GULFPORT -- Mayor Billy Hewes reiterated in a Facebook post that the city is all about tolerance, despite his personal belief that only heterosexuals should be allowed to marry.
The Sun Herald has been trying to reach Hewes since Saturday about his position on Mississippi's new "religious freedom" bill, and his 2004 sponsorship while in the state Senate of a resolution that supported marriage only between a man and woman.
Hewes did not return the multimedia company's phone calls, instead choosing to respond Wednesday morning on social media.
While his position has not changed since 2004 on marriage, he said in the Facebook post:
"I have every right to my own opinion and won't be shamed for it. By the same token, I won't persecute or condemn others for theirs. I may debate it with them, but I will not judge or be uncivil. Every difference of opinion is not a declaration of war.
"Having said that, I acknowledge that I don't have all the answers, that you get what you give, that every person has great worth, that we have so much more in common than we do differences, and that my Christ is a loving and compassionate God. His greatest Commandment is that we treat others as we would like to be treated. The door of tolerance should swing both ways.
"So, when it comes to the character of our community, the answer is clear. There is not one example that can be pointed to where Gulfport has adopted discriminatory policies or taken such action -- and we're not about to. Gulfport is truly 'Open for Business and Geared for a Good Time.'
"We are many people and One Coast. I will not be a party to any action that discriminates against businesses or individuals, nor will I be used as a pawn to further one's agenda of divisiveness."
Hewes also said people are not asked about "their pedigree, family history, or personal persuasion" in Gulfport.
"If they are good people who want to make a positive difference," he wrote, "then the welcome mat is always out,"