WAVELAND -- Waveland Mayor David Garcia said he believes all residents in his city should have the freedom to marry, and his opinion was made public Wednesday.
Southerners for the Freedom to Marry announced in a press release Garcia had become the first mayor in Mississippi to openly support gay marriage.
Garcia joins more than 450 mayors from the Southern region of the United States that joined Southerners for Freedom to Marry's campaign to "back freedom and dignity for all loving couples and their families." Garcia said several gay or lesbian couples who live in Waveland have approached him and asked about his stance on gay marriage.
"We know many people in loving and committed same-sex relationships who are active participants in improving our communities and we've seen how important marriage has been for them and their families," Garcia said. "Because I believe in fairness for all American families, I support the freedom to marry for same-sex couples willing to take on that commitment."
Garcia said LGBT residents in Waveland help the economy and spend money like any other resident, and he would welcome gay marriages in the city.
"I'm not a person to judge people in their beliefs of what they may believe in. I have no problem supporting them in that effort," he said.
Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, said Garcia's support of LGBT rights in Mississippi is a step in the right direction. Wolfson said more same-sex couples are raising children in Mississippi than in any other state.
"Waveland Mayor Garcia is standing up for these kids and these families, and for the basic principle that government should not be denying any Mississippians the freedom to marry the person they love," Wolfson said.
On May 21, Waveland passed an anti-discrimination resolution in support of its LGBT residents.
According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, 138 gay or lesbian couples were living in Hancock County in 2010.
Hancock, Harrison and Jackson counties saw a 34.9 percent increase in gay and lesbian couples from 2000 to 2010, according to census data.