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Tennessee Freemasons Decide: No Gays Allowed

Christopher Blank

Leaders of Tennessee’s Freemasons voted Thursday to uphold a ban on gay men. Meeting in Nashville, the Grand Lodge of Tennessee held firm in the belief that homosexuality is un-Masonic, a view also shared by the Grand Lodge of Georgia.

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Chris Hodapp, author of Freemasons for Dummies, says that the issue has been debated nationally on websites and Facebook pages.

"Most of the remarks I have received have been very disappointed in the results of the vote," says Hodapp.

The Grand Lodges of California, Washington D.C. and the country of Belgium have already suspended relationships with Tennessee, which has officially banned gays for 30 years. The policy was only enforced last June when two Memphis masons got married. Dennis Clark and Mark Henderson, formerly of Park Avenue Lodge, were suspended. Clark said the vote damages the fraternity’s reputation.

"It’s a way of institutionalizing an unhelpful and un-useful form of bigotry," he says.

Sources inside the secretive organization say that one leader who argued against the ban in Nashville was removed from office. Some of the state’s 30,000 Masons have already quit over the stance, which could stigmatize members in the public sphere. Clark says that many Masons who value the traditions and charity work of Freemasonry are looking for ways to disassociate themselves with Tennessee.

"The Grand Lodge of Tennessee has become, in our eyes, an illegitimate institution that no longer embraces the same tenets and precepts and concepts that we embrace as freemasons," Clark says.

The gay ban could still change, but it will be March 2017 before another vote will be taken. 

Reporting from the gates of Graceland to the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, Christopher has covered Memphis news, arts, culture and politics for more than 20 years in print and on the radio. He is currently WKNO's News Director and Senior Producer at the University of Memphis' Institute for Public Service Reporting. Join his conversations about the Memphis arts scene on the WKNO Culture Desk Facebook page.