Step Up on LGBT Rights, City of Jackson | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Step Up on LGBT Rights, City of Jackson


Laurie Bertram Roberts

I am wondering how it is that Waveland just became the seventh city in Mississippi to pass a diversity resolution acknowledging that LGBT citizens are a valued part of their community, yet Jackson has remained silent.

During the campaign for mayor, Ward 7 Councilwoman Margaret Barrett-Simon came out so vocally for LGBT rights that many were applauding her as if she was the second coming. I was skeptical. Why now? Cities had been drafting and passing resolutions in our state for a while, and yet she had never once presented one. She and Melvin Priester Jr. had no problem saying they supported a resolution while they were trying to get the votes of LGBT Jacksonians and their allies. Yet since the election, we have seen a big bunch of nothing. I am sure if they call and ask nicely, they can get a copy of the version from one of the seven other cities—towns, really—in the state that have passed them.

This isn't a complicated matter.

The lack of movement may be due to attitudes like the one posted on my Facebook page: "(T)hat's not a big issue right now now. We don't have crimes against the LGBT community." This person said he is concerned about the recent murders in Jackson. (So am I). He argued that we don't have time to put aside education and getting children on the right track with God for the concerns of LGBT people who don't even have real needs.

When a parent doesn't have employment protections due to their sexual orientation, that does nothing to protect their children. By remaining quiet on a legal level, we are saying it is OK to ignore the needs of some of our citizens; they don't count. That lesson is not worth teaching our children, we're told. I don't even have space to go into the incidences of bullying and physical violence that disprove his statement.

We don't have to ignore other issues to present and pass a resolution or ordinance. When we compete for whose wounds are worse, we forget we are all playing wounded. We would do better helping each other to triage and working collectively. The gold medal for most oppressed is—you're still oppressed. We can work on uplifting black and brown people and embrace this fight, too. How dare people say we can't!

Contrary to mass media images, all LGBT people aren't white, male or middle class. We are everywhere, at every income level, and come in every race and ethnicity. Jackson, we can be the model for moving forward in unity, a template for what a city focused on social justice and equality looks like. As Helen Keller said "Until the great mass of the people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each other's welfare, social justice can never be attained."

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