Asheville group expands push for LGBT equality to Mississippi

Here’s the press release from the Campaign for Southern Equality:

Tupelo, Mississippi (July 17, 2013) – On Thursday morning, two same-sex couples will request – and be denied – marriage licenses in Tupelo, Mississippi as the WE DO Campaign continues to grow across the state. The couples will be joined by friends, family and clergy, who will lead a public prayer service before the couples enter the courthouse. Rev. Joe Hoffman, pastor of the First United Church of Christ in Asheville will be joining the group in Tupelo and helping to lead the prayer service. Other supporters from the Asheville-area will also stand in support of the couples.

In the past week, same-sex couples participating in the WE DO Campaign have applied for licenses in their hometowns of Gulfport, Hattiesburg, Jackson and Poplarville, Mississippi. This statewide public call for full equality by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) residents of Mississippi signals a new front in the national LGBT movement. Twenty-six percent of same-sex couples in the state are raising children, the highest percentage of any state. Yet Mississippi is projected to be the last state to adopt marriage equality, according to the NY Times’ FiveThirtyEight blog.

“I’m applying for a marriage license because as an LGBT person from Mississippi I want to stand up and speak out on behalf of other LGBT couple and individuals that can’t,” says Matthew Sheffield, who will apply in Tupelo with his partner. “I want the LGBT kids growing up all across Mississippi to know they are not alone.”

When Matthew and Trey are denied a marriage license, their application will become a public record in Lee County. Denied applications have been filed in county courthouses in each of the preceding communities as well, creating the first known public record of LGBT couples attempting to marry in Mississippi.

“There is an urgent need for equality in Mississippi. The human consequences of waiting for basic rights and protections – such as the ability to marry the person you love – are just too great. We will keep pushing until all LGBT people are equal under the law. We also remain open to prayerful dialogue with those who oppose our rights,” says Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, Executive Director of the Campaign for Southern Equality (CSE).

At 6 p.m. on Thursday evening CSE will host a free legal clinic about how LGBT people can protect their rights under current laws, led by attorney Diane Walton. Attendees will be able to complete a Mississippi Advanced Health-Care Directive on-site to help ensure that their medical choices are respected should an emergency situation arise. The clinic will take place at the Link Center located at 1800 W. Main Street in Tupelo.

Polling released last week by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) shows that 55 percent of Mississippians oppose marriage equality, showing a shift of 31 percentage points since 2004, when 86 percent of voters approved a constitutional ban against same-sex marriage. “Every day more and more fair-minded Mississippians realize that recognizing the love and commitment of gay and lesbian couples under the law will strengthen families in the Magnolia State,” said Fred Sainz, vice president of communications at HRC.

Since launching in October 2011, the WE DO Campaign has held actions in seven states across the South, with more than 80 same-sex couples taking part. A project of the CSE, the WE DO Campaign calls for equal rights under federal law for LGBT people by highlighting the harms of current state laws across the South that prohibit marriage between same-sex couples.

Based in the South, the Campaign for Southern Equality is a national effort to assert the full humanity and equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in American life and to increase public support for LGBT rights.


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