Tag Archives: tennessee

Update on HB 3386: Make it a felony to starve horses & livestock

Re: HB-3386 – Aggravated Animal Cruelty

This bill will add all animals to our current Aggravated Animal Cruelty statute. It will make the withholding of food and water from ANY animal to the point of death or near death a felony. Currently, if you starve a companion animal it is a felony, if you starve “livestock” it is a misdemeanor. It makes no sense to have different penalties for the same despicable action. How can we continue to say it is far worse to starve a dog than to starve a horse?

The bill also defines aggravated animal cruelty as an act committed by a person who without justifiable purpose, kills or intentionally causes serious bodily injury to any animal in a depraved or sadistic manner. The illustration that I have given before is the man who got mad at his wife, tied her horse to the back of his truck and dragged it until it was almost dead, then finished it off by stabbing it with a pitchfork.

I think you will agree that was depraved and sadistic. When she went to the DA in her county to ask for him to be prosecuted, she was met with the response that he had too many other cases to busy himself with this one because it was only a misdemeanor.

We need stiffer penalties to encourage DA’s to prosecute. They are more likely to prosecute a felony than a misdemeanor.

Our bill was in House Agriculture Committee last Tuesday morning. Many of you know that our biggest opponent is Farm Bureau Insurance Company. The Farm Bureau Insurance Agents filled all the seats in the committee room and those of you who took time from your busy schedules to come to the Capitol to make your support for the bill known, were left standing in the aisles. I really appreciate the way you hung in there for over an hour before our bill was heard.

We had three great speakers – Sgt. Mike McLerran – Sumner County Animal Control who made great points – he gets several complaints per month about abused horses. It is not the legitimate TN farmer where he has to remove starving horses, it is the horse trader, the broker, the killer that buys horses cheap and refuses to invest any money in their care even FOOD, knowing that many of them will not make it and transporting those who do live inhumanely to Mexico to be slaughtered inhumanely.

He was asked by Rep. Eddie Bass (D) Giles County, if in a tight budget year, should the legislature be focused on protecting children or animals. Sgt McLerran very eloquently answered that it was often the people who abuse animals that also abuse children.

Our second speaker was Ron Smith, CEO, Electric Service Credit Union, a horse and burro owner and Farm Bureau member. Ron stressed more than once that increasing the penalty would make someone think twice if they knew they were going to be charged with felony rather than having their hand slapped with a misdemeanor.

Ron was asked by Deputy Speaker Steve McDanel (R) Parkers Crossroads, if he supported horse slaughter to which Ron answered no. Farm Bureau Insurance Company is for horse slaughter in Tennessee – won’t that make for a great economic and community development tool for recruiting new business to Tennessee. Come to Tennessee, home of horse slaughter.

Third, was Mary Hord, cattle producer and equine rescue – also a Farm Bureau member. She advocated for increased penalties and was quite emphatic that she was ashamed to be a Farm Bureau member and that they did not speak for her as they claimed to speak for all 650,000 members of Farm Bureau Insurance Company.

Our bill was deferred to Tuesday, March 23rd, at 9:00 a.m. I expect there to be some discussion this week since the cameras probably will not be present again. Please join me if you can make it, if not, please make calls again to members of the Ag Committee.

I have been invited to appear on Morning Line – Channel 5+ on Monday morning, March 22nd, from 8-9 a.m. along with someone from Farm Bureau Insurance Company. Please call in if you can at 737-7587. As they stacked the committee room last week, we probably can expect those opposed to increasing penalties to monopolize the phone lines on Monday.

I will leave you with this thought – it is a felony to sell glue for unlawful purpose, it is a felony to write worthless checks ($501-$999) and it is a felony to file a false or fraudulent insurance claim, however, it is a misdemeanor to commit aggravated animal cruelty which includes starving livestock or dragging a horse to its death.

Again, thanks for your continued support.

The members of the House Agriculture Committee are:

Committee Officers
Stratton Bone, Chair (615) 741-7086 rep.stratton.bone@capitol.tn.gov
Dale Ford, V. Chair (615) 741-1717
rep.dale.ford@capitol.tn.gov
Willie Butch Borchert, Sect’y (615) 741-6804
Rep.willie.borchert@capitol.tn.gov
Members:
Eddie Bass (615) 741- 1864
rep.eddie.bass@capitol.tn.gov
Chad Faulkner (615) 741-3335
rep.chad.faulkner@capitol.tn.gov
Curtis Halford (615) 741-7478
rep.curtis.halford@capitol.tn.gov
John Litz (615) 741- 6877
rep.john.litz@capitol.tn.gov
Steve McDaniel (615) 741-0750
rep.steve.mcdaniel@capitol.tn.gov
Frank Niceley (615) 741-4419
rep.frank.niceley@capitol.tn.gov
Johnny Shaw (615) 741-4538
rep.johnny.shaw@capitol.tn.gov
Terri Lynn Weaver (615) 741-2192
rep.terri.lynn.weaver@capitol.tn.gov
John Mark Windle (615) 741-1260
rep.john.windle@capitol.tn.gov

Sincerely,

Janis Sontany

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Help make it a felony to starve horses and farm animals in Tennessee

I spoke with Janis Sontany and she really needs help to get HB3386 passed. The agriculture committee for the most part is not wanting to deal with this. They are going to need to hear from us or they are going to basically blow it off. Please call the people on the committee and tell them how you feel. Is it ok to look the other way while horses and other livestock are allowed to starve? We protect dogs & cats but not horses? Tell them how you feel. If you know members of the press ask them to come Tuesday, March 16th at 9am on Capitol Hill Room 28. If you can, show up yourself. I’m going and so are other horse enthusiasts and people who care enough to speak for these animals that cannot speak for themselves.

I grew up learning that Tennessee was not only home to “Music City” but that it was “horse country” as well. Growing up in New England, I read about it in school text books and saw pictures of rolling grass pastures full of horses. That’s one of the reasons I moved here. As a musician/songwriter and an equestrian, music and horses are two huge interests of mine and Middle Tennessee offered both. My partner & I purchased a horse farm in 1998 and there are currently 15 horses under my care here at Avalon Farms.

From the history of the Thoroughbreds at Belle Meade Mansion to the $260million+ Walking Horse Industry to the thousands of stables and backyard horse owners in every equine discipline, Tennessee horse lovers and businesses are big business for Tennessee. We should be setting the standard for folks around the country. With all this we have no law to protect them from neglect. A person in Tennessee can starve them, lock them up without care or water until they die and expect no more than the equivalent of a traffic ticket. A slap on the wrist…

Now, a bill is being introduced to the agriculture committee (HB3386) to make it a felony to starve these and other farm animals. Rep. Janis Sontany is introducing it after witnessing for herself, the 84 starved horses from Cannon County in November. She came down to the fairgrounds where many of us were volunteering to feed them and care for them under the supervision of the National Humane Society. I held horses for the farriers that voluteered their time to trim feet. I saw hooves with frogs completely rotted away from standing in their own excrement. I saw feet with shoes that had been left on for months and growth so long that they could barely walk. I saw many horses so underweight that from my own experience I know it would take a year or more to bring them back to a healthy condition if they survived at all.

Together we can put a stop to this or at least help make it where offenders are punished for cruel treetment like this. It really is going to take us all speaking out to stop the senseless suffering of these magnificent animals. Pick up the phone, email the members of the committee. Tell Janis Sontany thanks for standing up for these wonderful creatures and let her know she’s not alone in this fight. You can reach Janis at JANIS SONTANY
STATE REPRESENTATIVE
53RD LEGISLATIVE DISTRICT

32 LEGISLATIVE PLAZA
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE 37243-0153
PHONE (615-) 741-6861
FAX (615) 253-0325
E-MAIL:
rep.janis.sontany@legislature.state.tn.us

Pass this along to everyone you know.
Thanks, Val Reynolds/Avalonfarms@hughes.net

The members of the House Agriculture Committee are: Committee OfficersStratton Bone, Chair (615) 741-7086 rep.stratton.bone@capitol.tn.govDale Ford, Vice Chair (615) 741-1717 rep.dale.ford@capitol.tn.govWillie Butch Borchert, Secretary (615) 741-6804 rep.willie.borchert@capitol.tn.gov MembersEddie Bass (615) 741-1864 rep.eddie.bass@capitol.tn.govChad Faulkner (615) 741-3335 rep.chad.faulkner@capitol.tn.govCurits ;Halford (615) 741-7478 rep.curtis.halford@capitol.tn.govJohn Litz (615) 741-6877 rep.john.litz@capitol.tn.govSteve McDaniel (615) 741-0750 rep.steve.mcdaniel@capitol.tn.govFrank Niceley (615) 741-4419 rep.frank.niceley@capitol.tn.govJohnny Shaw (615) 741-4538 rep.johnny.shaw@capitol.tn.govTerri Lynn Weaver (615) 741-2192 rep.terri.lynn.weaver@capitol.tn.govJohn Mark Windle (615) 741-1260 rep.john.windle@capitol.tn.gov

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Action Alert: Update on HB3386 Make Starving Horses & Livestock a Felony

Hi there,
Here’s the latest on a bill to make it a felony to starve horses. There’s more to it than that but this what came out of the fairgrounds horses case from cannon county. https://avalonfarmblog.wordpress.com/2009/11/27/84-seized-horses-update/
I plan to go to the hill next tuesday at 9am when it is introduced. Please read the letter from Janis Sontany. (below) I know for a fact she went out to see the 84 horses herself in November and vowed to present this bill. Please try to be there or at the very least…call the people on the committee and tell them to support HB3386. The animals don’t have a voice in this. It’s up to us and Janis is going up against Insurance lobbiest that are not willing to compromise. Let’s all help her in this fight.-Val

valerie reynolds
Speak softly and carry a carrot stick

JANIS SONTANY
STATE REPRESENTATIVE
53RD LEGISLATIVE DISTRICT

32 LEGISLATIVE PLAZA
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE 37243-0153
PHONE (615-) 741-6861
FAX (615) 253-0325
E-MAIL:
rep.janis.sontany@legislature.state.tn.us

188 CHILTON STREET
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE 37211
(615) 331-7616

House of Representatives
State of Tennessee

NASHVILLE

SECRETARY
JUDICIARY COMMITTEE

COMMITEES
JUDICIARY COMMITTEE
FINANCE WAYS AND MEANS

SUB COMMITTEE
CRIMINAL PRACTICE, CHAIR
I hope this finds you and your family doing well and looking forward to Spring.

Each of you has contacted me over the past few months regarding the starving horses rescued from Cannon County and taken to the Fairgrounds here in Nashville. I promised then that I would introduce legislation that would make withholding food and/or water from any animal a felony and that I would update you on the progress and ask for your continued help. It makes no sense to me to have two different penalties – aggravated animal cruelty with a felony penalty for companion animals and a misdemeanor for the same action for “livestock”. Cruelty is cruelty regardless if you are 3 lbs. or 16 hands high. How can we continue to say that it is far worse to starve a dog than to starve a horse?

When the horses were at the Fairgrounds, I was asked by the media why the penalty for starving these horses was only a misdemeanor. My answer simply was Farm Bureau Insurance Company. This company has always demanded different laws for “livestock”.

When I first drafted this legislation, I met with Farm Bureau Insurance Company’s lobbyists to try to find some common ground. I was told that starving these horses didn’t rise to the level of aggravated animal cruelty and the current law was working just fine and they refused to negotiate.

Last week, Farm Bureau’s President, Lacy Upchurch, and their Chief Administrative Officer, Julius Johnson, visited my office to discuss my bill. I was so in hopes that we could negotiate in good faith to have a bill that we both could agree on that would stop this continued cruelty. They, however, only wanted to express to me their concern that this legislation would land some poor farmer in jail for dehorning his cattle. My bill clearly exempts accepted veterinary practices and makes no mention of discontinuing current tax breaks for farmers on livestock.

I offered to file an amendment that would require the sworn statement of a veterinarian that the animal/animals were starved – deprived of food and/or water or abused in a depraved or sadistic manner before criminal charges could be filed, to no avail. Mr. Upchurch and Mr. Johnson wouldn’t agree to that either – they said there would be too much gray area. Clearly, they didn’t come in good faith to negotiate.

This cruelty continues to happen. There were the 20 horses in Sumner County that were reported starved, three in Smith County – one of which was already dead and the other two found with no food or water nearly starved to death. And, then there was the incident in Bedford County where over 100 head of cattle were found starved to death.

I was told that Farm Bureau Insurance Company has 650,000 members across Tennessee. When I asked how many of them had input on their positions and policies, I was told not 650,000 but a very small percentage. I think all their members need to know their position on animal cruelty and if they don’t agree with the company’s position, they should contact Mr. Upchurch 931-388-7872 x 2201 and Mr. Johnson at 931-388-7872 x 2205 and express their disagreement and dissatisfaction.

This bill addresses more than starvation of animals. It also addresses other forms of animal cruelty. There was a woman in Sweetwater last year whose husband got mad at her and dragged her favorite horse behind his truck until the animal was almost dead. To finish him off he stabbed him with a pitch fork. When the woman contacted the district attorney in her area, she was told that they would not prosecute this action because it was a misdemeanor and wasn’t worth their time. My bill would make this action a felony as well. A misdemeanor is like getting a traffic ticket.

I plan to bring HB3386 before the House Agriculture Committee on 3/16 at 9:00 a.m. I invite any of you that can to join me that day to show support for this bill. I know that for many of you that won’t be possible, however, I respectfully ask that you get this message out to any and all that are interested in supporting our legislation and also ask that you contact the members of the House Agriculture Committee to ask for their support. It will take all of us working together to get this legislation passed.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact my office at 615-741-6861 or 615-331-7616.

The members of the House Agriculture Committee are:

Committee Officers
Stratton Bone, Chair (615) 741-7086 rep.stratton.bone@capitol.tn.gov
Dale Ford, Vice Chair (615) 741-1717 rep.dale.ford@capitol.tn.gov
Willie Butch Borchert, Secretary (615) 741-6804 rep.willie.borchert@capitol.tn.gov

Members
Eddie Bass (615) 741-1864 rep.eddie.bass@capitol.tn.gov
Chad Faulkner (615) 741-3335 rep.chad.faulkner@capitol.tn.gov
Curits ;Halford (615) 741-7478 rep.curtis.halford@capitol.tn.gov
John Litz (615) 741-6877 rep.john.litz@capitol.tn.gov
Steve McDaniel (615) 741-0750 rep.steve.mcdaniel@capitol.tn.gov
Frank Niceley (615) 741-4419 rep.frank.niceley@capitol.tn.gov
Johnny Shaw (615) 741-4538 rep.johnny.shaw@capitol.tn.gov
Terri Lynn Weaver (615) 741-2192 rep.terri.lynn.weaver@capitol.tn.gov
John Mark Windle (615) 741-1260 rep.john.windle@capitol.tn.gov

Sincerely,

Janis Sontany

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There are Good People in the World

It took one individual to do so much harm to so many horses. I over heard one woman say she looked at one of the horses from behind and at first thought she was looking at a cow. The hip bones and sunken hind quarters are so pronounced in so many of them I can understand how she could think that.

I spent the morning holding (and calming) horses so the ferrier could trim the feet and remove shoes on some. The untreated thrush was so bad that one didn’t have any frog left. Live tissue was all that was left. The toes had grown over and were touching the heels. Standing in manure so long it had dried on the outside of the hooves and when he was finished we realized that some had white hooves instead of the dark brown we saw when he started.

That’s the horrible part though and there is more to tell. I want to talk about the wonderful part. The barn is full of people with the kindest hearts and giving spirits. Good to see you Louise shoveling out stalls and petting horses. I saw kissing noses when I walked by…

My wonderful trainer JR was there too calming a stallion that nobody could handle. He was able to walk him out of his stall so others could clean it and he was desensitizing it so a leg wound could be treated. When I left this afternoon it was standing quietly by his side while several humane society women showered it with love and petting.

Mary Ann and your sis, thanks for coming out to walk some of the ones that needed exercising. I know your life is busy and your own horses need your time. Josh, Jay and Jim and all the ferriers that came out today and other days to trim. It’s hard work any day but to do horses that haven’t been handled, don’t have a reason to trust people and have some of the worst cases of neglect. You guys are angels.

The humane society has been so great at organizing and providing information, tools to do the work and food for the workers too. I’m sure they are doing a ton behind the scenes to encourage people and companies to step up and make the donations needs to keep the operation going. Feed and hay is stacking up in the surrounding barns.
Tractor Supply has made a big donation of feed and shavings. I’m sure some of the tack must have come from them too but I don’t know. I just know its brand new. I heard that a woman donated $6500 and when I was leaving there was an impromptu fire bucket drill tossing box after box of brand new blankets to cover them tonight. The tempeture is dropping down to 25 degrees.

Thanks too to the local tav guy from channel 5 shooting video and covering the story. This afternoon the humane society brought in a bunch of dogs that were seized in east Tennessee. Tennessee has some serious problems with the treatment of its animals. We have problems with the law and how to punish those that abuse like this. My hope is that when this is all over what will come out of it is a law that makes it a felony to starve any animal and education for young people growing up to learn how to care for other living things.

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No Horse Slaughter Houses in Tennessee

thanks dan for alerting me to this…

Dear Tennessee Advocates,

Introduced by State Rep. Frank Nicely and State Senator Mike Faulk, Tennessee HB 1428/SB 1898 is a bill that will encourage, sanction and promote horse slaughter plants within your state. The ASPCA strongly opposes this legislation, which unfortunately is moving quickly through the committee process in both the House and the Senate. The bill will likely face a final vote in both bodies soon.

There are currently no horse slaughter plants in the United States—but if this bill passes, Tennessee could soon earn the dubious distinction of becoming the horse-killing capital of our nation. This bill is not only bad for horses—its passage would be terrible for Tennessee’s reputation, ecology and tourism industry.

What You Can Do
It is crucial that you contact your state representative and senator right away and tell them that you oppose HB 1428/SB 1898. Please take a few minutes to email your state legislators today to ask them to oppose this inhumane bill. Visit the ASPCA Advocacy Center to send your letter.

Thank you, Tennessee, for taking action for animals.

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Final Post: I’m Back in Nashville

By Marisa Richmond

I have finally returned home from the 2008 Democratic National Convention.  There was much speculation in the media, and among many private citizens, over what would happen at this year’s convention.  I think it is safe to say that we far exceeded everyone’s expectations for success.  I do need to tell you little more about my final day at the DNC before I turn to more general reflections.

The Tennessee breakfast began with former House Majority Leader Kim McMillan of Clarksville, who is running for Governor, saying “Thank you for all you do.”  She actually held a reception a day earlier, but virtually all of the delegates missed it since it fell at the same time as the roll call vote for President.  I promise I will attend her next free event.  She was followed by Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle of Memphis who reminded us to “think globally, act locally.”  We then had a lineup that included State Rep. Randy Rinks of Savannah, Congressman Steve Cohen, Jerry Martin, newly named State Director of the Obama for President campaign, Justin Wilkins of Chattanooga, and then in an impromptu move as “filler,” former US Senator Jim Sasser, who happened to be sitting at my table.  Finally, our keynote speaker, Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut arrived.  Noting it was the anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington, he said “We’re not going to fail now.”  Then Jerry Lee, President of the AFL-CIO of Tennessee was joined by several union members, some of whom were among the most passionate Clinton delegates.  They preached unity, putting the divisions of the primary season behind us.  This was brought home by Clinton Superdelegate Vicky Harwell of Pulaski.

As an interesting sidenote, our hotelmates, Pennsylvania, had a pretty big name of their own at their breakfast: Joe Biden.  I did not learn the next Vice President had been just down the hall from us until that evening.  I do not feel cheated, however, because after breakfast, I had a wonderful conversation with Senator Dodd.  He pulled photos of his two daughters out of his pocket to show me as if he was sharing with an old friend he had not seen in awhile.  When I noted his oldest daughter had long, basketball player legs and he needed to send her down to Pat Summitt, he straightened up and said, “Oh, no, no, no.  Geno Auriemma gets her!”  We then began to discuss the great rivalry between the two schools and he shared a story about bringing former Senator Birch Bayh to a UT-UConn game in Hartford so that people could learn about the battle for Title IX.  When he said people need to realize that equality doesn’t just happen, people have to fight for it, that was the opening I was looking for.  I then told him I was one of 9 transgender delegates at the DNC and we appreciated his vote for the fully inclusive Hate Crimes bill and we will need him on the fully inclusive ENDA, he looked me right in the eye and smiled and said, “Not at all.”

After breakfast, I made my way downtown to attend the Women’s Caucus. As I entered the room, two protesters were being dragged out.  For all of the pre convention talk about protesters and PUMA’s, it was fairly quiet with very few incidents.  Anyway, the lineup of speakers I heard was very impressive and motivational.  I heard Senator Barbara Boxer of California (who described this race as “Hero vs. Zero” on women’s issues), Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schulz of Florida (“There is no choice for women”), Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut.  Then came the big name of the day: Michelle Obama.  I never saw a room fill up so quickly before.  Michelle said that women get things done.  There is no force for change more powerful than women connecting with women.  When Barack wins, “instead of talking about ‘family values,’ we will have policies that value families.”

With the unenviable task of following Michelle Obama was Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.  She said that when the other side starts throwing slime, “I’m gonna say people who live in 7 houses shouldn’t be throwing stones.”  I also heard Congresswomen Kirsten Gillibrand and Louise Slaughter, both of New York.

I then walked two blocks away to the Tennessee luncheon.  Walking down the street with me was Bruce Shine of Kingsport.  Last week, he was named one of three finalists for the vacant seat on the Tennessee Supreme Court.  As we walked, he told me that he had been attending conventions since 1952, when he was a teenaged page working for Estes Kefauver.

The lunch was conducted as a Town Hall Forum featuring Governor Bredesen and Congressman Cooper.  The very first question appeared to catch the Governor by surprise.  It was about Denver’s excellent light rail system and why Tennessee cannot seem to get on board with commuter rail like the rest of the country with high gas prices and worsening traffic in the big urban areas like Nashville.  I hope that the example of Denver, a metropolitan area on slightly larger than Nashville, will help spur our elected officials in Washington and Nashville to action.  Other questions mainly revolved around health care and the election.  This particular luncheon was sponsored by Motorola, so at the end, I introduced myself to the Motorola rep, Deb Cortright, and told her how important their corporate non-discrimination policy, which has both sexual orientation and gender identity, was since it shows they value the contributions of all LGBT people.  She thanked me and said they are proud of their inclusiveness.  After a short break to buy some souvenirs, I caught the bus to Mile High Stadium for that incredible final night which I discussed yesterday.  It has been 24 hours and I am still stuck on the word awesome.  I am so glad I pursued being a delegate and had the honor and privilege of being part of it. 

One thing I neglected to mention is that I was able to get three tickets to give to friends. One of my tickets went to a 21 year old college student from Lebanon, Romel McMurry.  I meet him earlier this year during the delegate selection process.  Even though he was not selected, he showed real enthusiasm and travelled to Denver anyway.  I attended my first convention when I was 21 and I always appreciated the support I received from others.  Now that I am turning gray, I feel it is important that we encourage youth to become inspired by politics since they are the future of the country.  Also, my friend Debbie, who lives locally, was able to get her own ticket and she was way up on the 5th deck.  We text messaged each other so I could find her.  As I hit send on one message, I looked over the see Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts standing less than two feet away.  I introduced myself as a transgender delegate and thanked him for working with us through Diego Sanchez.  He was incredibly nice and gracious.  I may have also been on C-SPAN last night.  They had a camera pan the TN delegation during the festivities, but I have not heard from anyone if they saw me.  I do, however, have the link to the YouTube clip of my appearance on CNN during the Monday night session at the Pepsi Center:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BgoeOTSpedI

After Obama’s rousing speech, as I was leaving the Stadium to get to the buses, a person from WPLN in Nashville (90.3 FM) stopped me for a brief interview.  I was also interviewed by The Tennessean and Commercial Appeal just before I flew to Denver.

In an earlier post, I did target the transportation system for some criticism.  I now wish to retract that criticism.  The “problems” on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday were fairly minor and insignificant.  Thursday, on the other hand, it completely broke down.  The confusion and chaos in the parking lot as delegates were trying to find buses as we wandered aimlessly with no assistance and no direction was inexcusable.  Even the drivers and police officers who were there to protect us called the final night a “nightmare” and were very apologetic.  They were very embarrassed at how badly the shift to Mile High Stadium was handled after the bus departures were handled so smoothly from Pepsi Center the first three nights.  When I finally made it back to the hotel, the food at the reception was gone and even the Blue Cross Blue Shield reps, who I wanted to talk to about discriminating against transgender people, had already left.  We did, however, have one final act.  We had taken the Tennessee signs that you may have seen on TV from both Pepsi Center and Mile High Stadium.  The Pepsi Center sign was split up into its three separate sides.  We all signed all three sides.  One will go into the TNDP Headquarters in Nashville and the other two will be auctioned.  The sign from the final night was kept intact.  We had to sign it one time each, and then, on October 7, we hope to get Barack Obama to sign it when he is in Nashville for the 2nd Presidential debate.  That means that my signature and Obama’s will be on the same item through eternity.  How cool is that?!

So now, a few final thoughts.  When we arrived in Denver, many wondered if the Democratic Party will be able to heal.  I believe the answer is a resounding YES.  We are a united party ready to go to work.  The future of this country is at stake.  We have a vision, and the best candidate for both President AND Vice President.  Sarah Palin? Are you kidding me?  What little has come out about her in the hours since she was introduced as McCain’s running mate should have every Republican running scared.  Our VP nominee is actually qualified to be President.  As a Clinton delegate, I can tell you we will be out there, if we have not already done so, working to elect Obama and Biden. 

When I arrived at the convention, I was given a bag of special 2008 Transgender Delegate buttons that had been made for all of us by Monica Helms of Georgia, and member of the 2004 Transgender Caucus. 


One was for me to wear, and the others to give to people I think have done special work on behalf of transgender equality.  I still have one I intend to give to one delegate, but the ones I distributed went Congressmen Jim Cooper and Steve Cohen for their support of the fully inclusive Hate Crimes bill and co-sponsoriship of the fully inclusive ENDA which will be back in 2009.  Cohen was also the original sponsor of the Birth Certificate bill when he was a State Senator.  One went to Cohen’s assistant, Marilyn Dillihay, who has become a good friend.   I gave others to Gray Sasser, Chairman of the TNDP, for his commitment to diversity, and David Upton of Memphis, who coordinated putting the slate of Clinton delegates together and made sure that I was one of them, and Memphis Councilwoman Janis Fullilove, for taking the lead in investigating the beating of Duanna Johnson and other transwoman.  Janis actually wore her Transgender delegate button in Mile High Stadium for Obama’s speech.  I also gave one to my roommate, Sara Kruszka, the other LGBT delegate from Tennessee.  She told me that she was so inspired by the LGBT and Women’s Caucuses, she is now thinking of running for office.  

This does lead me to one criticism of the Party itself.  While the platform, which was passed by voice vote early in the Monday session before I even got to the Pepsi Center, has gender identity in the language, I was very frustrated that we were never mentioned one single time from the podium.  In 2004, transgender was mentioned three times. In 2008, that number was zero.  We are not invisible in the Democratic Party.  We should not be treated as pariahs when we are out there working hard and raising money for pro-equality candidates.  I was also disappointed with many of my fellow Tennessee delegates when Senator Obama talked last night about recognizing same-sex couples.  Half of us stood and cheered, but half just sat there in stony silence.  The Democratic Party cannot expect voters to overcome homophobia or transphobia if its own leaders cannot do the same.

Overall, I had an incredible time in Denver and I have enjoyed this opportunity to share with you, even though I had to stay up until 2 am each day to get my thoughts down.  If it inspires you to get more involved, and maybe even run for delegate yourself in 2012, then I have accomplished one of my major goals.  As I was on the van to the airport this morning, one person said the Delegate Floor pass from last night is now going for $4000 on E-Bay.  That one piece of paper could pay for my trip.

I would like to thank Val Reynolds of Avalon Farmblog for providing me this space. Even though Val and I never did see each other in Denver, I know from her own posts that she had a great time too.  Our two perspectives should give a pretty good view of all that happens at a convention.

I want to thank the other blog sites that provided direct links to Avalon Farmblog, or simply copied my posts, so that their readers would see a side of the convention that TV just does not show.

I want to thank my parents for inspiring me to believe that one person can make a difference and teaching me to stand up for what I believe.

I want to thank the Tennessee Democratic Party, and the leadership of the Clinton campaign in Tennessee, which actually selected me to be a delegate.

And I want to thank all of you for reading and thinking that what we do in this election is important. 

Now, let’s go win!  But first, I really need to catch up on some sleep.  🙂

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Day Four: Yes We Can

By Marisa Richmond

First, I have to start, once again, with one major correction & a couple of comments I neglected to make yesterday.  When I was discussing that fiery Clinton caucus meeting, I said it was Sylvia Woods who caused some consternation.  It was actually Betsy Reid of West Tennessee.  With all that has been happening here, I try to remember with whom I have been talking, and then I sit down to write at 1 am, and that name is still stuck in my mind, so I apologize for the error. Then, I forgot to mention that we made a full delegation group photo after breakfast, minus Al Gore.  And, with all of my activity, I was forced to miss the reception hosted by former House Majority Leader Kim McMillan, who is running for Governor.  I will make it up to her by attending her next TWO free receptions!

Now, today was the final day of the convention.  Since I fly back to Nashville tomorrow (actually, later today), I will hold off on full details until I am back home.  I will, however, just say that I am still winding down from the most incredible single event I have attended in the political arena.  I saw The Beatles over 40 years ago, and I was at the 1984 Olympics Soccer Final in the Rose Bowl with over 100,000 people, but tonight was an event that can truly change the world.

I hope all of you watched it live.  It was one of those moments that has to be experienced to be appreciated, and to be on the floor of Mile High Stadium, knowing the WORLD was watching, made it even more special.  Everyone here is absolutely gushing over the success of the convention, the positive tone with which we return home, and easily the most inspirational leader we have seen since the 1960s.  I don’t know if you say that at home, but the 80,000 of us who were in that stadium tonight certainly walked out ready to do our part to make this dream come true.  When I looked at that mass of humanity, waiting for someone to take charge and show them the way, and even when they were doing The Wave (which I helped invent in Oakland, California, in 1981), I realized the country was ready.  Tonight, we all saw that Barack Obama is ready.

I’m fired up and ready to go.  I hope you are ready to step up too.

I promise, I will have more of a delegate eye’s view tomorrow on my final day when I am back home.  I am just too tired, and emotionally pumped up, to discuss anything of substance right now.

Yes We Can!

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