Hancock County

'No Hate In Our State' rally set for Sunday in Bay St. Louis

Several groups are planning to rally against House Bill 1523 from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday at the foot of the Bay St. Louis bridge on U.S. 90.

Beforehand, participants can gather at the Longfellow Civic Center at 122 Court St. for a short walk along Beach Boulevard to the bridge for the "No Hate In Our State" rally.

The sponsoring groups are providing a limited number of signs and encouraging participants to bring signs, as well.

A Unity Celebration will be held at the Longfellow Center at 5 p.m. Representatives of sponsoring organizations will offer brief statements, followed by live music by Rochelle Harper and Friends until 7 p.m.

Security and light refreshments will be provided, but participants also can bring refreshments.

Lea Campbell of the Mississippi Rising Coalition said: "It is important that citizens who stand for equality and the celebration of diversity come together to support one another and spread the message that discrimination of any kind is unwelcome in our cities and in our state. Mississippi is the hospitality state, and House Bill 1523 and our current state flag do not reflect our values. We will continue to invite all Mississippians to join our coalition and to promote inclusion, mutual respect of differences and a spirit of unity and progress."

Rally sponsors are the Flag for All Mississippians Coalition, Mississippi Rising Coalition, CAYA, the Mississippi Rainbow Center, Hancock County NAACP, Human Rights Campaign and We Are all Mississippi Coalition.

House Bill 1523, referred to as the "religious freedom" bill, is expected to take effect July 1 unless the American Civil Liberties Union prevails in a legal challenge pending in federal court.

Among other things, the law would allow government employees, religious organizations and businesses to deny marriage-related services to same-sex couples when providing those services conflicts with religious or moral beliefs.

The sponsoring groups also are pushing to remove the Confederate battle emblem from Mississippi's state flag. Mississippi is the last state that flies a flag with the Confederate emblem.