"Scream it loud enough that they can hear you at Bellevue Baptist Church!" yells Shelby County Commissioner Steve Mulroy, the sponsor of a non-discrimination ordinance that would protect gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender workers in Shelby County government.
The crowd at Sunday's Unity Rally is gathered in support of Mulroy's ordinance, which will go before the Shelby County Commission for a vote on Monday afternoon. Currently, there are no local, state, or federal laws to prohibit an employer from not hiring or firing someone based on his or her sexual orientation or gender identity.
Supporters wave signs reading "Work for Equality" and "End Workplace Discrimination." Joining Mulroy on First Congo's steps are ordinance supporters State Senator Beverly Marrero and former Shelby County Commissioner Walter Bailey.
"The intent of this ordinance is solely to level the playing field," Bailey tells the enthusiastic crowd. "Employees shouldn't be judged on their sexual orientation, but their job performance. That's what counts."
About 20 opponents of the non-discrimination ordinance, most of them Baptist pastors, gathered last Tuesday for a press conference outside the Shelby County Building. That opposition rally paled in comparison to the hundreds of rainbow flag-waving, sign-bearing participants of Sunday's support rally.
"We make last Tuesday's press conference look like nothing, don't we?" Mulroy says, igniting cheers from the crowd.
The ordinance failed in county commission last Wednesday, after several commissioners cited religious reasons for not supporting workplace protections for gays. However, the full commission will vote on the ordinance Monday afternoon. The meeting begins at 1:30 p.m.