Tennessee Freemasons voted yesterday to uphold a ban on gay members according to the Tennessean. It is one of two chapters in the nation that refuse to allow gay men to join the fraternal organization.
State chapters of the organization are autonomous; Tennessee has approximately 41,000 members in Tennessee. Chapters in Washington DC and California have severed relations with the Tennessee and Georgia chapters over their ban on gay members.
Last year, the Tennessee chapter suspended two men who married following the Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage. As members started leaving the organization after the men were sanctioned, the group opted to vote on their ban.
“In rejecting the amendment to remove discriminatory language, from my perspective, they have doubled down in bigotry,” Dennis Clark, one of the two men suspended for getting married, told the Tennessean. “If you are a master mason they will suspend you or punish you when you are discovered. That is not the principles of equality and meeting ‘on the level.’ I am deeply cut and concerned from this move from the Grand Lodge.”
Younger members, in particular, are upset by the decision, says Chase Geiser, 25, a member from Nashville.
“I’m not gay myself, but I have friends who are, and I don’t think this is right; and it is something that will prevent younger members from joining the organization that has seen decreasing numbers since World War II,” he said. “The older masons have very conservative Christian values. The younger masons are theistic. We believe in a creator, but we don’t have a problem with homosexual marriage.”
The secretive organization dedicated to “building the moral character of its members and the preservation of personal freedom,” are known for their secrecy and conspiracy theories about the group are common folklore around the nation. Freemasons donate about $2 million daily to charity according to their website.