April 14, 2016

95 Mississippi writers protest the state’s new anti-LGBTQ law


Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 1.22.40 PMEarlier this week, 95 writers signed a petition against Mississippi House Bill 1523, “An act to create the ‘Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act’; to provide certain protections regarding a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction for persons, religious organizations and private associations; to define a discriminatory action for purposes of this act . . . and for related purposes.”

The “sincerely held religious belief of moral conviction” protected by this act are:“a) Marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman; b) Sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage; c) Male (man) or female (woman) refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth.”

Which means that anyone with these “seriously held” beliefs—a doctor, an employer, a government official—can discriminate against his or her fellow Mississipians on the basis of that person’s sexuality.

LitHub asked 5 of the 95 signatories to “expand on why they’re protesting” MHB 1523; we reprinted selections from their responses below:

Kiese Laymon: “We do this over and over again, I tell myself. The worst of Christians, the worst of Americans, the worst of Mississippians, the worst of white folks, the worst of men, the worst of the wealthy always find ways to do exactly what we’re doing now.”

Katy Simpson Smith: “I struggled to define my feelings: my complaints, my disbelief, but also my sense of responsibility for this state that was being hijacked by its most conservative element. Mississippi is not a stereotype.”

Margaret Eby: “If HB1523 is allowed to go into effect, how many more voices will be muffled? How many more stories will we lose? How many perspectives and worldviews and big ideas?”

Catherine Lacey“Living in a culture that is against you can make you turn against yourself.”

Andrew Malan Milward: “It’s important to distinguish between people and governments and to remember that governments are often at odds with their own populations, something I’m very much aware of not just as a Mississippian but also as a United States citizen.”

The full statement and complete list of signatories is available here.



Taylor Sperry is a former Melville House editor.