Monthly Archives: October 2022

Read Vanderbilt hospital’s letter to lawmakers on transgender clinic

Reps. Jason Zachary (R-Knoxville), center, and Scott Cepicki (R-Culleaoka), right attend a briefing in Nashville on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Vanderbilt University Medical Center says no minors have received genital procedures at its transgender clinic and that all patients were at least 16 years old and had parental consent. The hospital told Rep. Jason Zachary (R-Knoxville) it will pause gender affirmation surgery on patients under age 18 while it seeks advice from local and national experts, a process that could take several months.

“We understand this issue is likely to be taken up by the General Assembly in its next legislative session,” Deputy CEO C. Wright Pinson wrote.

Here is the letter:

Representative Zachary,

I write in response to your letter of September 28, 2022 on behalf of Vanderbilt University Medical Center (“VUMC”) and its Board of Directors regarding the concerns about surgical care provided through the transgender clinic for those under age 18.

VUMC began its Transgender Health Clinic in 2018 because transgender individuals are at high risk for mental and physical health issues, and have been consistently underserved by our nation’s healthcare systems. Among those patients under 18 receiving transgender care, an average of 5 per year have received gender-affirming surgical procedures. Contrary to some media reports, all were at least 16 years of age, none have received genital procedures and parental consent to these surgeries was obtained in all cases. None of these surgeries have been paid for by state or federal funds; the revenues from this limited number of surgeries represent an immaterial percentage of VUMC’s net operating revenue.

VUMC approaches its responsibility to care for patients by following the most widely recognized national and international standards of care, while at all times doing so in accordance with state and federal laws. Our clinical teams provide transgender care that is informed by the professional practice standards and guidance established by leading medical specialty societies, such as the Endocrine Society and the World Professional Association of Transgender Health (WPATH). We fully comply with the requirements of legislation passed by the General Assembly in 2021, now codified at Tenn. Code Ann. §63-1-169, which prohibits providing hormone therapy to prepuberal children.

VUMC serves as the employment home for over 40,000 people and our people express their views in many forums, including hundreds of open conferences on our campus facilities each year. Comments from videos posted on social media that are obtained at these kinds of events should not be construed as statements of VUMC policy. VUMC’s policies and practices allow employees to request an accommodation to be excused from participating in surgeries or procedures they believe are morally objectionable. We do not condone discrimination against employees who choose to request accommodations.

You have asked that VUMC halt permanent gender affirmation surgeries being performed on minor children. On September 6, 2022, WPATH published a new version of its recommendations to health care professionals for treatment of transgender persons, known as SOC-8. In light of these new recommendations, and as part of completing our internal clinical review of the SOC-8 guidance in patients under 18, we will be seeking advice from local and national clinical experts. We are pausing gender affirmation surgeries on patients under age 18 while we complete this review, which may take several months.

In addition, we understand this issue is likely to be taken up by the General Assembly in its next legislative session. As always, we will assure that VUMC’s programs comply with any new requirements which may be established as a part of Tennessee law.

I trust this letter has been responsive to the concerns which have been surfaced to you and your colleagues.

Sincerely yours,


C. Wright Pinson, MBA, MD

Deputy CEO and Chief Health System Officer

New TNJ edition alert: Prison release debate, Humble decries ‘witch hunt,’ Ogles goes underground

Rep. Andrew Farmer (R-Sevierville), right, and then-Rep. Mike Carter (R-Ooltewah) speak before a briefing on the coronavirus pandemic in Nashville on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

This week’s print edition of The Tennessee Journal is out. Here is what’s in it:

— Exception makes the rule? Early prison release rules scrutinized.

— Political roundup: Gary Humble denounces coordination probe as a ‘political witch hunt,’ Robin Smith motion hints at more Phoenix Solutions defendants, Casada poised to start collecting pension.

— From the campaign trail: Andy Ogles goes underground, Bill Lee drops first general election ad.

Also: Anti-Islam advocate back on textbook commission, legislative Republicans fall for “furries” hoax, and Cade Cothren might want to rethink the whole short-term rental thing.

As always, access the your copy of the TNJ here.

Or subscribe here.

Come for the beer, stay for the archives?

A party for the archives, downtown Nashville around 1900. (Image credit: Tennessee State Library and Archives)

Going to the Octoberfest celebration in Nashville’s Germantown neighborhood this weekend? The Secretary of State’s Office is inviting revelers to also make a stop at the new nearby State Library & Archives building. What could go wrong?

Here’s the release:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee State Library & Archives is hosting a Second Saturday Open House on Saturday, Oct. 8, during Nashville Oktoberfest, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., with guided tours offered at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

“In our new location on Bicentennial Mall, we are fortunate to be in the middle of some of Nashville’s biggest events,” said Jamie Ritter, Tennessee State Librarian and Archivist. “We invite everyone attending Nashville Oktoberfest to stop by our open house and learn more about the incredible history of our great state.”

During the open house, guests are invited to explore the Library & Archives’ interactive exhibit lobby, highlighting some of the state’s most precious historical documents, including Tennessee’s three Constitutions. The guided tours will give guests a behind-the-scenes look at the state-of-the-art conservation lab, grand reading room and high-tech Automated Storage and Retrieval System.

This family-friendly event is free to the public.

The Library & Archives, a division of the Department of State, collects and preserves books, journals, maps, photographs, records and other documents of historical and reference value, focusing on items about Tennessee and Tennesseans.

The Library & Archives is located at 1001 Rep. John Lewis Way N., in Nashville. The exhibit lobby is open to the public Monday to Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. CT. The library, microfilm and manuscripts reading rooms are available for research Tuesday through Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. CT.

The Library & Archives parking garage will be inaccessible due to Nashville Oktoberfest road closures from Wednesday, Oct. 5 to Saturday, Oct. 8. Patrons are encouraged to plan their research trips accordingly.

For more information about the Library & Archives, call 615-741-2764, email or visit

Rep. Ron Gant survives head-on crash

State Rep. Ron Gant has been flown by helicopter for treatment at a Memphis hospital after the vehicle he was driving was struck in a head-on collision in rural West Tennessee. The other driver died in the crash. Law enforcement officials told colleagues they believed the deceased man was impaired. Tests are pending.

Gant, a Republican, is an insurance agent from Fayette County. He was first elected to the General Assembly in 2016 and serves as assistant majority leader in the House.

UPDATE: Gant was listed in stable condition on Thursday morning and was being prepared for surgery later in the day.

Feds charge 11 in abortion clinic blockade

Federal prosecutors are charging 11 people with blocking access to a Mt. Juliet abortion clinic in March.

Here’s the release from the U.S. attorney’s office:

NASHVILLE – A federal indictment unsealed today charges eleven individuals with violations of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, announced U.S. Attorney Mark H. Wildasin, for the Middle District of Tennessee and Kristen M. Clarke, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. 

The indictment, returned on Monday by a federal grand jury sitting in Nashville, charges the following seven individuals with conspiracy against rights secured by the FACE Act, and committing FACE Act violations:

Chester Gallagher, 73, of Lebanon, Tennessee;  Heather Idoni, 58; Calvin Zastrow, 57; and Caroline Davis, 24; all of Michigan; Coleman Boyd, 51, of Bolton, Mississippi; Dennis Green, 56, of Cumberland, Virginia; and Paul Vaughn, 55, of Centerville, Tennessee. 

The indictment also charges the following individuals with committing FACE Act violations:  Eva Edl, 87, of Aiken, South Carolina; Eva Zastro, 24, of Dover, Arkansas; James Zastro, 25, of Eldon, Missouri; and Paul Place, 24, of Centerville, Tennessee.  All defendants will have appearances scheduled in U.S. District Court in Nashville at a later date. 

The indictment alleges that, beginning in February 2021, Chester Gallagher utilized social media to promote a series of anti-abortion events scheduled for March 4-7, 2021, in the Nashville area.  Other co-conspirators then utilized Facebook to coordinate travel and logistics and to identify other participants for the blockade.  On March 4, 2021, Coleman Boyd and Chester Gallager advertised the blockade of the Carafem Health Center Clinic, in Mount Juliet, Tennessee, which was planned for the following day.  In his social media post, Gallagher referred to the blockade as a “rescue.” Boyd also began a Facebook livestream broadcast of the clinic blockade at 7:45 a.m. on March 5, 2021.  This livestream broadcast was titled, in part, “Mt. Juliet, TN Rescue March 5, 2021,” and livestreamed the blockade event as his coconspirators and others blocked the clinic’s entry doors and prevented a patient and an employee from entering.  The livestream also broadcast members of the group attempting to engage a patient and her companion as Boyd told his livestream audience that the patient was a “mom coming to kill her baby.”

The indictment further alleges that on March 5, 2021, the 11 individuals, aided and abetted by one another, used force and physical obstruction to injure, intimidate, and interfere with employees of the clinic and a patient who was seeking reproductive health services. 

If convicted, those charged with conspiracy face up to 11 years in prison and fines of up to $250,000.  Others face up to one year in prison for the misdemeanor offense and fines of up to $10,000. 

This case was investigated by the FBI and is being prosecuted by the Civil Rights Coordinator of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and trial Attorneys of the Department’s Civil Rights Division. 

An indictment is merely an accusation.  All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. 

One more week to register to vote in November

The Secretary of State’s Office reminds that the deadline to register to vote in November’s election is Oct. 11.

Here’s the release:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennesseans who want to cast a ballot in the Nov. 8 State and Federal General Election only have one week until the voter registration deadline on Tuesday, Oct. 11.

“The first step to making your voice heard on Election Day is registering to vote,” said Secretary of State Tre Hargett. “With our convenient online voter registration system, it’s never been easier for Tennesseans to register to vote or update their registration.”
Registering to vote, updating or checking your registration status is fast, easy and secure with the Secretary of State’s online voter registration system,

Using a computer, phone or tablet, any U.S. citizen with a driver’s license or a photo ID issued by the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security can register in minutes at Each submission is checked against the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security’s database. Voters can also download a paper voter registration application at

Completed paper voter registration applications must be mailed to your local county election commission office or submitted in person. Mailed voter registrations must be postmarked by Oct. 11. 

Election Day registration is not available in Tennessee. 

Early voting for the Nov. 8 State and Federal General Election starts Wednesday, Oct. 19, and runs Monday to Saturday until Thursday, Nov. 3. The deadline to request an absentee by-mail ballot is Tuesday, Nov. 1.

The Secretary of State and county election commissions are Tennessee’s trusted sources for accurate election information. For the latest information about the Nov. 8 election, follow the Secretary of State’s social media channels Twitter: @SecTreHargett, Facebook: Tennessee Secretary of State and Instagram: @tnsecofstate.

For more information about registering to vote in Tennessee, go to or call the Division of Elections toll-free at 1-877-850-4959.

THEC looking to stem ebb in college enrollment

The Tennessee Higher Education Commission is trying to find ways to stem enrollment decreases at state colleges and universities. Here is a release detailing those efforts:

NASHVILLE – October 4, 2022 – The Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) today announced the launch of a momentum-building year to renew and articulate the value of education in Tennessee and to increase enrollment in education and training beyond high school.

In May, THEC released the inaugural state college-going status report, College Going and the Class of 2021. The report showed that the college-going rate among Tennessee’s high school graduates has been trending down over the past five years, from 63.8 percent for the Class of 2017 to 52.8 percent for the Class of 2021. As with overall declines in college enrollment, much of this decline can be attributed to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a nine-percentage point drop in the college-going rate between the Class of 2019 and the Class of 2021. Since the report release, the agency has been engaging with stakeholders to better understand the challenges and opportunities facing students.

Based on feedback from state and local leaders, and to increase coordination and collaboration among partners statewide, THEC is announcing three big goals for 2023 to serve as a momentum-building year:

1. Increase the college-going rate for the high school class of 2023 to at least 60 percent.

2. Increase adult enrollment in higher education through Tennessee Reconnect participation.

3. Improve coordination and alignment in education and workforce training to ensure students have portable and stackable options for greater economic mobility.

In the coming weeks, THEC will embark on a series of regional meetings across the state to share the state-level goals, to garner buy-in, and to discuss localized college-going rate data and strategies to support student success with local education agencies, higher education institutions, business and industry and workforce development leaders, and community-based organizations.

“The playbook for how we communicate to students about the long-term career success and economic mobility that higher education can support has changed significantly in recent years,” said Dr. Emily House, THEC Executive Director, “Employers want and need a skilled and educated workforce, and all students can benefit from education or training beyond high school. But there is no one way to get there. We want Tennessee’s high school graduates to know all of their options and that all doors are open to them.”

The statewide mission for 55 percent of Tennesseans to obtain a postsecondary degree or certificate by 2025 remains a critical goal for the future workforce, and the momentum year and college enrollment goals will support increasing opportunity and sharing the value of education with the next generation. Tennessee has had a strong foundation of higher education access and success over the last decade with groundbreaking investment and innovative programs like the Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education (GIVE), Tennessee Promise, Tennessee Reconnect, and the Complete College Tennessee Act. Looking to the future, the college enrollment declines and disparities across race and geography should serve as a call to action for Tennessee and our nation. The Tennessee Higher Education Commission is relentlessly focused on increasing the number of Tennesseans with a postsecondary credential and that begins with ensuring all doors are opened for students. 


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