You Are Welcome Here | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

You Are Welcome Here

Since early January of this year, our team at HRC Mississippi, along with dedicated volunteers, has been vigorously promoting our Equality Is Our Business program by inviting businesses, institutions and individuals to sign our pledge of public support for workplace equality and equal treatment in housing and public accommodations.

When I approached Dr. Kenneth Townsend of Millsaps College about signing the pledge, it only took a few days for him to reply, "All is clear to the sign the pledge." It may not have seemed like a big deal to him, since Millsaps College is known as a place that values diversity and has inclusive policies.

In fact, as Dr. Townsend stated to me when we visited in person: "This is what we practice at Millsaps. There's no reason why we shouldn't sign on and state that in a public way." Sure, it seems like no big deal for the thousands of businesses, institutions and organizations already committed to equality. It's no big deal because they know it's the right and just thing to do, but it can also have an enormous positive impact in our communities.

In a nation where too many politicians argue that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people do not deserve the same protections that other citizens enjoy, and where daily we hear too many religious leaders preach that LGBT people are "abominations" or "sinful," every time a business owner or leader signs the Equality Is Our Business pledge, they deliver the opposite message: "You are welcome here" and "You are important to us."

My job at HRC Mississippi is to work with others to create a state where everyone is welcome. Or to put it this way, that the "hospitality state" truly embodies its nickname. All we want is a state where everyone is treated fairly and equally under the law, and that our Mississippi institutions treat everyone with dignity and respect.

Our Equality pledge costs absolutely nothing to the businesses, institutions and individuals who sign on, but it is worth so much to the LGBT Mississippians who hear, "You are welcome here" and "You are important to us."

Rob Hill is the Mississippi state director of the Human Rights Campaign.

Support our reporting -- Follow the MFP.