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Recognizing LGBT Residents: Next City on the List is Oxford

OXFORD, Miss.–Two other cities that have major Mississippi universities have done it. Now add Oxford to the list of cities that have passed resolutions recognizing the “dignity and worth of all city residents – including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender”.

Oxford’s city council passed the resolution unanimously Tuesday, said a news release from the Human Rights Campaign in Washington, D.C.

A news release from that organization quoted city Alderman Jay Hughes:

Diversity is what made and continues to make this country amazing.  It strengthens and enhances the experiences of everyone, to understand that it is our differences from which we learn and make us stronger. At a time when signals from some parts of the State seem to be focused on exclusion, I am absolutely honored and proud to be in a community that embraces inclusion of everyone, to make Oxford the great place that it is.  Tolerance and acceptance creates the strongest bonds between neighbors, and I am proud to be on the right side of history in reaffirming Oxford’s long-standing commitment to that most fundamental principle.

First Starkville, then Hattiesburg, passed similar resolutions earlier this year.

The Human Rights Campaign news release opined that public opinion on equality in Mississippi is far ahead of law in the state.The group said a poll conducted last summer found that nearly 60 percent of Mississippians under the age of 30 support marriage equality, while  64 percent of residents back workplace non-discrimination protections for LGBT employees.

The resolution comes just as the Mississippi legislature is considering a bill which some believe would give Mississippi businesses the right to discriminate against gays on religious grounds.

Some lawmakers are working to change the wording of the bill, and a group of pastors from Starkville, Hattiesburg, and the Jackson metro, have written a letter to the legislature, encouraging non-discrimination.

This is what the letter said, in part:

As people of faith, we are ardent supporters of religious freedom for all Americans.  We know that it is the religious freedom to worship as we choose that makes our country and our state great.  Religious organizations have a long established First Amendment ability to operate according to their own beliefs and we as faith leaders hold that right as sacred and will do all in our power to preserve it.

However, we also know that there is a difference between sacred space and commercial space.  When providing a service to the public, businesses cannot pick and choose whom to serve and whom to deny. This is basic discrimination and it has nothing to do with religious freedom.

This legislation will have immense and negative consequences on all communities, including religious communities. First, it sends the message that one’s particular religious interpretation can become the law of the land.  Second, as religious leaders we know that families are harmed when legislation unfairly opens up members of our communities to discrimination.  As a state, we know we can do better than that.

A news release containing the text of that letter was release Tuesday, also by the Human Rights Campaign.

That group’s president, Chad Griffin, issued this statement about the Oxford resolution:

Like so many cities across America, Oxford, Mississippi has made clear that all its residents deserve to be treated with dignity, respect and equality, regardless of who they are or who they love.  Today the Oxford Board of Alderman proudly affirmed the city’s support for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, and moved Mississippi forward on the road to equality.

The Campaign says it is “working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all”.

Mississippi cities must already abide by federal laws preventing discrimination.

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