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Over the past year, HRC Mississippi made a determined effort to build stronger relationships with lawmakers in advance of the 2018 legislative session. We traveled across the state sharing about our work and telling lawmakers what it is like to be LGBTQ in Mississippi. Our goal was to find ways we can work together for a common mission in a bipartisan manner to advance equality. Where we found the most agreement among Republican and Democratic lawmakers was in updating our state’s hate crimes laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity, matching federal law.

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 existing hate crimes laws — and only  because the perpetrator crossed state lines, making it a federal crime.

This session, HRC Mississippi helped to introduce comprehensive statewide hate crimes bills in both the Mississippi House and Senate.

This week we celebrated as the Senate Judiciary A Committee unanimously passed SB 2576, a comprehensive hate crimes bill, with the support of all 10 Republicans and five Democrats on the committee. The bill, however, ran up against a procedural deadline and will not make it to the floor for a vote this session. Despite this setback, the bipartisan support for this bill was an important step forward in ensuring that all Mississippians can be protected from bias-motivated crimes, regardless of who they are or whom they might love.

The vote on SB 2576 this week is example of the progress we are making in Mississippi. We will carry this momentum into the next session, working closely with lawmakers to ensure that this important update to our hate crimes law comes to fruition.

To learn more about the work of HRC Mississippi, click here.


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