The head of the Grand Lodge of Illinois Freemasons has publicly opposed actions by grand lodges in Tennessee and Georgia banning gay members.
On March 26, Grand Master Anthony R. Gracco wrote on the Grand Lodge of Illinois' website that the ban upheld in Tennesee two days earlier "is not consistent with Masonic principles. It contradicts the open and inclusive culture that is the foundation of Masonry which unites men of various geographic, religious, ethnic, socio-economic, etc. backgrounds. We purposely bring good men together to collectively improve ourselves, serve our Masonic family and support our communities."
He added, "The influence of individual religious beliefs on the actions of these two Grand Lodges is not appropriate for Masonry and has no place in the governance of its members. It is through the religious tolerance and acceptance taught in Masonry that enables Brothers from various faiths to see past differences to look for what matters most, a Brother's good heart and upright actions."
Gracco nevertheless said that he respected the sovereignty of the Tennessee and Georgia chapters, since membership matters within the Freemasons are usually determined state by state. But that has not stopped Washington, D.C., and California chapters from suspending relations with Tennessee and Georgia, according to the Tennessean.
The Tennessee Freemasons voted to uphold the vote March 24, in a closed meeting in Nashville. Last fall, the Grand Lodge of Tennessee suspended two members, Dennis Clark and Mark Henderson of Somerville, Tennessee, after they'd gotten married. The Georgia ban was implemented in Sept. 2015 and upheld the following month.
Clark told The Tennessean that he has received encouragement from members across the country. "The vast majority are absolutely appalled," said Clark. "The opinion of the fraternity itself should remain as positive as ever."
Gracco's statement is at ilmaason.org . The Tennessean's article is at http://tnne.ws/1MHUnSG.