From 2000 to 2009, I lived in Mississippi. It was where I first came out. Other than Vermont, it is the only place I felt I could live openly as a gay man. I felt safe and welcomed in Mississippi. In those years, Ronnie Musgrove, a Democrat, and Haley Barbour, a Republican, were governor. I do not believe Musgrove would have signed House Bill 1523. I think Barbour had more sense than to do so. Barbour was a decent Republican and seemed to be a decent man. HB-1523 allows government employees and private businesses to cite religious beliefs to deny services to same-sex couples who want to marry. Those governors would not have stated on twitter like Phil Bryant did that HB-1523, “merely reinforces the rights which currently exist to the exercise of religious freedom as stated in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”

In 2000, Musgrove did sign a bill into law banning same-sex couples from adopting children, making Mississippi only the third state to have done so. The law also said that Mississippi will not recognize adoptions from other states by same-sex couples. It was a different political climate then. Much of the country supported such legislation though it doesn’t make it right. Much like the Clintons, his views have evolved and changed. In 2013, Musgrove wrote an opinion editorial in The Huffington Post expressing his support for both same-sex marriage and same-sex adoption. 

Barbour may not have been a friend of LGBT, but he did not do anything to harm them in Mississippi. He had other more pressing issues to deal with such as Hurricane Katrina. I honestly don’t know what Mississippi would have done without him in the aftermath of such a massive natural disaster. We were forgotten by the media in favor of New Orleans, a much bigger story in their eyes. They neglected towns that were wiped off the face of the earth due to the hurricane. Barbour did not. However, I digress. Barbour was a consummate politician, and he would have seen the problems that a bill like House Bill 1523 would cause.

Phil Bryant isn’t smart enough to understand the ramifications. Bryant has never been smart enough; he is just a well-known Republican in a state much like Alabama that will elect anything that is Republican. Bryant is an enemy of the people of Mississippi and they don’t even realize it. Bryant should be ashamed, but he is far too stupid to feel shame. He was a terrible state Auditor, a terrible legislator, a terrible Lt. Governor, and an awful Governor. I am ashamed that he and I graduated from the same university. 

I have to add this about my feelings toward Mississippi. I lived in South Mississippi. South Mississippi and the Gulf Coast have always been more liberal than much of the rest of the state. For many years after Republicans had won much of the South and the state of Mississippi, they still elected a Democrat to Congress. Sadly that ended when Republicans gained the majority in the House. South Mississippi though was a liberal place in a state not known for its liberal leanings. Of course there were those who were staunchly conservative, but the second largest university in Mississippi was the main education institution in South Mississippi, and the University of Southern Mississippi remains a bastion of liberalism, even if it occasionally produces jackasses like Phil Bryant.

Personally, I think that President Obama should cancel any federal contracts in states that put out these types of bills and begin the closure of military bases in those states. Do you realize what would happen to the economy of Mississippi if they closed Camp Shelby, Keesler AFB, or Stennis Space Center, (two of seven, as Stennis isn’t technically a military base) not to mention what would happen in North Carolina if Fort Braggs (one of ten military bases) were to be closed? Mississippi companies such as Ingalls Shipbuilding or Northrop Grumman Ship Systems should also lose government contracts for remaining in Mississippi. Big business can make a major impact on these bills. When Arkansas attempted a similar bill, Wal-Mart flexed its muscles and the bill was defeated. We need more companies and our own federal government to act and stop these violations of our civil rights. Furthermore, all state governments should follow New York and Vermont and Washington in canceling any state travel to states with such laws. While I know not all of that is within Obama’s executive power, much of it can be controlled by the Department of Defense and other government agencies.


* * * * *


On a different note, NPR’s All Things Considered did a tribute to Merle Haggard yesterday, who died on his 79th birthday. I always liked Merle Haggard’s songs such as “Okie from Muskogee.” The NPR tribute was very sweet at the end when they said:

Haggard wrote the foreword to his biography, an early summation of the ingredients of his life and his music. He read it himself for the audio book version: 

“I’ve lived through 17 stays in penal institutions. Incarceration in a penitentiary. Five marriages, bankruptcy, a broken back, brawls, shooting incidents, swindlings, sickness, the death of loved ones and more. I’ve heard tens of thousands chant my name when I couldn’t hear the voice of my own soul. I wondered if God was listening and I was sure no one else was.”

With Haggard’s death, perhaps he will finally learn that God was indeed listening and was actually a fan.

When I heard the words, “perhaps he will finally learn that God was indeed listening and was actually a fan,” I began to cry. I couldn’t help myself. Maybe it was because Tuesday, I had talked about the three E’s in my life that are no longer with me, and I was already thinking of heaven, but that final line just broke my heart. Luckily, I wasn’t driving and was sitting in my car to hear the end of the story, because my eyes welled up with tears and I just sat there and wept.

About Joe

I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my life…not anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces. View all posts by Joe

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