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Chef Kelly English says no to proposed “Turn Away The Gays” bill in Tennessee Legislature

Kelly English, the chef-owner of Restaurant Iris and Second Line in Memphis was already one of my favorite regional chefs and someone I knew to be a great guy.  I’ve had his food a number of times and always loved it.   He’s got Oxford roots, too– went to Ole Miss and had his first job as a line-cook here.

He’s taking a principled stand in Tennessee for human rights in fighting against one of these “turn away the gays” bills that are popping up in state legislatures.

Critically received Memphis chef Kelly English this week offered to host a political fundraiser to unseat Sen. Brian Kelsey after reading that the Republican party member had sponsored Senate Bill 2566, which would allow individuals or religious organizations with “strong religious beliefs” to refuse goods and services that further same-sex unions in Tennessee. It is commonly being referred to as the “Turn Away the Gays” bill.

“I learned about it probably 120 seconds before I posted my reaction on Facebook,” chef English told ABC News in a phone interview on Friday. The proprietor of Restaurant Iris and The Second Line is married and straight, but he considers himself a proponent of human rights.

“It’s crazy to me that people can still think this way in 2014,” said the chef, who feels such bills reflect poorly on the state of Tennessee and foster an impression of intolerance in the South. “Some people have reacted to my announcement saying that I spoke out when I had nothing to gain and a lot to lose, but I disagree. If there is a lack of equality, as a species we all lose.”

h/t Claire Howorth @clairehoworth on Twitter.


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