MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC-TV) - Although he marched for civil rights in the 1960's, Rev. William Owens of Memphis says he's opposed to a proposed ordinance that would prohibit Shelby County employees from being discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.
"We don't want San Francisco, Shelby County," he said.
Owens says he's against giving gays equal employment rights.
"I don't see where these people are being discriminated against. If so, it's very isolated," he said.
Owens and several other ministers plan to hold a news conference Tuesday outside the Shelby County Administration Building in Downtown Memphis.
Although he marched for civil rights, Owens said,"I did not march one inch, one foot, one yard for this type of legislation."
Shelby County Commissioner Steve Mulroy says he expected the opposition. Mulroy is behind the potentially groundbreaking measure that would not only protect gay employees of the county, but also those who work for county contractors.
"If you're against my ordinance, then what you're saying is you believe people ought to be able to discriminate in employment on the basis of sexual orientation," said Mulroy."If you think that, you're entitled to your opinion. But I think it's profoundly misguided, and I think the tide of history is against you."
Mulroy says his intent is for the county to protect the employment of gays in the same way African Americans, Hispanics and women are protected from discrimination.
"They want to be treated under the law like everybody else. And who can blame them?" said Mulroy.
Opponents say commissioners will be to blame if the measure passes, and they say they'll voice their displeasure loudly come election time.
"We're gonna do everything in our power to see they don't have a seat on that commission the next time," said Owens.
Mulroy says he hopes his colleagues on the Shelby County Commission don't bow to the pressure.