Grand Divisions

Tennessee Equality Project seeks to advance and protect the civil rights of our State’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons and their families in each Grand Division.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Is Herenton using the Gay community?

Former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton -- who frequently supported the gay community while in office – is now trying to use the gay community to score political points in the race for the 9th Congressional District.

In a March 1 letter to pastors in Shelby County, Herenton wrote, “As pastors, I hope you will join me in my opposition to same-sex marriage and the legalization of marijuana,”

With these words, Herenton casts a dark shadow over his previous record of supporting the GLBT community in Memphis.

On September 25, 2000, Herenton appeared at Calvary Church in Memphis beside Judy Shepard (the mother of slain hate crime victim Matthew Shepard) to proclaim the day “Memphis Against Hate Crimes Day". During his proclamation, Herenton said:
"I'm here tonight because this great city of Memphis ought to stand tall and protest vehemently against hate crimes . . . . This should be a city where people don't have fear because of the color of our skin or the religion we practice or the person we choose to love."
Within the same year, Mayor Herenton participated in the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the grand opening of the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center in the Cooper-Young Neighborhood.

In January 2009, Herenton pledged his support for a Non-Discrimination Ordinance that would protect employees of the City of Memphis and City contractors from employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression to leaders of the Tennessee Equality Project’s Shelby County Committee.

Voters in the 9th Congressional District should hold Herenton to his own words:

This should be a city where people don't have fear because of the color of our skin or the religion we practice or the person we choose to love.

It sounds like fear is all Herenton has to offer the intended audience of his March 1 letter.

-Jonathan Cole