Judge: Mississippi can’t enforce anti-LGBT law as court battle continues


Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant

A federal judge in Mississippi on Monday, Aug. 1, refused state officials’ request to be allowed to enforce Mississippi’s anti-LGBT HB 1523 as the state appeals his ruling against the constitutionality of the measure, according to BuzzFeed reports.

HB 1523, signed into law in April by Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, provided protections for individuals, religious organizations and certain businesses who take actions due to their “sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions” regarding same-sex marriage — or any sex outside straight marriage. It also provided similar protections for those who object to transgender people.

U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves in June issued a permanent injunction barring Mississippi from denying same-sex marriage licenses, meaning no circuit clerk or staff member clerk can deny a gay couple a marriage license even if House Bill 1523 is in effect.

On Monday, Reeves refused to put his ruling on hold while the state appeals the ruling to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. He wrote, “[I]ssuing a marriage license to a gay couple is not like being forced into armed combat or to assist with an abortion. Matters of life and death are sui generis. If movants truly believe that providing services to LGBT citizens forces them to ‘tinker with the machinery of death,’ their animus exceeds anything seen in Romer, Windsor, or the marriage equality cases.

“The motions are denied,” Reeves added. “The baton is now passed.”

Meanwhile in North Carolina

Also on Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas D. Schroeder in Winston-Salem, N.C., heard arguments on whether to suspend that state’s highly controversial HB2 — which prevents transgender people from using the appropriate public restrooms and which prohibits local governments from enacting LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination laws, among other things.

Schroeder, who is expected to rule soon, seemed a bit skeptical, pressing the state “to show how the law made anyone safer and whether it was necessary.”

In related new, the Raleigh-based News & Observer is reporting that North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory has allowed the state’s disaster relief fund to instead be used to pay outside legal counsel defending him and other state officials against the many lawsuits that have been filed challenging HB2.

—  Tammye Nash

Trans woman murdered in Mississippi


Dee Whigham

A Navy seaman in training has been arrested and charged with robbing and murdering Dee Whigham, 25, a transgender woman from Shubuta, Miss., who was found dead in a motel room in Ocean Springs, Miss., near Biloxi on July 23.

According to a count kept by The Advocate, Whigham is the 16th trans person to be murdered in the U.S. this year.

Whigham was found stabbed, according to the South Mississippi SunHerald based in Gulfport. She was staying at the Best Western Plus Cypress Creek hotel off Interstate 10 in Biloxi with several people after traveling to Biloxi to attend the Gulf Coast Black Rodeo at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum.

Dwanya Hickerson, 20, of New Orleans, was arrested Monday morning, July 25, and charged with capital murder in Whigham’s death, according to the SunHerald. Jackson County Sheriff’s Capt. Chris Stratton said Hickerson was shown on surveillance video leaving the hotel , and investigators obtained a warrant to search the Hickerson’s residence at Keesler, where he had been in training since April.

Sheriff Mike Ezell has said his department is investigating and “If this turns out to be a hate crime, we will pursue this to the fullest in court.”

A GoFundMe page was set up to help the family pay for funeral expenses. The photo of Whigham with this post was taken from that page.

—  David Taffet

Judge blocks Mississippi’s ‘religious freedom’ law

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves issued a ruling blocking Mississippi’s so-called “religious freedom law,” just minutes before it was set to go into effect, according to reports by Mississippi Today.


Judge Carlton Reeves

In an article by Larrison Campbell, the digital news source says:

“In a blistering opinion that reached into Mississippi’s segregationist past, U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves said House Bill 1523, signed by Gov. Phil Bryant in April, was another unfortunate example of Mississippi trying to write discrimination into its laws.

“‘Religious freedom was one of the building blocks of this great nation, and after the nation was torn apart, the guarantee of equal protection under law was used to stitch it back together. But HB 1523 does not honor that tradition of religion freedom, nor does it respect the equal dignity of all of Mississippi’s citizens,’ Reeves wrote in his opinion.”

Gov. Bryant said HB 1523 “simply provides religious accommodations granted by many other states and federal law,” and that he is “disappointed Judge Reeves did not recognize that reality.” He also said he looks forward to “an aggressive appeal” of the ruling.

But Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood had a different take. He told Mississippi Today that the “churchgoing public was duped into believing that HB1523 protected religious freedoms,” adding, “Our state leaders attempted to mislead pastors into believing that if this bill were not passed, they would have to preside over gay wedding ceremonies.  No court case has ever said a pastor did not have discretion to refuse to marry any couple for any reason.  I hate to see politicians continue to prey on people who pray, go to church, follow the law and help their fellow man.”

Mississippi Today explains that “House Bill 1523 singles out three ‘sincerely held’ religious beliefs as worthy of protection: that marriage is between one man and one woman; that people should not have sex outside such marriages; and that a person’s gender is set at birth. The law protects from litigation anyone who speaks out against gay marriage or transgender individuals because of these beliefs.”

Earlier this week, Judge Reeves struck down a portion of the law that allowed the state’s county clerks to refuse to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples based on the clerks’ “sincerely-held” religious beliefs.

—  Tammye Nash

Today is Day of Silence

Day of SilenceDay of Silence is a student-led national event that brings attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools promoted by GLSEN — the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network.

According to GLSEN, students at the University of Virginia organized the first Day of Silence in 1996 in response to a class assignment on non-violent protests with over 150 students participating. In 1997, organizers took their effort national and nearly 100 colleges and universities participated. In 2001, GLSEN became the official organizational sponsor for the event.

Probably the biggest question each year is: Do I have a right to participate in my school? Here’s GLSEN’s answer:

You DO have a right to participate in Day of Silence and other expressions of your opinion at a public school during non-instructional time: the breaks between classes, before and after the school day, lunchtime, and any other free times during your day. You do NOT have a right to remain silent during class time if a teacher asks you to speak. We recommend that you talk to your teachers ahead of time, tell them what you plan to do, and ask them if it would be okay for you to communicate on that day in writing.

Should be interesting to see how Day of Silence goes this year, especially in states like North Carolina and Mississippi that just passed laws designed to bully and harass the LGBT community.

—  David Taffet

Today’s episode of Bigots Making Laws:

Let’s take a look at the latest news on discriminatory laws being passed by bigots in government:

In North Carolina — where the bigots got the ball rolling by enacting HB 2, which rolls back non-discrimination laws passed on the local level and prohibits passage of such local laws in the future AND which prohibits trans people from using appropriate public restrooms — they are watching more money go down the drain.


N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory

Gov. Pat McCrory backpedaled a little yesterday by issuing an executive order that seemingly mitigates a least a bit the discriminatory effects of HB 2. But equality advocates have claimed BS on the executive order, and businesses continue to turn their back on North Carolina and its hatefulness.

Despite McCrory’s executive order, Netflix and Viacom and several other media companies are saying it’s way too little, way too late.

Netflix, Viacom, Univision, CAA, SAG-AFTRA, CAA, the Art Directors Guild and the National Association of Latino Independent Producers have all signed on to an open letter issued by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), according to The Hollywood Reporter, intending to “demonstrate that the kind of discrimination being proposed — and in some cases enacted — is simply unacceptable.”

The letter goes on to note that more than 100 other bills “targeting LGBT people have been introduced in states and cities across the country,” and urges other businesses, organizations and individuals to “stand with us and reject any and all efforts to legalize discrimination. Send a strong and clear message to the rest of the world that America — and your communities — remain places where all people are respected.”

Mississippi is also feeling the heat after a discriminatory “religious freedom” bill was enacted there recently. For instance, the 37th Annual Mississippi Picnic in Central Park — created as a promotional and networking event for Mississippians living in NYC — has been canceled, according to the Jackson Free Press. New York organizers made the decision to cancel saying that the Mississippi law is “not in accordance with New York values” and that one of Mississippi’s most famous sons — Tennessee Williams — could have been denied services under the law because he was gay.

(And Tennessee Williams isn’t the only famous Mississippian to be openly gay. As David Taffet noted, the state’s tourism guide features renowned journalist — and lesbian — Robin Roberts.)

Sonya Williams-Barnes

Mississippi state Rep. Sonya Williams-Barnes

At least one of Mississippi’s lawmakers has a clue. State Rep. Sonya Williams-Barnes, a Democrat from Gulfport and chair of the state’s legislative black caucus, warned today (Wednesday, April 13), that “It’s time to wise up and roll back discriminatory legislation before hundreds of Mississippians lose their livelihoods. … We can’t afford this. It’s clear that we’re already losing jobs and business because of this misguided bill, and it’s only going to get worse.”

Referring to singer Bryan Adams who has cancelled a concert in Mississippi because of HB 1523, Williams-Barnes continued, “Perhaps it’s prophetic that Bryan Adams has a well-known song called ‘Cuts Like a Knife.’ This narrow-minded legislation is going to cut like a knife through our communities, pushing us backwards to the days when Mississippi was a national symbol of intolerance and bigotry. We will experience cuts in employment and suffer other economic consequences due to the way our state is being perceived by the business world.

“In a few short days we’ve set the clock back 50 years and made Mississippi the national symbol of discrimination under law. … This is an ugly piece of legislation that is terribly unfair to our LGBT citizens, who are taxpayers and citizens of this state and deserve the same rights as everyone else. And once you make it illegal to discriminate against one group of citizens, where does it stop? It wasn’t so long ago that many people claimed ‘sincere’ religious or moral reasons for refusing service to people of color. Are we going back to those days, when people like me had to go to the back of the bus? Is refusing service in a bakery that makes wedding cakes all that different from refusing to serve someone on a lunch counter?”

Even family members of some of the Republicans who helped pass the hateful bill are speaking out against it. The Clarion Ledger reports that John Fillingane, gay brother of Mississippi Sen. Joey Fillingane, said he is “so saddened by the bill the legislators passed in Mississippi. I have cried several times today due to the fact that my brother Joey Fillingane agreed with the ignorant governor. … I wished that they could see that discrimination is the same thing as hate.”

And Kate Cochran, daughter of Sen. Thad Cochran, issued a statement calling the law “acutely embarrassing,” and adding,”There is simply no need to continue defending the religious rights of people who already enjoy full rights under the law.”

Anthony Watson

Anthony Watson, CEO of Uphold

Then we move on to South Carolina, where just the possibility of legislation barring transgender people from using appropriate bathroom facilities has sent at least one company heading for the hills. Anthony Watson, openly gay CEO of British financial services company Uphold, is now headed to the West Coast to set up shop stateside instead of in South Carolina.

Watson wrote on Uphold’s website, “I have watched in shock and dismay as legislation has been abruptly proposed or enacted in several states across the union seeking to invalidate the basic protections and rights of LGBT U.S. citizens. As such, we feel compelled to take action to oppose the discrimination being proposed in South Carolina and protect our LGBT employees.”

Gov. Nikki Hayley has said she doesn’t believe the state needs such legislation. The bill was scheduled for its first hearing today (Wednesday, April 13.)


—  Tammye Nash

Missouri discrimination bill stalled in committee


Missouri Capitol

A bill that would allow businesses to discriminate against LGBT people in Missouri has stalled in committee, according to the Kansas City Star.

The bill would put a constitutional amendment on the ballot that voters would decide in November.

While the story doesn’t refer to whats’s going on in North Carolina or Mississippi as a result of anti-LGBT discrimination bills passed in those states, boycotts by businesses and entertainers have taken their toll and are making lawmakers in other states wary of going down the same path.

Businesses around the state formed a group called Missouri Competes to denounce discriminatory legislation. In Texas, a group called Texas Competes formed more than a year ago but so far has fewer than 1,000 businesses signed on. Equality Texas President Steve Rudner said earlier this week the goal for Texas Competes is 2,000 businesses before the Texas legislature meets next year.

Missouri Competes kicked off with 100 companies including Google Fiber, Pfizer, MasterCard and Monsanto signing an anti-discrimination pledge.

Amendments to the bill would limit protections to churches and clergy, who are already protected under federal law, and remove religious protections for private companies.

—  David Taffet

Hate gays? Then put a lesbian on the cover of your tourism guide

Robin RobertsMississippi’s new tourism guide is out.

Come visit Mississippi, the state that signed into law a bill to prevent trans people from peeing and to allow religious people to not do business with you.

Hate gays that much? So who do you put on the cover? Your most famous local lesbian.

Lucky for her, she got out.

Oh, and how did the Family Research Council react to Paypal withdrawing its plan to expand in North Carolina and add 300 jobs to Charlotte’s economy. They encouraged people to boycott Paypal. Hopefully their followers did just that. No surprise, but to make a donation on FRC’s website, you did it through Paypal.

—  David Taffet

Onward Christian soldiers: Mississippi to let churches arm ‘security’

Mississippi legislature

Mississippi capitol

Mississippi’s legislature has already addressed its education, healthcare, crime and poverty issues by passing a law to encourage LGBT discrimination.

Now, discrimination against church-going Christians, a perennial problem throughout Mississippi, is being tackled by the legislature, according to the Jackson Clarion-Ledger.

The Mississippi Church Protection Act will allow armed security in churches, nullify any federal restrictions and protect from prosecution those acting as church security. If passed, it will allow churches to designate and train members to carry concealed weapons and will then shield them from prosecution if they happen to shoot the wrong folks.

Supporters of the bill fended off amendments that would have forced churches to post that they were protected by armed members.

One Democratic senator asked during the debate, “Where did you go to law school?” challenging the bill’s attempt to put the Mississippi constitution ahead of federal law.

The Senate passed the bill 36-14. It now goes to the House, where a different version of the bill has already been approved.

—  David Taffet

Lambda Legal offers advice for LGBT Mississippians


Gov. Phil Bryant

The discrimination law Mississippi passed and Gov. Phil Bryant signed into law this week is more draconian than the North Carolina law. There’s also less businesses and people in other states can do.

North Carolina is headquarters for a number of prominent businesses. Bank of America, the country’s largest bank, is based there. Charlotte is American Airline’s largest hub.

But Mississippi? New York’s governor banned official state travel to Mississippi by New York state employees. Nice gesture, but why would anyone from New York be traveling to Tupelo. They’re not. And businesses? Nissan and Ashley Furniture. That’s about it. Nissan manufactures there and Ashley, well, if that’s where you buy your furniture, please return your gay card. A boycott won’t be effective. Number 3: Choctaw Indians. They run casinos across the state. Boycotting Native Americans won’t exactly hurt the bigoted white guys that passed this law.

But for the LGBT community, the new law will cause a number of problems. It allows county clerks to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples without offering alternatives. While no state law protects against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, this law reinforces companies’ ability to fire at will.

Lambda Legal has come out with some guidance to help the state’s LGBT community navigate the legal waters. They discuss whether you can still get married in the state to what to do if your health-care provider decides to stop providing hormone therapy.

A more helpful approach might have been this:

Step 1: Call U-Haul.

Step 2: Get the hell out of that hell hole.

—  David Taffet

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signs ‘religious freedom’ bill

Screen shot 2016-04-05 at 12.03.32 PM

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant

You would think that what is happening in North Carolina — boycotts, etc. — after Gov. Pat McCrory signed into law discriminatory legislation would have served as a lesson to other states considering similar laws. But apparently not. It seems that — at least in some places — bigotry continues to outweigh fairness, business sense and common sense. Case in point, Mississippi:

“Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed the state’s religious freedom bill Tuesday, according to a statement tweeted to his account. Watchdog groups have decried the bill as discriminatory against the LGBT community, while proponents say it’s intended only to protect those with strongly held religious beliefs. Bryant said he signed the law ‘to protect sincerely held religious beliefs and moral convictions of individuals, organizations and private associations from discriminatory action by state government.'” (Breaking news just posted online by WAPT Channel 16 in Jackson, Miss.)

—  Tammye Nash