What About Dogs and Irishmen?

It’s easy to forget if you’re sipping a latte in Nashville’s Crema or parambulating about the West End and Vanderbilt University (and if you ignore the state legislature and the gun shop and creationism billboards), but Tennessee is a very, very red state. We’ve had a couple of big, painful reminders of that ugly truth this week.

In Grainger County’s Washburn, about three hours or so northeast of Music City, sits Amyx Hardware. Its proprietor, Jeff Amyx, clearly was none too pleased with the US Supreme Court’s June 26 ruling making marriage equality the law of the land. His response was to post a sign on the door of his shop, per a story on MSN.com:

Homosexuals are not welcome at Amyx Hardware in  Washburn, Tn.
Homosexuals are not welcome at Amyx Hardware in Washburn, Tn. (screenshot from WATE-TV, Knoxville)

Amyx apparently had a mental shift that moved him to change, if not the sentiment of the sign, its language.

The 'gays not allowed' sign was replaced with one perhaps softer in tone.
The ‘gays not allowed’ sign was replaced with one offering a message perhaps softer in tone. (screenshot from WATE-TV, Knoxville)


Now, that sounds like the Tennessee I try to avoid.

Either version of the sign is absolutely hateful — but perfectly legal. The Volunteer State is among the 31 that offers no legal protections in housing, accommodations and employment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender citizens, which makes the oft-repeated trope tragically true: One can wed on Sunday and be fired or evicted or refused service on Monday.

The marriage victory, though massive in import, does not mean the fight for equality for all under law is anywhere near over. Of course, many equality advocates are aware of this, as was evident at the June 26 Decision Day celebration held in downtown Nashville (showing the Tennessee of which I want to see more).

Celebrant at June 26 Marriage Equality Decision Day rally in downtown Nashville.
Celebrant at June 26 Marriage Equality Decision Day rally in downtown Nashville. (Photo by ND)

The saddest thing in all this — beyond the hurt feelings of any good-hearted LGBT community member or ally who stops by Amyx’s looking for nothing more than a hammer or nails — is that Jeff Amyx doesn’t appear to understand that no Supreme Court ruling strips away his right to say or believe what he wants. The decision will not force his pastor to conduct weddings for same-gender couples.

After watching the WATE Knoxville news piece, I wonder if he truly fears being silenced at all. As he told the television reporter, he is willing to respect homosexual customers if they respect him (which, I’m guessing, means politely allowing him to tell you what an evil sinner you are as you shop for screwdrivers).

At least Amyx remains employed. In Decatur County, Tn., in the western part of the state, the county clerk and two employees quit their jobs so that they won’t be compelled to give marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Per Nashville’s WSMV:

County Commissioner David Boroughs told the Jackson Sun that county clerk Gwen Pope and employees Sharon Bell and Mickey Butler have resigned.

County Mayor Mike Creasy says the resignations will not be effective until July 14.

Clerks are legally allowed to refuse to perform the marriages, but must issue the licenses.

Part of me feels badly for Jeff Amyx, the soon-to-be-jobless Decatur County workers, and those of their ilk. They are so accustomed to supremacy that, to them, equality feels like oppression. Damned shame.


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