Jennifer Keane isn't gay. She's a straight married mom with a toddler and another kid on the way. When she and her husband moved to Memphis from Ohio, the state recognized their marriage. Because she's married, she can make end-of-life decisions for her husband if necessary. She and her husband benefit from tax deductions due to their marriage, and she's covered on her husband's insurance policy.
"I have all this because I'm straight. What kind of damn sense does that make?" asked a tearful Keane, as she addressed the crowd of about 100 people gathered in the sanctuary at Neshoba Unitarian Universalist Church in Cordova Monday night.
Keane was one of several speakers at the "Stand for ALL Families" rally held at Neshoba, a counter-rally protesting the "Stand for Families" rally at Bellevue Baptist Church. The Bellevue rally featured Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, a well-known foe of marriage equality.
Also at the Neshoba rally were Edie and Tamar Love, a married lesbian couple with two children. Though their marriage isn't recognized in Tennessee, the Loves live their daily lives as a married couple. When their kids ask questions about why their parents aren't allowed to have their marriage recognized, Tamar says she isn't sure how to answer.
"We have a hard time answering that question because we don't understand the problem either," says Tamar.
Jonathan Cole of the Tennessee Equality Project (TEP) spoke about the gay community's newest threat in Shelby County — the Family Action Council of Tennessee (FACT). FACT is a non-profit, conservative Christian organization aimed at promoting "traditional families" (read: heterosexual families). The group, which previously only had a presence in middle Tennessee, is setting up an office in Cordova. Cole believes FACT is coming to Shelby County as a result of the gay community's success in passing a non-discrimination ordinance last summer protecting Shelby County employees on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The city council will consider a similar measure protecting city employees later this spring.
After Cole spoke, Will Batts, director of the Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center, called the attendees to action. He asked everyone in the room to urge other LGBT people and straight allies to speak out in support of equality.
Said Batts: "We need to encourage people to come out and stand on the picket line. We will win this. We just can't give up."