The state of Mississippi will not abandon its extremely conservative sentiments on marriage equality any time soon. A local newspaper published a headline story about the first same-sex marriage in southern Mississippi’s Jones County. The coverage sparked outrage to subscribers and an influx of angry phone calls and emails to the Laurel Leader-Call. The editors have since defended the controversial piece and claim they were simply doing their jobs.
This instance is a perfect display of Mississippi’s unwillingness to participate in the same-sex marriage conversation. Based on events like these, tolerance to the LGBT community may be completely far-fetched. It has come time for Mississippi residents to swallow their pride and at the least acknowledge that homosexuality is prevalent, rather than pretending it is a disruption to cultural norms.
Various opinion polls illustrate the conservative nature of the Mississippi electorate. In 2004, an overwhelming 86% of participants backed an amendment to the state constitution banning homosexual marriage. The ban stated “marriage may take place and may be valid under the laws of this state only between a man and a woman.”
Additional polls suggest Mississippians are adamant on sticking to their conservative tendencies on gay marriage. A November 2011 poll conducted by Public Policy Polling (PPP) found that 78% of participants agreed that same sex marriage should remain illegal. In addition 60% are completely opposed to any form of legal acknowledgment of a homosexual partnership via civil unions. The study also found that even among the state’s Democrats, 19% supported keeping gay marriage illegal. Continuing on the marriage theme, PPP released a survey from April 2011 that discovered 46% of Mississippi Republicans support an interracial marriage ban.
Mississippi lawmakers have joined in the anti-gay marriage campaign. In May 2012, Rep. Andy Gibson (R-Brandon) took to his Facebook page in response to President Obama’s official endorsement of gay marriage, citing a Bible passage from Leviticus 20:13 that advocates for the death of gay men. When urged by LGBT activists groups to issue an apology, Gibson refused.
"To be clear, I want the world to know that I do not, cannot, and will not apologize for the inspired truth of God's Word. It is one thing that will never change,” Gibson said.
As of today, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, Iowa, Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, Washington State, and the District of Colombia have all legalized same-sex marriage. Several other states have recognized civil unions for same-sex couples. However it does not appear that the Southern states will follow suit, particularly Mississippi.
It comes as no surprise that Mississippi remains one of the most conservative states in the nation. However, why has there been no such leverage on marriage equality issues? Simply put, old habits die hard. In an area of the country in which religion has an overarching presence in the culture and state legal affairs, it will take several years for the door to finally free open to the discussion of marriage equality.