Today, HRC announced Project One America, a comprehensive campaign to dramatically expand LGBT equality in the South through permanent campaigns in Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas. This substantial and lasting initiative—with a three year budget of $8.5 million and a dedicated staff of 20—is the largest coordinated campaign for LGBT equality in the history of the South.
“Right now, this country is deeply divided into two Americas—one where LGBT equality is nearly a reality and the other where LGBT people lack the most fundamental measures of equal citizenship. Project One America is an unparalleled effort to close that gap, and it opens up a bold, new chapter in the LGBT civil rights movement of this generation. In this grand struggle for equality, we can’t write off anyone, anywhere,” said HRC President and Arkansas native Chad Griffin.
Project One America is the very first campaign of its kind to work exclusively on LGBT equality in Mississippi—where there are no non-discrimination protections for LGBT people at the state or local level in employment, housing or public accommodations, and where the state’s constitution expressly prohibits marriage equality.
“Equality for LGBT people is a fundamental principal of equal protection under the law,” said Derrick Johnson, president of the Mississippi NAACP. “We must join hands in working to bring economic opportunity and liberty to all of our communities if we are to move forward as a state and as a nation.”
For families like Joce Pritchett and her partner of 10 years, Carla Webb, who raising two children in Jackson, equal protection under the law is a high priority. Pritchett carried the couple's two children, but Webb was the egg donor in both pregnancies. Under Mississippi law, Webb has no legal rights.
"What I'm personally hoping (HRC Mississippi) will be able to do is help bridge part of the divide in the state," Pritchett said to USA Today, pointing out that the diversity of the state's LGBT residents has resulted in fractures among the community."
“Despite the legal landscape, it’s long past time that the country stopped treating the Mississippi like the ‘finish line’ for equality. HRC has more than 10,000 members and supporters in Mississippi, and there are countless more fair-mined people ready to stand on the right side of history,” Griffin said.
Griffin will be visiting Mississippi on Tuesday, May 6th as part of a three-state tour of press and public events to kick off Project One America.
“I am only one of many clergy from all across the state of Mississippi who are deeply committed to equality for all people” said Rev. Stan Wilson, Northside Baptist Church. “I believe this project will reveal the multitudes of people who want Mississippi to be a fair and equitable state.”
"Discriminating against our friends and neighbors is both an affront to Mississippi values and our ability to grow as a state,” said Mitchell Moore, owner of Campbell's Bakery in Jackson. “Freedom means freedom for everyone, including our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters."
HRC will focus on making progress on three fronts—changing hearts and minds, advancing enduring legal protections, and building more inclusive institutions for LGBT people from the church pew to the workplace. HRC Mississippi will be anchored by full-time local staff and dedicated in-state office space to guarantee a round-the-clock effort.
The effort will be led nationally by Brad Clark, a long-time LGBT advocate with a consistent record of success at statewide LGBT equality organizations in Iowa and Colorado. Its deputy director will be Karin Quimby, a veteran of HRC’s Field work in the South.
"HRC has been the largest national LGBT organizer in the South for decades, but LGBT people in these three states have told us in deeply personal terms that they want us to do more in their front yard,” Clark said. “The opportunities for progress couldn’t be clearer, and the need couldn’t be greater. Mississippi has the single highest rate of gay and lesbian couples raising children of any state in the country, for instance, but these parents are making do without essential legal protections or inclusion in their community."
In addition to the record levels of LGBT parenting (which are drawn from a 2010 Census analysis by the Williams Institute), HRC found both real need and profound opportunity for progress in a recently-completed survey conducted for HRC by Anzalone Liszt Grove—the largest survey of its kind on the needs, experiences and priorities of LGBT people in the South.
- In Mississippi, nearly 65 percent of LGBT people report suffering verbal abuse.
- Fifteen percent report experiencing physical violence because of their identity.
- A quarter report experiencing discrimination in employment or public accommodation.
- And one in five LGBT parents raising children in these states are total legal strangers to the children they raise.
HRC Mississippi’s nine launch goals are:
- Empower LGBT people (and straight allies) to come out.
- Raise the visibility of LGBT people and issues with the general public.
- Create safer environments for LGBT young people.
- Build partnerships with faith communities, communities of color, business communities, and conservatives.
- Create a more inclusive workplace for LGBT people
- Build support for enduring legal protections that ensure LGBT equality.
- Expand participation in HRC’s Municipal Equality Index in these three states.
- Create a more inclusive healthcare environment for LGBT people
- Equip LGBT people and non-traditional allies as spokespeople.
A complete resource on Project One America’s vision and motivating research is available here.
HRC will continue being the single largest national LGBT organizer in the South, with a decades-long track record of political and field campaigns and grassroots education efforts. One-third (500,000) of our 1.5 million members and supporters call the South their home and HRC is present at more than 50 LGBT pride events across the South each year.
HRC’s field team is working across the South supporting legislative and electoral initiatives with direct grants to local and state groups and campaigns, funding for research and lobbying, as well as staff resources – including three full time employees dedicated to the South, and five other full time employees that spend a large portion of their time working in the region. Furthermore, the HRC Foundation’s public education and outreach programs – including nationally recognized benchmark ratings like the Corporate Equality Index, Healthcare Equality Index and Municipal Equality Index– are present across the South helping to transform the institutions that affect the daily lives of LGBT people.
“Project One America is the perfect complement to HRC’s existing political and field campaigns and grassroots education efforts—as well as our decades-old volunteer communities across the South,” said Griffin. “That said, we’re not undertaking this work because it will lead to quick, easy or sweeping victories. We’re doing it because it is difficult. Folks in these three states shouldn’t have to wait a single day longer for one, fully equal, America.”
Stay updated on HRC’s Project One America at www.projectoneamerica.org, follow the hashtag #ProjectOneAmerica on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, or text 'oneamerica' to 30644.
To read the USA Today article in its entirety, click here.