In 2008, Shelby County was “ground zero” for many of the most publicized hate crimes perpetrated against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender citizens in Tennessee. Most prominent among these crimes was the transphobic police beating of Duanna Johnson at the Shelby County Justice Center. A video of the incident exposed a violent bias against GLBT minorities in Memphis and Shelby County. Before the beating began, police officers called Duanna a “faggot” and a “he/she.” Shelby County Justice Center staff did nothing to intervene as Duanna endured blow after blow.
The violence suffered by Duanna was abhorrent and served as a “wake up” call for reform in our community. The time for reform is now.
On Wednesday, May 6, the Shelby County Board of Commissioners will begin reviewing a Non-Discrimination Ordinance in its General Government Committee that will prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity/expression in facilities like the Shelby County Justice Center. The ordinance also calls for fair treatment of employees of Shelby County Government, contractors with Shelby County Government, and businesses in unincorporated areas of the county regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.
It’s time to reclaim Memphis and Shelby County as a community that welcomes diversity, values safety and security, and promotes fairness and equality for all. Take a moment to contact the Shelby County Board of Commissioners in support of this legislation.
Call the Shelby County Board of Commissioners at 901-545-4301 and send a message to tell them you support fairness and equality in Shelby County.
To learn more about the Non-Discrimination Ordinance and how you can help advance the cause with the Shelby County Board of Commissioners be sure to attend at least one of the special information and strategy sessions led by the Shelby County Committee of TEP.
Information sessions are scheduled for 2 PM on Sundays for the following dates: May 10, May 31 and June 14. All sessions will be held at the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center at 892 South Cooper Street in Memphis. For more details contact TEP's Shelby County Committee at ShelbyCounty@tnequalityproject.com.