Today, HRC, announced new polling from Mason-Dixon Polling and Strategy that show broad, bipartisan support for legislation that would update Mississippi’s hate crimes laws to include sexual orientation, gender identity and disability. Currently, twin bills, HB 1494 and SB 2163, that would update the law accordingly are awaiting a hearing in the House Judiciary B committee and the Senate Judiciary A committee, respectively. This crucial update to Mississippi’s hate crimes law would simply bring it up to the federal standard.
“It is clear that updating Mississippi’s hate crimes laws is a non-controversial, commonsense solution toward ensuring victims of bias-based crimes are treated more fairly under the law, and now we know it is a proposition that has widespread bipartisan support across the state,” said Rob Hill, HRC Mississippi state director. “Without enumerating sexual orientation, gender identity and disability, the LGBTQ community and people with disabilities will continue to be under-protected when they are targeted simply because of who they are. This new polling shows the extent to which Mississippians support legislation that would update our hate crimes laws -- and this support that should encourage lawmakers to act immediately.”
The polling found that in every part of the state, support outweighed opposition. The levels of support in each area are as follows:
- 69 percent the Gulf Coast
- 66 percent in the Jackson Metro area
- 61 percent in the Delta
- 54 percent in Southern Mississippi
- 52 percent in Eastern Mississippi
- 49 percent in Northern Mississippi
Among party lines, support also outweighed opposition.
- 72 percent of Democrats supported, with 16 percent opposed
- 46 percent of Republicans supported, with 40 percent opposed
- 64 percent of Independents supported, with 27 percent opposed
Mississippi, like most states in the South, does not have statewide hate crimes laws that are inclusive of sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. This makes it more difficult for law enforcement to adequately prosecute perpetrators of bias-motivated crimes and deliver justice to victims and their families. Within the past few years, Mississippi has faced a tragic, disproportionate number of anti-transgender crimes, including the highly-publicized murders of Mercedes Williamson, Mesha Caldwell and Dee Whigham. Out of those three murders, only Mercedes Williamson’s was prosecuted under the federal hate crime statute, because the the perpetrator crossed state lines, making it a federal crime.
In 2014, HRC launched Project One America, an initiative geared towards advancing social, institutional and legal equality in Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas. HRC Mississippi continues to work to advance equality for LGBTQ Mississippians who have no state level protections in housing, workplace, or public accommodations. Through HRC Mississippi, we are working toward a future of fairness every day -- changing hearts, minds and laws toward achieving full equality.