Gay rights supporters aim to build Miss. momentum

Speaking at a news conference at the state Capitol, in Jackson, Miss., Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin says he is confident that full legal equality, including gay marriage, will eventually come to the state, Friday, July 12, 2013. (AP)

Speaking at a news conference at the state Capitol, in Jackson, Miss., Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin says he is confident that full legal equality, including gay marriage, will eventually come to the state, Friday, July 12, 2013. (AP)

JEFF AMY,Associated Press

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Supporters of gay rights say they hope to use recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings to build momentum for full legal protections for gay and lesbian people everywhere, including in Mississippi.

Speaking at a Friday news conference at the state Capitol, Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin says he is confident that full legal equality, including gay marriage, will eventually come to Mississippi. Citing his Arkansas upbringing, he said the South shouldn’t be seen as particularly resistant.

“It’s precisely because of those values that there’s no reason the South shouldn’t be a leader in the struggle for equality and dignity for all people,” Griffin said. “Full equality will very soon reach every single person in every corner of this vast country. Yes, right here in the state of Mississippi, too.”

Mississippi’s political establishment and some of its churches have been opposed to allowing gay couples to marry or adopt children. In 2004, 86 percent of Mississippians voted for a state constitutional amendment that prohibited same-sex marriage from being recognized.

A few Mississippi political leaders have changed their mind about the issue. Among the featured guests at a Thursday night reception for Griffin was former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, who in March publicly announced that he was in favor of gay marriage. The Democrat told The Associated Press then that he now regrets signing a state law in 2000 that bans same-sex couples from adopting children. Mississippi enacted a law banning gay marriage in 1997, when Musgrove was lieutenant governor and was presiding over the state Senate.

But current Republican Gov. Phil Bryant hasn’t wavered. “Mississippians have already voted to constitutionally define marriage as one man and one woman, and Gov. Bryant supports that decision,” spokesman Mick Bullock said Friday.

Griffin agrees that those who want change may have more work to do in Mississippi than elsewhere, but he said it’s important for supporters to encourage public debate. Some activists are appearing at courthouses to apply for marriage licenses, knowing they will be rejected. This week, couples have applied in Pearl River, Harrison and Forrest counties, under the auspices of the Campaign for Southern Equality, a separate group from Griffin’s.

Some groups, such as the Tupelo-based American Family Association, oppose Griffin’s goals. Ed Vitigliano is director of special projects for AFA, a conservative Christian group. He said in a phone interview Friday that he detects little movement in Mississippi on gay rights issues.

“I think Mississippi and much of the South — and other areas dominated by religious conservatives — they will certainly be slower to change,” Vitigliano said.

He said AFA wants changes on marriage and other laws to be put to the people in Mississippi.

“What we are enthusiastic about is the democratic process,” Vitigliano said. “And when gay activist groups want to try to convince the citizens of Mississippi to vote in favor of gay marriage, we want them to have the freedom to do that.”

AFA is also likely to oppose some of the Human Rights Campaign’s incremental goals, such as a law barring employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.

“We believe that is a law that is intended to cure a problem that does not exist,” Vitigliano said.

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Follow Jeff Amy at http://twitter.com/jeffamy

  • DoubleTalk

    Griffin raised in Arkansas ? Ok I know his background. I hear banjos playing in the background.

  • FrereJocques

    It is inevitable that total civil rights for gay people will come to MS, unless the State wants to become a backwater, especially in the business community. The large majority of high-tech companies have already realized that many of their employees support gay rights, and they are not going to set up shop in any State that denies their employees’ freedom to live the way they desire. It is not the States’ place to dictate to their people who they can love, who they can sleep with, who they can associate with and where, and who they marry. Guv’nor Bryant and his Repugnicant kin are 16th century anachronisms in a modern world.

    This issue will become an embarrassment to the State, and sooner rather than later. You can quote the 86% who voted for the State Constitutional Amendment in the past, that was the past and if the vote were taken today, it would be doubtful if it would pass.

    As to the AFA, all this group is doing is holding the State back from realizing its freedom and its potential. Ayatollah Wildmon needs to quit speaking out of both sides of his mouth, talking about freedom of religion from one side and State laws about who people can marry from the other.

    • Tammy Rainey

      oh, I think it would still pass – we haven’t come THAT far yet…but it would be more like 60-65% for the ban rather than 86%…give it another decade of speaking up and making solid arguments. time is on our side

  • 1941641

    Great post Frere. I can see a day coming in the very near future when there will be no more “Dark Side” of Tupelo, MS. It will be “Tupelo, MS An All American City.” The AFA will be just a sad memory for those of us that were raised up in the Birthplace of Elvis Presley, the First TVA City, the home of the Harrisburg Civil War Battle, the Home Of Pvt. John Allen, Journals George Mc Clain and more…

    Griffin said. “Full equality will very soon reach every single person in every corner of this vast country. Yes, right here in the state of Mississippi, too.” And, I believe he is right. Gay Rights Are Human Rights, Human Rights Are Gay Rights. God believes it too, He created all men in His own image. That’s all one needs to know.

    “The Problem of Homophobia In Leviticus And How Genesis Solves It” by Rabbi Michael Rothbaum explains the biblical verse Fundies like to quote in their anti-gay rants. Google the title or search HP

    to read this article.

  • Tammy Rainey

    A thought for the opposing voters: in this country, by the blessing of god in the view of most, we are free from the tyranny found elsewhere in the world and through so much of human history whereby the majority may impose upon the conscience of the minority a religious doctrine that the minority dissents from. Our founders wisely spoke and acted most forcefully on this particular point.

    Whether or not you believe as a matter of religious conviction that homosexuality is sin, you live in a country in which it is not consistant with liberty to impose that RELIGIOUS DOCTRINE upon those with a different view by force of law. it is not necessary for you to believe a same sex marriage is permissible by god for you to recognize that in a free country, it takes more than “god said” to justify limiting the liberty of other free men.