Cat-Blog: On MS House Bill 2681

We’ve been discussing marriage equality at Sourcerer and here at Part Time Monster.  Contributor Cat wrote a three-part series this week on her marriage to Heather, highlighting their reasons both practical and romantic to navigate the complex adventure of getting legally married while living in a state that doesn’t perform or recognize same-sex marriages. It’s heartbreaking and beautiful. You should go read it.

After finding out late Monday that Mississippi put the discrimination bill back on the table 13 minutes before closing time, a bill similar to the Arizona bill that would’ve legalized discrimination especially for LGBT folks, we sat aghast—even more so because  one of the authors is a well-respected man in our hometown. On Tuesday night, we are being told that the bill passed and will go to Gov. Bryant to be signed. Jolene, a fellow grad student and blogger, has written about contacting state representatives at her blog, CreightonCreation.

Below is Cat’s open letter to Representative Gandy and supporters of  SB2681.

(Vote, people. And be active. It’s important.)

__________________

I have a question for all those who support SB2681 and specifically State Senator Philip Gandy, who was instrumental in bringing this bill to the floor and voted for its passage. Why are you so concerned with protecting this “freedom” which is really discrimination?

I happen to be from Rep. Gandy’s district, or as we know him, Brother Gandy. In Southern terms, brother as a title is used for men who are “brothers in faith” or church and community leaders, mostly in evangelical Christian churches. Bro. Gandy happens to be a Baptist minister. I no longer live in my home town for dozens of reasons, but one reason I do live where I live is because the Mississippi Gulf Coast is welcoming to all kinds of people and all kinds of families.

Waynesboro, the county seat of Wayne County and home to a large proportion of Bro. Gandy’s constituency, seems to pride itself on a kind of exclusivity. Everyone knows everyone, and you also knew their grandparents nine times out of ten. While the image of a sleepy Southern town is a romantic one, in the real world when a town clings to its roots so deeply, it will eventually bury itself.

I challenge Bro. Gandy to tell me which business in Waynesboro was forced to participate in an LGBT wedding that went against its religious beliefs. Which restaurant was forced to hold an LGBT rally, or even serve an openly out LGBT family? Give me an example of how one person in Waynesboro had their religious freedom oppressed by a gay person. But I can give you oh so many examples of how Waynesboro as a community has oppressed and even harassed LGBT people. Because of this, most LGBT people I know don’t spend their time or money in Waynesboro and places like it.

The first time I took my then-future wife to my hometown, she was verbally assaulted without even stepping foot from the car. We stopped at one of the two gas stations in the middle of town on the way to my father’s house. She was sitting in the truck, and I jumped out to go into the store. An elderly man was leaned up against the wall, and he asked me. “Is that your boyfriend?” Now this man had no idea who I was, and he certainly didn’t know Heather. “No, she’s my girlfriend.” I said as I walked inside. I made our purchases, and as I passed him he again felt the need to insert his opinion about the situation. “You mean y’all are funny? We don’t hang with that kind of shit ’round here.” I just looked at him and said “I don’t think its funny at all.”

My children have never eaten at Mississippi Fried or at Cooley Burgers. I don’t shop in the cute little boutiques in down town. They have never danced in the street at the Fourth of July festival, or at least not since they were babies and I was planning the festival as a board member of the Chamber of Commerce. I don’t even stop in town on my way to my parent’s house if I can help it.

Bro. Gandy, don’t worry–Waynesboro has made its feelings about anyone who doesn’t conform quite clear. That is why so many of the young people move away. I know dozens of people who would be great assets to the community, myself included, who have moved to cites and towns where the cultures are inclusive–not exclusive.

Why do you feel the need to write into law what is already the norm for Waynesboro and places like it? Why not allow those towns which are more progressive to represent their citizens? This law would overturn non-discrimination laws in places where they feel everyone is equal and have passed non-discrimination laws, like Hattiesburg, Oxford and Starkville. Surely as this bill is all about freedoms, you will concede these freedoms to other towns. The freedom to administer and care for its citizens as they see fit. LGBT people aren’t banging down the doors of Waynesboro businesses. You don’t need to over reach into these bastions of tolerance that we have managed to carve out in a state where civil rights are so hard-won.

You might think about the image this gives of the state to the country. You might think about how this will set us back years on the road to equal rights. However, you may not care. Then I ask you to think about this Bro. Gandy: It’s my favorite aunt’s birthday, and she wants to go to the fish camp. I chance taking my family into public in your town, and if we are turned away at the door, I have to explain hate and intolerance and discrimination to two innocent children. All because they wanted to participate in a family function.

This is a real scenario of what your bill will “protect.” Not any imagined infringement of religious freedoms by LGBT people forcing businesses to service them.

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13 Comments

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  1. Diana….Aaron shared your blog on FB and I read it from his link. I loved the rad, but hated that your message had to be shared. I am ashamed of my town, horrified at its citizens, and appalled that a minister, who is COMMANDED to love ALL people, would author such a hated filled piece of vitriol. You have been nothing but an amazing friend to my children, and I am grateful to you for that. I wish only the best for you, and your family. Michael James

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    1. Thank you, Mr. Michael. This is actually my dear friend Cat’s story, and she too grew up in our hometown. I’m sad that we’ve got to publish things like this, that we even have to think them, and I’m honored to have a friend who will lend her voice to this fight that is very personal for herself and her family. Cat and Heather have a lovely family…And my heart hurts that there are those who don’t recognize it.

      If I could see any way this bill would be helpful, I might not be as upset. But I don’t see anything but bad in it. I’ve tried, and I’ve tried, but there’s just no good there. I don’t see it as any more than a way to legalize discriminating, and it’s big, and vague, and ugly.

      I can get angry, and I can get mean, and sometimes I do–especially about politics. But at the end of the day, there’s not one person that I wouldn’t serve a sandwich to if they were hungry, not one person who I don’t wish the freedom to live and love as they can during their brief time on this earth. Because we’re all human, just trying to do the best we can. Making things harder just blows my mind.

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  2. To Cat: I am also originally form Waynesboro and I also moved away because of the backwoods mentality there. i was so grateful to be able to ‘escape’ that place. I only go there to attend funerals and rarely to visit relatives. I love your contributions to Part Time Monster and I hope you continue to keep us updated. I wish you, Heather and your family the very best.

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  3. Cat, I am so very sorry that you, your wife and young children have been subjected to such intolerance. I am sorry that my state, so well known for hospitality, sees fit to pull up the welcome mat. Anywhere I am, anywhere I live or own or operate ya’ll are welcome. Again, I am sorry.

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    1. Vicki, my children, thankfully have not been affected. I just used an example of the intolerance I think this bill will breed. My wife and I choose to avoid my hometown because of the bigotry we have experienced. Your right it is so sad that in the hospitality state I’m not welcome in what should be the place I am always welcome.

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