MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - The fight over one of the most controversial issues in Memphis is about to flare up again. City Councilman Lee Harris wants council members to amend a non-discrimination bill to include gender identity and expression for city employees.
Three weeks ago the council approved a plan that prohibits discrimination against employees if they are gay or lesbian. This amendment could put that entire plan in jeopardy.
There are strong feelings on both sides. Religion comes into play. Discrimination comes into play. However it is a fight that some city employees say is critically important, and they're willing to do what it takes.
It took guts for some of these folks to show up. They are willing to put their faces on camera, their names out there for all to see and hear, as they push for an ordinance that prohibits discrimination against city employees, and not just because of sexual orientation. They want more.
"We feel the ordinance is incomplete and unacceptable until all employees can be protected," stated Jonathan Cole with the Tennessee Equality Project. "We really feel gender identity and expression are important to add in particular to protect transgendered employees."
Stop. A lot of you are already uncomfortable. The world has changed, and we're talking about things that were never mentioned in city council meetings or other places. But folks at Friday's rally say take all the sexual questions and concerns out and you're left with a basic issue that's easy to understand.
"This is not a question of whether you endorse homosexuality or not. It's a question over whether you endorse discrimination or not," said Jake Brown with the Shelby County Democratic Party.
Critics say it's not that simple. They talk of how this type of behavior isn't the right thing to do. That it means the city is supporting something wrong and immoral. But some here say people just don't understand what it's like to be different.
Memphis city employee Ellyahnna Brown shared, "I've experienced those things for many, many years firsthand. It's very difficult to deal with. It's dehumanizing. It's isolating. And it's just wrong."
The issue goes back to city council in a week and a half. Councilman Lee Harris is the man behind this plan, and says it is true - some council members might feel this goes too far.
"We'll let the chips fall where they fall," he said.
This is going to be an interesting debate. The plan got just the seven votes needed when approved a few weeks ago. It just squeaked by. There will be pressure put on all sides when the amendment comes up again.