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.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Mayor AC Wharton wants to be clear about the Memphis Employment Non-Discrimination Ordinance

Over the course of yesterday, the news broke that TEP asked for the employment non-discrimination ordinance and resolution to be withdrawn. TEP's Shelby County Committee based its decision on the shifting position of Mayor AC Wharton and biased treatment of legislation by the Memphis City Council.

Four weeks ago, City Council members asked for a clear statement from Mayor Wharton on the issue. Mayor Wharton issued his most public statement on the proposed legislation yesterday on his Facebook Fan page:

Allow me to be clear: throughout my career in public service, most recently as Shelby County Mayor when this same issue was under discussion by the County Commission, I have stated that I believe governments should focus on merit and merit alone in their hiring and purchasing policies. My vision is for Memphis to be a city of choice for all people. Our city's success will require all individuals, regardless of their differences, to work together toward a shared prosperous future.
The Mayor goes on to say . . . .

Over the past several weeks, I have watched with great interest to see what direction the City Council will take. This discussion originated with them and will conclude with them. I will abide by my duty to support whatever actions they take. My hope is that they proceed in a way that aligns with our values of inclusiveness and non-discrimination.

My beliefs or views on the subject have been clear and consistent throughout my entire life. I will not permit them to be mischaracterized by any group, individual, or elected body who seek a convenient excuse to avoid the issue now that it is at hand.
Mayor Wharton says he wants to be clear. I would never attempt to mischaracterize the Mayor's beliefs or views, but Mayor Wharton's stance has shifted at least three times on the legislation supported by the Tennessee Equality Project and our allies.

At first he supported the LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination legislation during his campaign for Memphis Mayor and in TEP's negotiations with his administration. At the August 10 Personnel Committee meeting of the City Council, Mayor Wharton's representative said he supported the watered-down version of the legislation containing no specific protections for LGBT employees that passed in Shelby County Government. In this latest statement he says that he will support whatever action the Council decides to take.

One thing IS clear. The Mayor does not want to bear any responsibility for lack of leadership on this issue. His shifting position and leadership on the issue will be the talk of many LGBT citizens and their allies in Memphis for many days to come.

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