None of this year's Mid-South Pride Parade grand marshals are old enough to drink, and one isn't even old enough to drive a car. But all three have already made great strides for LGBT equality.
Constance McMillen of Fulton, Mississippi made national headlines when the Itawamba County School District wouldn't allow her to bring her girlfriend to the senior prom nor would they allow her to wear a tuxedo to the event. McMillen contacted the American Civil Liberties Union, and they filed a lawsuit on her behalf. She was recently awarded $30,000 from that suit.
Ceara Sturgis of Wesson, Mississippi wore a tuxedo in her senior pictures, but school officials at Wesson Attendance Center told her she couldn't use the photo for the yearbook. When the yearbook was released in April 2010, Sturgis' photo was not included, nor was her name listed anywhere in the book. The ACLU has filed a lawsuit on her behalf.
Will Phillips of West Fork, Arkansas was only 10 years old last fall when he made headlines for refusing to stand up for the Pledge of Allegiance. He reasoned that because LGBT people don't have equal rights under the law, he shouldn't recite a pledge that contains the phrase "with liberty and justice for all."
The featured speaker/guest of honor at the Pride festival will be Robin McGehee of Jackson, Mississippi, co-founder and director of Get Equal. McGehee helped organize Meet in the Middle for Equality in Fresno, California, a statewide reaction to the passage of Prop 8. She then was asked to co-direct the largely successful National Equality March in October 2009 in Washington, DC.
This year's Pride parade and festival will be held on Saturday Oct. 16th. The festival will begin at noon at Peabody Park in the Cooper-Young Historic District. Parade line-up begins at 3 p.m. in the First Congregational Church lot and kicks off at 4 p.m. For more information, go here.
Former Memphis Police officer Bridges McRae pled guilty to a civil rights violation today in federal court. McRae was charged with using excessive force against transgender Shelby County Jail inmate Duanna Johnson in February 2008.
McRae faced a maximum of ten years in prison for the civil rights offense, but his plea deal means he'll only be incarcerated for 24 months. McRae also pled guilty to one count of tax evasion.
At his plea hearing, McRae admitted using unreasonable force against Johnson, causing bodily harm in the form of cuts, bruises, and pain. Surveillance video from the jail shows McRae beating Johnson over the head. Johnson, who was murdered later that year in a seemingly-unrelated incident, told media that McRae called her "he/she" and "faggot."
McRae was tried in April, but a mistrial was declared when the jury of five men and seven women were unable to reach a verdict.
Here's a statement from Mayor A C Wharton that was mailed to the media last night and posted on the mayor's Facebook page:
“Given the events that transpired today in the Personnel, Intergovernmental & Annexation Committee of the Memphis City Council, it is necessary to clarify my position on the issue of the non-discrimination ordinance.
“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 made it clear 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, which means that our long-term economic strength will require all individuals, regardless of their personal creeds or viewpoints, to work together toward a shared vision of prosperity.
“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 for not confronting the issue now that it is at hand.”
Both the proposed ordinance protecting LGBT city workers and the proposed resolution protecting LGBT employees of companies who contract with the city have been withdrawn from the city council agenda today, upon the request of the Tennessee Equality Project (TEP).
TEP Shelby County Committee vice-chair Michelle Bliss asked ordinance sponsor councilperson Janis Fullilove and other members of the council's personnel committee to remove the resolution this morning. TEP will also ask to remove the ordinance tonight at the full council meeting. The ordinance was scheduled for its second reading today.
Bliss told council members that TEP fears it will not get a fair hearing on the ordinance or resolution based on the way some council members treated the non-discrimination ordiance on its first reading at the last council meeting on August 10th. At that meeting, councilperson Barbara Swearengen Ware asked to pull the ordinance from the consent agenda to be discussed separately. Also at that meeting, councilperson Bill Morrison attempted to introduce a substitute ordinance that removed the words "sexual orientation," "gender identity," and "gender expression."
TEP Shelby County Committee chair Jonathan Cole said the organization will attempt to propose the ordinance again at a later date.
For more on this story, read my full report in the print edition of the Memphis Flyer on Wednesday.
On Tuesday (Aug. 24th), the Memphis City Council's personnel committee will discuss the tabled non-discrimination resolution, which protects employees working for companies that contract with the city. That discussion begins at 8 a.m. in the council meeting room on the fifth floor of City Hall.
Later that day, the full council will give the second reading of the ordinance that protects LGBT city workers from discrimination. That meeting begins at 3:30 p.m. in the council chambers on the bottom floor of City Hall. The ordinance must pass a third reading after Tuesday's second reading before becoming city policy.
Anyone who needs to brush up on talking points to prepare for the Sept. 14th third reading should plan to attend the monthly meeting of the Tennessee Equality Project tonight at the Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center (892 S. Cooper). The meeting will double as an advocacy workshop for the non-discrimination ordinance. It begins at 6 p.m.
Need to brush up on the current status of the city employment non-discrimination ordinance? Tune in to "Fullilove N Memphis," city councilperson Janis Fullilove's internet radio show, at 3 p.m. to hear representatives from the Tennessee Equality Project give the 411.
Click here to listen.
Dine at the East Memphis Chili's tonight and make a donation to the annual Outflix Film Festival (to be held in September) at the same time.
A representative from Outflix will be waiting as guests arrive. Let him or her know that you're there for the Outflix Night and you'll receive a coupon that ensures 10 percent of your meal cost will be donated to Outflix.
Chili's is located at 4609 Poplar Avenue at Perkins Ext. The event runs from 5 to 10 p.m.
We all need a good cry sometimes, and 1989's Steel Magnolias never fails to prove the tearducts are still in working order. We all know Shelby's going to die, but it's so freakin' sad every damn time.
Experience catharsis tonight at the last Outflix Summer Film Series screening at Malco Studio on the Square. Steel Magnolias screens at 7 p.m. The $10 entry fee benefits the Outflix Film Festival to be held in September. Stick around after the show for sneak peek clips from the top eight films to screen at Outflix.
Thinking about going to Atlanta Pride this year? The annual ATL Pride celebration will be held October 9th and 10th at Piedmont Park, so there's no conflict with Memphis Pride's date of October 16th.
Harrah's Tunica is offering special airfare rates of $59 one way or $118 round trip for people flying from Tunica to Atlanta Pride. They're also offering the same special rates for anyone flying from Atlanta to Memphis Pride later in the month.
The offer is valid from October 7th through the 18th. To reserve your flight, call 1-877-336-1641 and mention the code "Pride."
I don't know about you guys, but this whole non-discrimination issue has had me a little confused. The Memphis City Council is dealing with both an ordinance and a separate resolution pertaining to protection of LGBT workers. The resolution has been postponed, and the ordinance passed its first reading at the council on Tuesday. Confused?
It's quite different than the way the Shelby County Commission dealt with the issue last year, which was originally through one ordinance that dealt with both county workers and workers employed with companies who contracted with the county. It was later passed as a watered-down resolution that made no mention of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. The city, however, has split the issue into an ordinance that protects city employees and a resolution that protects workers at companies who contract with the city.
Let me break it down:
* The city's non-discrimination ordinance protects only city workers based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. Gender expression, by the way, is simply defined as the physical manifestation of one's gender identity. In other words, it could also apply to a straight person who might have characteristics of the opposite sex, like a woman with a short haircut. The ordinance passed on its first reading at the council on Tuesday. It must pass two more readings (Aug. 24th and Sept. 14th) before it becomes city policy.
* The city's non-discrimination resolution offers protection for workers at companies who contract with the city. The resolution was tabled on Tuesday in a city council committee after council person Shea Flinn raised philosophical concerns about governing outside vendors and contractors. It may be discussed again in the Aug. 24th personnel committee meeting.
Though the Memphis City Council's resolution supporting a non-discrimination policy for city workers (and workers who contract with the city) was placed on hold in a council committee Wednesday, the proposed non-discrimination ordinance passed in its first reading on the council's consent agenda last night.
Confused? So are we. Take a break and catch tonight's (Wednesday, Aug. 11th) Outflix Summer Movie Series screening of Lady Sings the Blues, the 1972 film about the troubled life and career of jazz legend Billie Holliday (played by Diana Ross).
Funds raised from the $10 cover charge will go toward the big Outflix Film Festival to be held in September. Tonight's show begins at 7 p.m. at Malco Studio on the Square.
This afternoon (Tuesday, Aug. 10th) marks the first reading at Memphis City Council of the non-discrimination ordinance protecting city workers (and workers who contract with the city) on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.
However, this morning a resolution (not the actual ordinance) was placed on hold in the personnel committee after council person Shea Flinn expressed concerns about requiring businesses who contract with the city to honor the ordinance. Council person and ordinance sponsor Janis Fullilove offered an exemption for churches contracting with the city or using city facilities. The resolution may be tabled for two more weeks, but the ordinance remains on today's consent agenda.
On July 30th, the Huffington Post reported that Fullilove had received death threats from her support of the non-discrimination ordinance.
Hey guys! I'm hoping to put together a story for a future print edition of the Flyer on the proposed non-discrimination ordinance protecting LGBT city workers.
But I'd really like to put a human face on the issue. It's hard for some people to grasp why the ordinance matters without seeing how discrimination affects real people. If anyone knows of a LGBT former city employee (or even a current city employee willing to go on record) that I could interview about any discrimination she or he has faced at work, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stop by Grace Restaurant tonight (Tuesday, Aug. 3rd) from 5 to 7 p.m. to show your support for the proposed non-discrimination ordinance protecting LGBT city employees.
Tennessee Equality Project members will be on hand with laptops so ordinance backers can easily send a message to Mayor A C Wharton and city council members, urging their support.
While you're there, grab a drink. A percentage of drink sale proceeds benefit the Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center's Outflix Film Festival, which will be held September 10th-16th.
See the event's Facebook page for more information. Grace is located at 938 S. Cooper.