Washington--Today, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality, announced a new public education and engagement campaign—the first of its kind in the history of the Deep South—that aims to strengthen the foundation of public support for LGBT Mississippians, aid in the passage of pro-equality legislation, and bolster efforts to win marriage equality for Mississippi’s gay and lesbian couples.
Placing faith at the center of the effort, All God’s Children is a $310,000 campaign that’s built around four consecutive weeks of television ads in the Magnolia State—2,000 gross rating points in total—and will be amplified by robust direct mail, phone banking operations, telephone town halls, billboards, online advertising and conversations taking place door-to-door.
All God’s Children was built to test a replicable model that can be used to move people of faith on LGBT issues throughout the South. According to Gallup, Mississippi is the most religious state in America, and it’s believed that an estimated 55% of its population is Baptist.
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“This first ever campaign in the Deep South is an unprecedented opportunity to tell the true stories of LGBT Mississippians—stories of hope, family, perseverance and progress," said HRC President Chad Griffin. "LGBT people are just like everyone else—they go to church, volunteer in their communities, and want to build a better future for their families. Most importantly, they’re born and raised in the state of Mississippi, and they want to help make it a more inclusive place to live for everybody."
This effort launches just days before Mississippi’s first marriage equality lawsuit will be heard in federal court on Wednesday, November 12th. The case will be argued by Roberta Kaplan, who successfully argued United States v. Windsor before the United States Supreme Court last year.
Anchored by a series of TV commercials, the first ad will feature Mary Jane Kennedy, a Southern Baptist mother who has taught Bible study and Sunday school at her church. A stay-at-home mother who’s lived in Mississippi for most of her life, Mary Jane believes her faith compels her to love others and value the worth of all human beings—including LGBT people. From there, the stories of a trailblazing state legislator, an Iraq War veteran, a student, and a preacher will be featured in subsequent TV ads. And for the first time in the history of public education campaigns in the South, the story of a transgender woman from Mississippi will also be highlighted.
In order to maximize the television ads’ impact, and soften the ground for future efforts to achieve full equality, the campaign will also engage Mississippians in a number of ways:
· Person-to Person Engagement—Campaign representatives will go door-to door with campaign materials and reach more than 10,000 homes. In addition, the campaign will start conversations in prominent public spaces in communities across the state. This includes reaching out at one of Mississippi’s most prominent in-state college football games, the Egg Bowl.
· Direct Mail and Phone Calls—Two rounds of direct mail pieces will be delivered, and they will be followed up with complementary calls from staff to reinforce the campaign’s message.
· Online – Online ads will be placed prominently on select websites, and will be promoted on social media.
· Billboards—The campaign will also be promoted on billboards.
· Telephone Town Halls—More than 50,000 Mississippians will be asked to participate in a statewide telephone town hall to discuss the importance of treating LGBT people equally.
Based on rigorous research, the campaign aims to reverse the fact that only five in ten Mississippians say they know an LGBT person when the national number stands at nine in ten Americans. Research and our practical communal experience clearly indicates that people are far more likely to support LGBT rights and legal protections when they know someone who is LGBT.
“This campaign sends the profoundly important message that LGBT people are our neighbors, coworkers, and family members—they’re the congregant down the pew and the friend who watches your pet when you go out of town," said Griffin. "LGBT people come from all walks of life and inhabit each and every community in this state. This campaign focuses on LGBT Mississippians as contributing, thriving and prospering members of society—folks who do nothing to deserve the discrimination they too often face, and who seek only to be treated fairly and decently by the state they love.”
The campaign is the latest large-scale effort of HRC’s Project One America, an initiative geared towards advancing social, institutional and legal equality in Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas. HRC Mississippi is working to advance equality for LGBT Mississippians who have no state or municipal level protections in housing, workplace, or public accommodations; legal state recognition for their relationships and families; state rights to jointly adopt children; and state protections from hate crimes. Through HRC Mississippi, we are working toward a future of fairness every day—changing hearts, minds and laws toward achieving full equality.
Motivation for this effort comes in part from the passage of the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act earlier this year. Considered by many as a license to discriminate, the law’s passage—and the governor’s signing of it surrounded by staunch opponents of equality—was a sign that Mississippi could be moving in the wrong direction on LGBT issues.
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