Last edited: December 20, 2004


Gay Groups Plan to Lobby Lawmakers

Clarion Ledger, August 23, 2001
Box 40, Jackson, MS 39205
Fax: 601-961-7211

By Clay Harden, Clarion-Ledger Staff Writer

A coalition of gay and lesbian groups will use 2000 census numbers to lobby state legislators to repeal sodomy laws, add sexual orientation to hate crime laws and legalize same-sex marriages.

"We are a population that has been neglected and overlooked," Brenda Henson, co-founder of Sister Spirit Inc. in Ovette, said at a news conference Wednesday in Jackson. "I call on the Legislature to form a committee to look into the needs of the gay and lesbian population."

Sen. Charlie Ross, R-Brandon, said he supports traditional marriages. "The Legislature already addressed this when we passed the ban on gay marriages," Ross said.

The founder of the Tupelo-based American Family Association says census numbers that show the state has 4,774 same-sex couples spread over all 82 counties should not influence legislators.

"This tiny fraction of the population is demanding that the overwhelming majority of Americans change their beliefs on human sexuality, marriage and family simply to suit the homosexual agenda," AFA President Donald E. Wildmon said in a news release. "The gall of these activists is amazing."

Jody Renaldo, executive director of the Mississippi Gay Lobby, said the beating death of a friend points to the need for a hate crime law that includes sexual orientation. "I can think of seven or eight deaths where sexual orientation was the cause," said Renaldo, who estimates 70,000 gays and lesbians live in Jackson and on the Gulf Coast.

Henson said gays and lesbians are forced to "hide who they are" to keep a job, a home or child custody.

"We lose many of our most caring and creative people to other states where they feel safer," said Henson. "It is part of the brain drain in this state."

Henson said because gay and lesbian marriages are illegal, she can’t be covered by the hospital insurance of her mate, Wanda Henson.

Rusti Liner, a representative of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays of Jackson, said the state loses teens to suicide when they can’t deal with their sexuality.

"They kill themselves rather than admit they are gay or lesbian," Liner said.

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