Home Local News United Tennessee sets ‘Yes On 3’ campaign to amend state constitution to ban slavery

United Tennessee sets ‘Yes On 3’ campaign to amend state constitution to ban slavery

by PRIDE Newsdesk
A bipartisan coalition supporting the amendment of the state constitution to ban slavery launched on Juneteenth.

A new bipartisan coalition consisting of advocacy groups, pastors, elected officials, and others has formed to pass Amendment 3 in this year’s November 8 elections. As it is currently written in the Tennessee Constitution, slavery is still legal in Tennessee as punishment for a crime. This ballot amendment would remove that text, thereby banning forever the practice of slavery in the state of Tennessee.

“I am honored to be leading a non-partisan coalition to finally address this overlooked part of our state constitution,” said Campaign Director Kathy Chambers. This campaign is not about right and left, it’s about right and wrong. Slavery has no business anywhere in our state, especially in our highest governing document. We’re going to lead this campaign and educate voters on what the amendment will do and how they can make their vote count this November. That begins today by letting voters know that they must also vote in the governor’s election to ensure their ‘yes’ vote for Amendment 3 counts. Vote your conscience or write in the name of your choice, just make sure you don’t skip it!”

The launch coincided with the annual Juneteenth celebrations.

Theeda Murphy, one of the organizers who has been fighting to bring this amendment to the ballot is celebratory. 

“On this Freedom Day, Tennesseans are celebrating the opportunity to finally finish the work of emancipation,” said Murphy. “We can eliminate the last vestiges of slavery from our state constitution by voting ‘Yes on 3’ this November.”

Jeannie Alexander, another leader of the coalition said: “Our state and federal constitutions aren’t just our primary and most important governing documents, they are moral documents. As long as the stain of slavery remains in either of these constitutions we can never have a truly just or moral society. This November, Tennessee voters have the chance to do something right, to do something good, and to finally finish the job of abolition. I am proud the state of Tennessee will lead the way toward freedom.”

The resolution that allowed it to be placed on the ballot passed the legislature with overwhelming bipartisan support. Of 132 elected representatives, only six voted against it. The resolution that was passed this session was sponsored by Raumesh Akbari (D) of Memphis. In a recent opinion, she wrote: “We cannot erase the sins of our past but we can atone and move forward together.”

A host of clergy has spoken out. Dr. Kenneth Saunders of Greeneville said: “As a believer in Jesus of Nazareth, and as an Episcopal priest, I made vows to uphold these ideals in my life. So it bothers me to the core of who I am as a child of God to know that slavery still exists in whatever form, in this country, and in this state. To consider another human being a ‘slave’ is very much a human rights issue.”

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