GULFPORT -- In response to the state's "religious freedom" bill, Mayor Billy Hewes said the city was built on diversity and all are welcome. But as a state senator 12 years ago, Hewes sponsored a bill that said marriage should be limited to heterosexuals.
The state Senate resolution asked Congress to pass a constitutional amendment that defined marriage as between a man and a woman. The legislation passed the Senate, but died in a House committee.
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The same year, however, the Legislature asked voters to decide whether the state constitution should be amended to ban gay marriage. Voters said yes. A number of states banned gay marriage in 2004, the year after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the state sodomy law in Lawrence v. Texas.
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court essentially eliminated those state bans by legalizing gay marriage.
In the wake of the ruling, the legislature passed and Gov. Phil Bryant signed a law that allows religious organizations, businesses and government employees to refuse service
under specified circumstances to gay and transgendered people.
The mayors of Pass Christian, Ocean Springs, Pascagoula and Biloxi have voiced their opposition to the bill.
Hewes did not want to talk about the law, instead texting a prepared statement to the Sun Herald that said Gulfport was built on diversity and welcomes all.
Hewes has not returned subsequent calls about his sponsorship of the 2004 Senate bill and stance on the new law.
The legislation he sponsored in 2004 said the U.S. Constitution should limit marriage to a man and a woman "certain parties are thus manipulating the federal court system to overcome public opinion with respect to marriage, with the openly admitted goal of eventually imposing same-sex 'marriage' and civil unions on every state in the nation; and, whereas, this Legislature strongly believes that the proposed amendment is a reasonable response to this attack on our nation's values and its Constitution."