On Tuesday, August 10, the Personnel, Intergovernmental and Annexation committee of the Memphis City Council met to consider a resolution that would require all entities that do business with the city or use city facilities to agree to give special employment protections for sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.
Before the 8:30 am meeting ever started the 50 seat conference room was packed with over 60 concerned citizens, a vast majority of which were there in opposition to the law being proposed by Councilwoman Janis Fullilove. Several Pastors from across denominational and racial lines were amongst the crowd opposing the resolution. As the meeting got underway it was clear that the calls, letters and e-mails that had flooded city hall opposing the proposed law had made a difference. Miss Fullilove quickly amended her resolution to give exemptions to religious organizations and churches.
Our friends, Apostle Alton Williams of World Overcomers Outreach Church and Pastor Steve Gaines of Bellevue Baptist spoke on behalf of the other pastors present. Williams pointed out that the resolution still contained no exemptions for Christian-owned businesses and then pointed out several specific examples of religious workplace discrimination and litigation that laws containing sexual orientation have caused in the past. Pastor Williams’ presentation was a powerful reminder that whenever we attempt to give special “protections” to employees based on sexual preferences we inevitably set up a workplace environment that discriminates against Christians. Pastor Gaines, in the few minutes he had, informed the crowd that the city already had ample laws to cover all forms of workplace discrimination and new special protections were not needed. He also let those in attendance know that over the last several years the city has not had one complaint from any employee claiming discrimination over sexual orientation or gender expression. The Mayor’s office then gave the administration’s view that an ordinance or resolution that mirrored the county’s recent resolution – which did not mention sexual orientation in any way – would be their recommendation. In light of these developments, Miss Fullilove tabled her resolution until further notice.
While these were clear victories for the family, this debate is not over. An ordinance that Fullilove also sponsored, that would add sexual orientation and gender identity/expression as specially protected classes for city employees, just passed its first reading Tuesday night. It will be read one more time and then be up for a final vote on 9/14/10. We ask that all Memphians continue writing and calling the City Council in opposition. As many as can come to the Council meeting on Sept. 14th as possible, please do so. The meeting is at 3:30 pm. Plan to arrive at least 30 minutes early.
A special “Thanks” goes out to those that attended the committee meeting, especially the pastors that were there. The influence that the pastors had over the proceedings was mentioned several times at that afternoon’s full Council meeting. It should also be noted the strong yet peaceful and respectful way those on our side of this issue are handling themselves. We press on!