Last edited: November 09, 2003


Mississippi Gays Call for City Boycott / Network, July 31, 2003

By Christopher Lisotta

SUMMARY: After the Gulfport, Miss., City Council denounced a landmark Supreme Court ruling on gay rights, a group is calling for a boycott of the coastal resort town.

Following a July 22 resolution by the Gulfport, Miss., city council to denounce a U.S. Supreme Court decision and support the Federal Marriage Amendment, a Mississippi gay rights group is calling for a boycott of the coastal resort town.

Equality Mississippi, a statewide GLBT rights and research organization, said in a press release on Wednesday that it was launching a “Not One Dime” campaign. The move is a response to a resolution introduced by Gulfport Council member Billy Hewes to “memorialize its concern over the U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down state legislation prohibiting same-sex marriages.”

The resolution, which was passed by a 4-1 vote, was something of a misnomer, since the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Lawrence v. Texas struck down sodomy laws and did not address gay marriage. Either way, Equality Mississippi saw the move as an attack on the city’s GLBT visitors and residents.

“Since Gulfport has declared itself a straight city, Gulfport businesses won’t have to trouble themselves counting our gay money,” said Equality Mississippi director Jody Renaldo.

Renaldo told the Network that his organization had been planning to hold its 2004 annual weekend convention in Gulfport, bringing in between 800 to 1,200 people to the city. But the group has since cancelled that plan.

“The Gulfport City Council apparently felt they had to do what they had to do. We are doing the same,” Renaldo said. “It’s sad that in 2003, a city council anywhere in this country still feels the need to be so intolerant of any class of their citizenry.”

An hour and a half from New Orleans, Gulfport is part of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, a growing tourism region with golf courses, casinos and hotels. Renaldo expressed surprise at the City Council’s decision, since the Gulf Coast is considered the most tolerant part of the state.

“Gulfport is the number two city in the state with same-sex households,” Renaldo explained, noting that the city’s hospitality industry employs many gay workers, raising the concern that a successful boycott may hurt GLBT employees.

“We thought about that,” Reynaldo said about the possible effect of a boycott on Gulfport gays and lesbians, “but at the same time people who live and work in Gulfport have to realize their city government said they don’t matter.”

Steve Richer, executive director of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the region is a tolerant place. “The most dominant cultural aspect here is to treat everyone well,” he said.

“We have lots of different people with lots of different backgrounds coming here,” Richer explained, noting that gay marriage has been a topic of discussion outside of Gulfport. “There are people who are debating this issue in our nation’s capital now. They have different opinions on it.”

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