Sunday, January 25, 2009

In the People's House: Women are objectified, treated as second class citizens at Legislative Plaza; beware in allowing your daughters there

For the Williamson Herald
All Media must credit the Herald in using any information

A longtime female lawmaker tells me that during an elevator ride, she had to stick out here elbows to make an East Tennessee representative feel discomfort instead of what he was after.

He purposely was backing up into her body. And this was not the first time the pervert had done something like this.

When she complained to a party leader, she was told: "Get used to it; you're in a man's world."

She replied that she had been in the male business world, and that these kind of assaults were not allowed. Her protestations did not matter.

So in the wake last week of the re-publicizing of sexual harassment allegations against House Speaker Kent Williams, the news is simply a reminder to women who seek the life of public service at the Statehouse.

The People's House at Legislative Plaza does not follow your values when it comes to the respectful treatment of women -- be they are daughters, wives, sisters and mothers. And that cannot stand. It is your house, not theirs.

A female advocate I met today remarked that she felt like taking a bath after she visited and exited Legislative Plaza.

Truly, the sexual offenses there that reinforce a good ol' boy system have made the People's House into a place in which women must be on the defense. The leadership of both parties looks the other way.

Legislative sources say, however, that Williams was forced to apologize before witnesses in Rep. Jason Mumpower's office -- to Rep. Susan Lynn. Williams allegedly told her that he would give a week's pay to see her naked.

The most sad thing about this publicizing of this event -- at Lynn's objections -- is that no news reports list her entire, impressive credentials from six years of serving the people. In that way, the harasser at Legislative Plaza always wins.

Lynn is chairman of the House Government Operations Committee. She loves the detail of government. She specializes in business and commerce bills. She is a national officer with the American Legislation Exchange Council. Lynn is happily married, with two children -- one in the service of this nation and the other just married.

"She is a very bright gal; she studies her bills," a lawmaker said.

Lynn is not the villain here. As to her allegations, Williams has denied them. But there are three witnesses that say he apologized for his conduct.

The larger question is who will apologize to the people of Tennessee for the unacceptable debauchery inside the house taxpayers pay for? And who will enforce change and exact new penalties up to removal from office to clean out all the sleaze?

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