Why Won’t Memphis Mayor AC Wharton Back Janis Fullilove’s Anit-Discrimination Measure? He Promised

Janis Fullilove (pictured), the Memphis councilwoman who endured death threats and a dead cat strewn about her lawn because of her support of a citywide non-discrimination ordinance, has taken the measure off the table after failing to generate support from the City Council or Mayor AC Wharton, who, surprise surprise, said he’d support it while running for office.

Responding to criticism from the Tennessee Equality Project, Mayor Wharton posted to Facebook:

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.

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.

Except, notes the Tennessee politics blog Grand Divisions, “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.”

When Fullilove began receiving threats, she told reporters, “If a city councilwoman — a prominent person in city government — can experience this kind of threat and intimidation, what about the individual employees who work for the city who may be work for sanitation, or police or fire?” Sadly, we’ll continue hearing about those people.

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