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, September 19, 2012

You CAN be Republican and pro-equality in Memphis

Reid Hedgepeth
Yesterday's hearing on amending the Memphis Employment Non-Discrimination Ordinance brought lots of surprises. While TEP was excited that a pro-equality amendment passed, TEP was disturbed by the unacceptable omission of gender identity from the proposed amendment and that the sudden announcement that the addition of sexual orientation as a non-merit factor amendment somehow conflicts with the City of Memphis charter. 

But not all the surprises were disappointing. For the first time on the Memphis City Council, a Republican voted pro-equality: Reid Hedgepeth of Superdistrict 9, Position 3. Hedgepeth voted to add sexual orientation to the proposed ordinance yesterday after voting against previous non-discrimination ordinances presented to the Memphis City Council. So his change in position is significant. 

Councilman Hedgepeth is receiving lots of criticism for his vote from anti-gay opponents of the amended ordinance. Hedgepeth responded with this letter to critics:
I supported the ordinance to prevent discrimination against city employees based upon their sexual identity or preference [sic] for one primary reason: it’s the right thing to do.  This is a group that is not a federally protected class, and yet they are only asking for the same protection that everyone else is afforded under the law.  The right to not be discriminated against in the workplace seems like a perfectly reasonable request to me, especially considering the fact that it wasn’t all that long ago that African-Americans in this city were fighting for the same protections.  And decades before that it was women. My conscience told me that this was the right way to vote, despite what a few Old Testament passages might say about homosexuality.  The Old Testament says a lot of other things too, as we all heard in Council today.  I prefer to take my values from the New Testament as well as leaders I admire.  Men like Fred Smith, for example.  I have long held the view that government in many ways should be run more like a business.  And if businesses like FedEx are progressive enough in their views to have anti-discrimination policies which prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation (as well as gender, race, religion, etc.), then I think the government should follow suit and at least provide those same protections. In my view the City of Memphis has more pressing matters to focus on, such as our current budget woes and economic development, and we need to stop fighting about whether we should be allowed to openly and legally discriminate against some of our employees.  It is petty and counter-productive. Reid Hedgepeth
Hedgepeth explains in his response that he is pro-equality and pro-business. He essentially argues that he is pro-equality because he IS a Republican. At a time when the Republican Party wrote discrimination against LGBT people in their national platform and Republican elected officials at the national, state and local level regularly target LGBT people in their rhetoric and legislation, it's refreshing to hear a fresh perspective.

Equality is not a partisan issue. It's an American value we should all share. Thanks Councilman Hedgepeth! 

Let's all take this opportunity to say thanks to Councilman Hedgepeth. Send him a message of support for his pro-equality vote at

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