Statement Regarding Mayor Jim Strickland’s Cancellation of September 24’s Town Hall for LGBTQ+ Issues

Molly Rose Quinn
Executive Director, OUTMemphis

“With so few opportunities for our community to directly collaborate with public officials, I am saddened and frustrated that Mayor Strickland and his reelection campaign have cancelled his appearance in our LGBTQ+ Town Hall series which was open to each and every mayoral candidate.

In my communication with representatives from Mayor Strickland’s team, OUTMemphis was accused of changing the format of the event unfairly. The schedule and discussion format was never changed (and matched that of each of our four forums). We did change the location last week to First Congregational Church due to higher-than anticipated attendance (since our community center holds roughly 30 people). In response to Mayor Strickland’s communication today, we quickly offered to move the location back. This offer was also declined.

To quote the cancellation letter: “It appears that your support for another candidate has resulted in the political decision to have an event format different from all other candidates.”

As a young, queer, woman leader here in Memphis — tasked with shepherding deeply needed services to some of the city’s most marginalized residents — I am shocked and disappointed in this attack on my professionalism and the professionalism of OUTMemphis. 

Last week, I had the duty to communicate to the public my response — and OUTMemphis’s response — to the revelation of tweets posted by candidate Tami Sawyer. I would like to draw the public’s attention to this portion of that letter:

“Individuals and institutions much smarter than I am do the hard work of advocacy: the endorsement of candidates and the pursuit of justice through lobbying and through holding elected officials accountable…. This advocacy is not — at present — the scope of services of OUTMemphis. While it is imperative that OUTMemphis works to hold our leaders accountable, it is also not useful or generative for the Community Center to tell you how to think or act or vote.”

Regardless of any perceived bias, Mayor Strickland’s cancellation of this appearance can only be interpreted as blatant disrespect and disregard to our community. It is especially disheartening due to the fact that Mayor Strickland has made no other explicit gestures towards LGBTQ+ issues during the duration of this mayoral campaign.

It is my sincere hope that the next Mayor of Memphis — and the current one — takes serving LGBTQ+ Memphians as seriously — both professionally and personally — as I do.”

 

Ginger Leonard
Board Chair and President, Tennessee Equality Project

“Tennessee Equality Project has always enjoyed a good working relationship with Mayor Strickland and we recognize his inclusion and acceptance of the LGBT community.  We hope to continue that relationship in the future.

Regardless, or perhaps because of that relationship, the Tennessee Equality Project is disheartened by the Mayor’s choice to cancel his appearance at the OUTMemphis/TEP town hall meeting tonight.  We believe that the LGBT community wanted to hear from Mayor Strickland so that we could learn about his platform as it relates to our community. The LGBT community is hungry for healing, especially following recent, painful, news events that came to light during this election. Moreover, the community needs the transparency and accountability that this forum was designed to elicit from all of the candidates. Mayor Strickland’s decision has denied the LGBT community that opportunity.”

 

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