Two Americas Watch
January 17th, 2015
A tweet from HRC’s Chad Griffin:
— Chad Griffin (@ChadHGriffin) January 16, 2015
Fifth Circuit looks promising
January 9th, 2015
Today the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is hearing argument on three marriage equality cases, separately, one from each of Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi. First in line was Robicheaux vs Caldwell, the case from Louisiana.
The Fifth Circuit panel consists of two Reagan appointees (Jerry Smith and Patrick Higginbotham) and an Obama appointee (James Graves). It was known, going in, that Smith was not sympathetic with the notion that gay people hold the same constitutional rights as heterosexuals and that Graves favored equality. The wild card was Higginbotham.
We cannot, of course, know the outcome until it is determined and announced. However observers are reporting good news from the Louisiana hearing. Higginbotham joined Graves in expressing skepticism towards the arguments presented by the state and those who were there are predicting victory.
UPDATE: the oral arguments have been made available here
No Christmas nuptials for Mississippi
December 4th, 2014
Alas, before the stay issued by Judge Carlton Reeves expired on his ruling overturning Mississippi’s ban on same-sex marriage, the
Tenth Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals extended the stay. So there will be no same-sex marriages in that state this year.
However, the wait is not interminable. The
Tenth Fifth Circuit is scheduled on January 9th to hear oral arguments on similar rulings from Texas (favorable) and Louisiana (unfavorable). Assuming it makes its determination shortly thereafter, it is likely that this ruling will also apply in short order to Mississippi.
Federal judge tosses Mississippi’s anti-gay marriage ban
November 27th, 2014
Dark Purple – marriage equality states
Light Purple – marriage equality ruling but only some localities are granting marriage licenses
Red – federal judges have ruled for equality but the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals overruled
Pink – favorable rulings are stayed for appeal
Baby-puke – unfavorable ruling on appeal
Same-sex couples in Mississippi have something to be thankful for this year; by Christmas they might be married. (Geidner)
A federal judge in Mississippi on Tuesday night ruled that Mississippi’s ban on same-sex couples’ marriages is unconstitutional — but the decision has been put on hold for two weeks.
“Today’s decision may cause uneasiness and concern about the change it will bring,” U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves wrote. “Mississippi continues to change in ways its people could not anticipate even 10 years ago. Allowing same-sex couples to marry, however, presents no harm to anyone. At the very least, it has the potential to support families and provide stability for children.”
(sorry folks, it looks like I forgot to click “publish” on this – so here it is late)
AFA is “being trampled” in Mississippi
April 28th, 2014
You see, some people in the state are selling goods and services to gay people. Knowingly. And not even giving them a dirty look.
Oh the misery.
It all started when the state legislature passed a bill (much like the Arizona bill that was vetoed) which says that “Government should not substantially burden religious exercise without compelling justification”. And while those words are probably not something I’d disagree with, the unspoken intention of the bill was to block any local ordinances that prohibit discrimination against gay people.
And as there are no such provisions anywhere is Mississippi, it was just the Mississippi Legislature reconfirming to the world that it’s comprised of a bunch of back-woods, redneck, gay-hating yahoos.
Well, this seemed a bit mean to some businesses, so they decided to come up with a way of telling gay customers that they were welcome in their stores. A couple of gay business owners and a “straight, white, Southern, Christian conservative male” Republican up the street designed a sticker that a shopkeeper could put in their window.
Which is all sorts of bullying and silencing of the rights of those who don’t want gay people to be able to buy goods and services. Or something. (AFA’s OneNewsNow)
Buddy Smith, executive vice president of Tupelo-based American Family Association, offers his take on the sticker campaign.
“It’s not really a buying campaign, but it’s a bully campaign,” he says, “and it’s being carried out by radical homosexual activists who intend to trample the freedom of Christians to live according to the dictates of scripture.
“They don’t want to hear that homosexuality is sinful behavior – and they wish to silence Christians and the church who dare to believe this truth.”
And what is one to do about those who break the Scriptural dictates prohibiting selling stuff to gay people?
Smith offers a word of caution for those who do business with facilities posting the decal supporting homosexual activism. “If you do that, you are agreeing with these businesses that Christians no longer have the freedom to live out the dictates of their Christian faith and conscience,” he tells OneNewsNow.
Kidding aside, this is hysterical in pretty much every meaning of the word. Please please, AFA, keep saying stuff like this.
Why I’m not panicked about the Mississippi bill
April 2nd, 2014
The Mississippi Senate and House have passed a bill (similar to that vetoed by Arizona Governor Brewer) which would formally legalize discrimination in that state, so long as such discrimination is “substantially motivated by one’s sincerely held religious belief, whether or not the exercise is compulsory or central to a larger system of religious belief”.
It is a rather nasty piece of work which was formulated out of animus and is intended as a tool to deny rights to gay people.
But I’m not particularly worried about this bill.
Instances of actual anti-gay discrimination in the provision of services are infrequent. Even in the Deep South, there is little advantage to be had by turning down business from gay customers.
There’s just not much to be gained by alienating customers. Maybe a few moments of internet celebrity and the promise of a few new strident anti-gay sales, but “we don’t sell to those type of people” is not a very effective marketing plan. Most folks would rather stay out of your war – and out of your store – irrespective of their own beliefs.
And the evidence of that can be seen in that despite the anti-gay industry’s ever-vigilant search for fresh martyrs to parade, only a handful of Jesus-lovin’, sin-hatin’, concerned Christians have been found nationwide who have been willing to destroy their livelihood for the cause. Elane Photography, a couple of bakers, and a florist or two. Oh, and some cookie baker and a venue in Texas. Most of whom were not even required by ordinance or law to offer service to gay people.
But even if such discrimination were ubiquitous in Mississippi, this bill changes nothing. There is no corner of the state in which gay people are protected from discrimination. No bakers or florists or bed and breakfast inn masters are limited from turning away gay people at the door. There is not even one city ordinance in the state that requires equal service to gay customers.
As for the anti-gay efforts, this bill gains them nothing. It’s merely a public statement of derision towards a segment of their population.
However, it does have the potential to facilitate some outcomes that hardcore conservative Christians do not predict, and will not like. These bills almost always do.
Those, such as the Mississippi legislators, who seek laws that advantage conservative Christians suffer from too much belief in their own rhetoric. They are part of a worldview that has some misperceptions:
1. They are the only real people of faith.
It baffles me how this perception manages to keep hold when all evidence is to the contrary. But in the minds of these people, if you are a person of faith then you obviously believe the Levitical commands in precisely the same way they do.
They don’t consider that them there liberal sin-compromisin’ feel-goody pseudo-Christians will get the exact same legal rights under these sort of laws as True, Bible-believing, born-again People of God.
2. They are a persecuted people.
It may be hard to take seriously the notion that the state and local officials in Mississippi are in some way out to get the Christians. But when you believe that Satan is using the principalities and powers of the world to attack the Body of Christ, you can hear about some preacher who was arrested in Sweden and fear that Sheriff Billy Bob Honeycutt is about to do the same.
It hasn’t occurred to these legislators that real persecuted people – the religious minorities in Mississippi – may now actually have a tool by which to empower their freedom.
3. God’s hand is in whatever they do
There is a form of circular reinforcement that can result in astonishing stupidity. Much of what you hear from Pat Robertson is based in this thinking. It goes like this:
I am a child of God. I seek God’s will in my life in what I do and say. I believe that God speaks to my heart and inspires me to move in the direction that he knows is best in my life. Therefore, when I strongly believe something, I know that it is inspired by God. And as God never lies or works against that which is good, whatever batpoop idiotic nonsense that I am spouting at any given moment is backed up by the creator of the universe.
Because they all agree that God wants them to stand up against the homosexual agenda, and because the homosexaul lobby opposes this bill, then it must be inspired by God and a wonderful victory for His Kingdom.
And so they’ve passed a phenomenally stupid bill that is likely to bite them in the ass. In fact, it’s likely to have the exact opposite impact of what they expect.
It certainly wouldn’t be the first time. Remember in the 80’s when there was a big ruckus because some Bible Clubs had been restricted at some school or other? Well Congress rushed to fix that with the Equal Access Act, which required that if a school allowed any extra-curricular organizations then it had to allow all such groups.
And for about ten minutes there were Bible Clubs on a handful of campuses (until students realized that the idea of a Bible Club was much sexier than actually trying to read the book). But the largest impact of this law is the opposite of its intention; mostly, this law is what requires schools to allow gay-straight-alliances on campus. In court case after court case, anti-gay school boards have been told that if they want to ban support groups for LGBT kids, they also had to ban the chess club and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
It is, of course, far too early to know what kind of repercussions will result from the Mississippi Freedom Restoration Act. But here are a few scenarios that the language of the law would appear to cover:
Should there be a Muslim woman who is a state employee, local concerns or sensibilities will now have no say in her choice of clothing, provided that she has a sincerely held religious belief. Burka, baby!
Rastafarians, Native Americans, and others whose religious beliefs incorporate use of mind altering substances now have a much higher bar by which they are to be denied access to the implements of their worship. Now drug enforcement officers must prove “a government interest of the highest magnitude that cannot otherwise be achieved without burdening the exercise of religion”. I predict a large conversion to such faiths.
The Knights of the Ku Klux Klan are a religious organization. They have lost favor in the nation, even in the South, as social and civil disapproval has taken the forefront. And the federal Civil Rights Laws disallow discrimination against people on the basis of race, so this law will not override that protection. But it would protect the state employee who wants to wear KKK insignia to work. And it will cause all sorts of havoc.
And, most ironically, they were blind to the most obvious scenario, the one jumping up and down in front of them waving its arms:
“Exercise of religion” includes, but is not limited to, the ability to act or the refusal to act in a manner that is substantially motivated by one’s sincerely held religious belief, whether or not the exercise is compulsory or central to a larger system of religious belief.
One of the phenomena that we have seen recently is the deeply-held religious conviction on the part of some people of faith that denying gay people equality is an injustice and an immoral attack on a child of God. Some are rather visible, such as Episcopalians or UCC or Lutherans, in which the denomination is on their side. But some, such as a recent spate of Methodists, are willing to defy their church and risk defrocking in order to fulfill their fealty to God.
Even if no denomination states that it is sinful to discriminate against gay people, some clergy have made this case. And surely there is among the 82 counties in Mississippi at least one clerk who compelled by his faith to offer marriage certification to same-sex couples just as he would to opposite-sex couples. And this law says that state action cannot burden his religious act of faith.
Mississippi just opened for themselves a colossal can of worms. Funny how animus, arrogance, and self-righteousness can work that way.
Mississippi Legislature Passes License-To-Discriminate Law
April 2nd, 2014
Both houses of the Mississippi legislature approved S.B. 2681 yesterday. The bill passed the GOP-controlled House in a 78-43 bipartisan vote, and the GOP-controlled Senate by a 38-14 bipartisan vote. The bill states that “State action or an action by any person based on state action shall not burden a person’s right to exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability…” It also provides that “A person whose exercise of religion has been burdened or is likely to be burdened (emphasis mine) in violation of this section” can go to court for “injunctive relief, declaratory relief, compensatory damages, and the recovery of costs and reasonable attorney’s fees.”
The same law, designated as the “Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” also adds the words “In God We Trust” to the state seal. The law now goes to Gov. Phil Bryant (R) for his signature. Bryant said on Monday that he plans to sign the bill into law. Mississippi’s anti-discrimination law currently does not offer any protections on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, which means that even without this bill, discrimination against LGBT people is already perfectly legal in Mississippi.
Like the Arizona bill which was vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer (R), the Mississippi bill doesn’t single out sexual orientation or gender identity as allowed grounds for discrimination, which leaves it open to employers and individuals claiming rights to discriminate on any basis — race, religion, gender, perceived national origin, etc., — as long as they can claim a religious reason for doing so. As with the Arizona legislation, atheists and agnostics will have no such specific license to discriminate. Similar bills are before the legislatures in Oklahoma and Missouri, and a bill is expected to be introduced in North Carolina when its legislative session begins in May. Similar bills in Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, and Ohio have been rejected.
In February, the Mississippi House amended the bill to remove the license-to-discriminate language, leaving only the sections modifying the state seal. The Senate, however, rejected that move and restored a version of the original language, which moved the bill to a conference committee which hammered out the final version.
Ole Miss’ home city passes ‘dignity and worth’ resolution
March 11th, 2014
Too often, the news coming from the South tends to have a shared and consistent theme, and not a pleasant one. It can leave the impression that there are no places or people in the South that do not approach gay issues without hostility and animus.
That, of course, isn’t true. Polls show that many Southerners are supporters and allies. It’s just that they are less visible.
So it is important to note some of the positive things that can provide some balance and perspective. And one such thing is the action taken last week by the city counsel of Oxford, Mississippi, home of the University of Mississippi (“Ole Miss”).
From the Oxford, Mississippi, city press release
Tonight Oxford, Mississippi unanimously passed a resolution recognizing the dignity and worth of all city residents – including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT). Oxford joins two other Mississippi cities – Starkville and Hattiesburg – which both passed similar resolutions earlier this year.
Also important to remember is that these things don’t happen on their own. And, in this instance, we have some back-story on how the resolution came to be.
One of BTB’s readers and regular commenters, TampaZeke, is an Oxford native and has family that is connected to the city government. With their support, and that of an alumni sports group, they reached out to the city to request the resolution and to point out that it would be good for the city’s image to take this stance.
The resolution doesn’t have much in the way of teeth. It’s basically a confirmation that gay people are part of the city and valued.
But often that is the most important step. Once you recognize the value and worth of a person, it’s much harder to justify discrimination or tolerate bigotry.
So thank you, TampaZeke, for your work on this project. And thank you, Oxford, for reminding us that even in the heart of the Deep South, there are those who recognize the dignity and worth of our community.
Is Arizona a Turning Point?
February 27th, 2014
It would appear that the outcry over Arizona’s license-to-discriminate bill that was finally vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer last night may have reached something of a high water mark. Major companies, business group, professional organizations, and major league sports all came out with strong statements denouncing the bill in the moments leading up to Brewer’s veto. Typical was this one from Yelp’s CEO Jeremy Stoppelman:
SB 1062 would serve to create an environment where consumers would not know how they would be treated – or whether they would even be served – when they patronize a business. This bill goes against the rule that every great business subscribes to, which is that the customer is always right. It will not only be bad for customers, but also bad for local business in the state. I also believe that it would be in consumers’ interests to be made aware of businesses within the state that did engage in discriminatory behavior. Since early 2010, Yelp has hired over 650 employees in Arizona. Over the next few years, we hope to hire hundreds more. It would be unconscionable for the state to encourage discrimination against any of them.
Arizona joins three other states in putting an end to their license-to-discriminate bills in just the past twenty-four hours:
- Sponsors of Ohio’s license-to-discriminate bill withdrew their support yesterday. Moments later, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee announced that the bill was dead.
- The Mississippi House of Representatives Civil Subcommittee late yesterday voted to strike almost all of the provisions of their license-to-discriminate bill, leaving only a provision adding “In God We Trust” to the state seal. This move came after the state Senate gave its unanimous approval in January.
- Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced yesterday that he will veto a proposed license-to-discriminate bill if it reaches his desk. Earlier that day, he had refused to address the question during an interview on MSNBC.
Over the past several weeks, license-to-discriminate bills have been defeated or withdrawn in Colorado, Kansas, Maine, Tennessee, and Utah. But we’re not out of the woods yet. Similar bills are still working their way through Idaho, Missouri, South Dakota, and Georgia, where Atlanta-based Delta Airlines has announced its opposition. The Idaho bill was returned to a House committee last week, with the sponsor saying he wants to “find the right language.” In addition, there’s a push to put a similar measure on the ballot in Oregon in November.
States Defy Pentagon Order Requiring Equal Treatment for Guard Members
November 4th, 2013
Several GOP-led states have vowed to resist Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s order requiring National Guard to issue ID cards to spouses of Guard members who are in same-sex marriages. Those ID cards are critical for accessing spousal benefits. According to Reuters:
Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, the Republican head of the National Governors Association, called on President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to “stop using the National Guard as a pawn in a larger social agenda,” her spokesman, Alex Weintz, said in a statement on Friday.
“The president has made it clear he supports gay marriage. He has the legal authority to order federal agencies to recognize gay marriages. He does not have the legal authority to force state agencies to do so, or to unilaterally rewrite state laws or state constitutions,” Weintz said.
Josh Havens, a spokesman for Texas Governor Rick Perry, said, “Texas Military Forces is a state agency, and as such is obligated to adhere to the Texas Constitution and the laws of this state which clearly define marriage as between one man and one woman.”
Nine states were initially identified as refusing to issue identity cards to same-sex spouses: Indiana, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina and West Virginia. Reuters reports, “Indiana notified the Pentagon on Friday it had begun issuing the cards after a month-long review, a move defense officials said they welcomed.”
Louisiana has also confirmed that they will also defy Sec. Hagel’s order, while Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said she is exploring her legal options. Georgia’s National Guard has said it will ignore Hagel’s order.
Defense Secretary Orders State National Guards To Treat Gay Couples Equally
November 1st, 2013
Since the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act last June, the Defense Department has been rushing to implement policies designed to treat legally wedded same-sex couples equally with married couples generally. But several states have refused to issue Defense Department ID cards to same-sex spouses of National Guard members. Those states include Indiana, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, in a speech to the Anti-Defamation League, has announced that he is putting a stop to such discriminatory practices:
“Today, I directed the Chief of the National Guard Bureau, Gen. Frank Grass, to take immediate action to remedy this situation. At my direction, he will meet with the Adjutants General from the states where these ID cards are being denied. The Adjutants General will be expected to comply with both lawful direction and DoD policy, in line with the practices of 45 other states and jurisdictions.”
A senior defense official told the Washington Blade that the Pentagon has some critical leverage to deploy against recalcitrant states:
“These are federal ID cards paid for with federal funding to provide federally mandated benefits,” the official said. “I’m not going to speculate on our legal options.”
March 14th, 2012
My favorite headline of the day came from the Associated Press yesterday morning: “Voting in Alabama, Mississippi could clarify race.” As if. If anything’s clear, it’s that Republican voters don’t want anybody to win the nomination, and it looks like they just might get their way.
The man with the money, the candidate with not only every issued covered but every position for each issue, the establishment’s favorite who who came in second in the race for the 2008 nomination and is therefore “next” — that’s who came in third in Alabama and Mississippi. Third! That’s, you know, after second. Ronmey managed to pull in a first place showing in the Hawaii caucuses, and he also captured all nine delegates in the American Samoan caucuses.
In this race, every delegate counts. The delegate count, which is always an approximation, looks like this according to CNN.
A total of 1,144 delegates are needed to win the nomination. It’s hard to see Romney getting there before the convention. According to the CNN count, there are still 1,356 delegates, including superdelegates, up for grabs. Romney needs to win 48% of all the remaining delegates to capture the nomination. The next big prize is Illinois, which if Michigan and Ohio are any indication, means that Romney will probably split that state. Whether its enough to make up for the loss he’s likely to receive in Louisiana and the Missouri caucuses, it’s hard to say. April will be kinder to Romney, with Deleware, Maryland, D.C., New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island coming up, but Santorum is likely to win Pennsylvania. Wisconsin may end up a tie like Ohio. But the primaries go south, literally, in May, with contests in Nebraska, Arkansas, Kentucky, West Virginia, North Carolina, and Texas. That will be rough territory for Romney.
The only way he can win is for the superdelegates to step in and throw their weight behind Romney. That is a very real possibility. Romney’s picked up some powerful endorsements in the party, but those endorsement’s haven’t meant much when it comes to votes. Santorum or Gingrich won despite major establishment endorsements for Romney in Tennessee (Gov. Bill Haslam), Oklahoma (Sen. Tom Coburn), South Carolina (Gov. Nikki Haley), Minnesota (former Gov. Tim Pawlenty) and Kansas (former Sen. Bob Dole)
But as hard is it will be for Romney to wrap up the nomination, it’ll be even harder for anyone else to catch up and surpass him. If Gingrich’s ego were to somehow deflate like a popped balloon and all of his delegates went to Santorum, he’d only increase his haul to 373. (And there’s no way Paul’s giving up his delegates.) In the unlikely event that happens, Santorum would still have to pick up 57% of the delegates outstanding. Without it, he needs to win 67% of those remaining. Gingrich needs to pick up 74% and Paul needs 79%. So it means that when the Republicans hit Tampa this summer, there will still probably be a lot of horse trading going on.
Rules for staying in the closet…
December 16th, 2011
If you are the mayor of Southaven, Mississippi’s third largest city, and
If you are married with three children, and
If you ran for Congress in 2008 as a “consistent conservative who will always vote with the conservative party”, and
If city auditors allege that you own about $170,000 in improper charges to your city credit cards, and
If you are turning in credit card receipts to show that your expenditures were proper and to reduce your debt, and
If you don’t want anyone to find out that you are really secretly gay,
Then, it probably isn’t a really good idea to include the purchase you made at “Priape: Canada’s premiere gay lifestyle store and sex shop.”
Memphis Commercial Appeal:
As details emerged Thursday from the receipts, provided by state auditors to Southaven aldermen and subsequently obtained by The Commercial Appeal, Davis conceded publicly for the first time in an interview with The CA that he is gay and has struggled to keep the issue from affecting his public life as mayor of Mississippi’s third-largest city.
“At this point in my life and in my career, while I have tried to maintain separation between my personal and public life, it is obvious that this can no longer remain the case,” Davis said Thursday afternoon at his Southaven home. “While I have performed my job as mayor, in my opinion, as a very conservative, progressive individual — and still continue to be a very conservative individual — I think that it is important that I discuss the struggles I have had over the last few years when I came to the realization that I am gay.”
Here’s Greg Davis more or less promising to vote more conservative than the most conservative of Conservatives, conservatively.
Snark aside, I commend Davis for not trying to come up with some bogus excuse for the purchase. And I wish him well on his new path to self discovery.
Arkansas Supreme Court Overturns Adoption Ban
April 7th, 2011
The Arkansas Supreme Court today ruled that a voter-approved initiative banning unmarried cohabiting couples, including gay couples, from adopting or serving as foster parents. The court found that because the law singles out cohabiting couples for the ban while allowing single individuals to adopt or foster children, it encroaches on a key right to privacy:
Act 1 directly and substantially burdens the privacy rights of “opposite-sex and same-sex individuals” who engage in private, consensual sexual conduct in the bedroom by foreclosing their eligibility to foster or adopt children, should they choose to cohabit with their sexual partner. The pressure on such couples to live apart, should they wish to foster or adopt children, is clearly significant. In Jegley, the burden perpetrated by the State was criminal prosecution for sodomy, although the act took place in the privacy of the bedroom. In the case before us, the burden dispensed by the State is either to remove the ability to foster or adopt children, should sexual partners live together, or to intrude into the bedroom to assure that cohabitors who adopt or foster are celibate. We conclude that, in this case as in Jegley, the burden is direct and substantial.
In 2002, the Arkansas Supreme Court struck down that state’s sodomy law in the case of Jegley v. Picado, nearly a full year before the U.S. Supreme Court struck down sodomy laws nationwide in Lawrence v. Texas. A state judge struck down Arkansas’ adoption ban last April. The attorney general then appealed to the Supreme Court, which led to today’s ruling.
Because the court found that Act 1 infringes on a key right to privacy, the court determined that heighened scrutiny rather than rational-basis was the appropriate standard for the ruling:
We have held in this case that a fundamental right of privacy is at issue and that the burden imposed by the State is direct and substantial. We now hold, as an additional matter, that because of the direct and substantial burden on a fundamental right, the standard to be applied is heightened scrutiny and not a rational-basis standard. Using the heightened- scrutiny standard, because Act 1 exacts a categorical ban against all cohabiting couples engaged in sexual conduct, we hold that it is not narrowly tailored or the least restrictive means available to serve the State’s compelling interest of protecting the best interest of the child.
Utah and Mississippi are the only states remaining with adoption bans affecting gay people. Utah, like Arkansas until today, bans cohabiting couples from adopting but allows single adults to adopt when married couples aren’t available. Mississippi law allows unmarried and married adults to adopt regardless of cohabitation status, but contains a separate clause stating, “Adoption by couples of the same gender is prohibited.”
Mississippi School District Settles With Lesbian Student Over Cancelled Prom
July 20th, 2010
Fulton, Mississippi’s nickname of “the world’s cruelest town” was well-earned when Itawamba Agricultural High School student Constance McMillen was denied her prom. When the school learned that Constance planned to bring her girlfriend to the prom, they canceled it. Then parents organized a private prom and at first refused to tell her where it was taking place. Then they invited her to that private prom at the country club, only to organize a double-secret private prom elsewhere. This left Constance and her girlfriend with a half dozen developmentally disabled students at the country club wondering where everyone went.
The American Civil Liberties Union sued the school district over this outrageous behavior by so-called adults. Today the ACLU announced a settlement:
Itawamba County School District officials agreed to have a judgment entered against them in the case of a recent high school graduate who sued her school for canceling the prom rather than let her attend with her girlfriend. The agreement ends a precedent-setting lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of 18-year-old Constance McMillen, who suffered humiliation and harassment after parents, students and school officials executed a cruel plan to put on a “decoy” prom for her while the rest of her classmates were at a private prom 30 miles away.
“I’m so glad this is all over. I won’t ever get my prom back, but it’s worth it if it changes things at my school,” said McMillen, who was harassed so badly by students blaming her for the prom cancellation that she had to transfer to another high school to finish her senior year. “I hope this means that in the future students at my school will be treated fairly. I know there are students and teachers who want to start a gay-straight alliance club, and they should be able to do that without being treated like I was by the school.”
As set forth in documents filed in court today, school officials agreed to implement a policy banning discrimination or harassment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, the first policy to do so at a public school in the state of Mississippi. The school also agreed to pay McMillen $35,000 in damages and pay for McMillen’s attorneys’ fees.