, coming to Advancing Equality Day or doing make-up for a charitable fashion show.
How in the world can someone take your very positive experience and put a bad spin on it? Some say you are bragging for your good deeds or may be just taking credit yourself for a successful project. Do not be discouraged by the naysayers! Be challenged.
TEP would not exist without you, our members. We continue to thrive through your good works both in the LGBT community as well as the communities where you reside. I encourage you to continue to volunteer your time and let other people know you are a TEP member and invite them to join you—especially those who say you are doing something for “credit” or recognition. After joining in and actually participating in a project, event or a TEP Email Blast initiative, maybe they will feel compelled to share their positive experience as well, and ask others to be a part of something rewarding.
The bottom line TEP Member is this—be a champion for the Cause! It is ok to take credit, share your good works on behalf of TEP and other personal projects. The key reason for TEP’s growing membership is the support of people like you, opening these emails each week and forwarding them to friends and family. I give you credit for that!
Now I ask this: go to TEP’s website and sign up, or renew your membership today, then send this email on and ask a couple of your friends to do the same. And finally, please go out and take credit for being a key reason why TEP is the largest membership LGBT organization in Tennessee.
All my best and breathe easy, as there is no negative legislation up for debate at the Capitol this week.
Visit the web address below to tell your friends about this.
email@example.com tnep.org 615-664-6886
As many of you know adoption by gays and lesbians in Tennessee is is once again an issue. My God! Oh I forgot…it’s an election year…how silly of me…it’s time to scare the right-wing christian fundamentalists to the polls. “Queers! Queers! They’re everywhere! Life is going to hell in a handbasket! My God they even want to provide a home for Children! We must stop them and then take down the names of every politician that doesn’t vote with us so we can use it against them in our campaign ads.”
Come on people time to get out and get active. Tuesday night be there or be square…