After so many victories on the marriage equality front and with same-sex marriage sailing towards the Supreme Court, LGBTQ civil rights groups are shifting their attention to the Deep South. With a focus on improving job protections, passing local non-discrimination ordinances, bolstering the rights of gay parents, reducing anti-gay bullying in schools and nudging change in places that have resisted it, these organizations are moving forward in creating change.
Take an unlikely local LGBTQ rights advocate for example, Rev. Rob Hill, a Methodist pastor in Natchez, Mississippi who is now promoting LGBTQ rights in his rural community.
In July Hill came out of the closet in a big way . . . during a news conference orchestrated by the Human Rights Campaign, which “is pouring $9.5 million into an effort to push the needle of public opinion in the Deep South,” according to the Washington Post.
Being open and demanding equal treatment is exactly what the HRC is hoping local LGBTQ people and others in the region eventually will do. HRC has set up permanent offices in Mississippi, Arkansas and Alabama this summer in the hopes of swaying public opinion in a region that has been resisting the tide of LGBTQ rights.
The Washington Post reports that “there is reason for HRC to be optimistic. Over the past year, eight small towns across Mississippi have passed resolutions meant to create a welcoming atmosphere for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. Most of them passed unanimously.”
It was around that time that the Human Rights Campaign began its work in Mississippi, and eventually the group asked him to head the project. His job would be to meet lots and lots of people. He would help shepherd local resolutions and cultivate relationships with religious leaders — friendly and not — and collaborate with a lobbyist in the capital to resist anti-gay legislation and push favorable bills.
Hill has quit the church and took a position with the HRC as head of their Mississippi initiative and is working with progressive members of the rural community in advancing local non-discrimination ordinances.
I am a child of the South. My mother and her family were from Georgia, have been for hundreds of years. My many southern relatives fought for the Confederacy. I love the south but it needs to change its views on LGBTQ equality, but I know that once again it will rise again with greater equality for all.
Yes the south is slowly changing, and after the Supreme Court affirms marriage equality for all it will be a big boost to overall equality. But there are many miles to go before we can rest. Stay informed about the news from the south by reading out weekly queerNEWS links from around the world.