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.

Monday, October 29, 2012

How Chik-fil-A Day helped Tennessee Equality Project win LGBT-inclusive workplace protections in Memphis

Quite a headline, right? Leaves you scratching your head and reading further to see how contributions to Tennessee Equality Project make a difference right here at home in Tennessee.

Union Ave. Kiss-In at Chik-fil-A
I don't have to retell the story that was Chik-fil-A founder Dan Cathy's funding of anti-gay initiatives. I don't even have to remind you of the details of former Governor Mike Huckabee's “Chik-fil-A Day” in support of the antigay teaching and philosophy now associated with Chik-fil-A. We all remember the hurt we felt when we saw family members, friends, co-workers, colleagues, and associates stand in line or wait at a drive-through to give money to that anti-GLBT organization. In spite of the negativity about Chik-fil-A, the GLBT community met the challenge with grace and gumption, determination and spirit, fun and fabulousness, and humor and gravitas. In Memphis, there was a lovely kiss-in that represented nothing but the love and self respect that is winning the day in this country.

But there is more. I issued a call to our TEP supporters and friends asking them to react positively to the negativity. Simply put, TEP leaders challenged supporters donate the price of a chicken sandwich to TEP to further the work of equality in Tennessee. And, wow, did you ever! More than $1700 in response! So on that day filled with gloom and doom, many of you soothed your hurt with the salve of activism. For that, TEP thanks you all and hopes that you found some measure of peace from having participated in this sweet little moment of giving.

Making new history in Memphis
But wait! There's even more. Sometimes people donate money to a cause and never know if that money is put to good use. So, I wanted to share with you how TEP’s Chik-fil-A fundraising helped change Tennessee. On September 16, 2012, the TEP Shelby County Committee held a kick-off rally at the National Civil Rights Museum to announce our support for an amendment to the pending nondiscrimination ordinance. The amendment would prohibit unfavorable employment decisions based upon sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. The rally occurred in the courtyard of the National Civil Rights Museum, but that privilege was not free. In fact, there was a substantial cost involved in renting the space, and I am proud to announce that cost was underwritten by the Chik-fil-A Day donations to TEP. Your donations to TEP in protest of the Chik-fil-A Day directly contributed to a wonderful rally which energized the community for equality.

Virginia Awkward, Minister Davin Clemmons
and Father Joseph Wallace-Williams at the
Equal Protection for All Rally
By now you know what happened on October 16, 2012. Memphis entered the 21st century by passing a fully inclusive employee nondiscrimination ordinance by a vote of 9 to 4. The ordinance passed despite robocalls from the opposition and despite Family Action Council of Tennessee's heavy presence. The ordinance won bipartisan support because one person rethought his opinion, reformed it, and shared his private deliberation and change of vote. It passed with a combination of seasoned and freshman leadership. It passed because of the support of straight allies and employee organizations across the city working with the visible support of hearing attendees identifying themselves with the cause of equality. But Chik-fil-A helped too. While so many people and so many events came together to make the perfect storm for passage of Memphis' NDO this time, I wanted to tell you that your contributions actually started the ball rolling. Chik-fil-A funds helped pave the way, and Memphis is a stronger, more vibrant, more welcoming city than it has ever been thanks to you and Dan Cathy.

Now what do we do with the challenge that appeared in Sunday’s Memphis Commercial Appeal?   To build on the success of TEP and counter the ill-advised works and words of others, I invite you to become a sustaining donor at http://tnequalityproject.org/donate/ 

- Anne Gullick

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