Ninety-five writers with Mississippi ties signed a statement opposed to the Mississippi "religious freedom" law signed last week by Gov. Phil Bryant.
"What literature teaches us is empathy," the statement says. "It reminds us to reach out a hand to our neighbors -- even if they look different from us, love different from us -- and say, 'Why, I recognize you; you're a human, just like me, sprung from the same messy place, bound on the same hard road.'"
Among those who signed are John Grisham, who has sold millions of thrillers; W. Ralph Eubanks, whose latest book is "The House at the End of the Road: Three Generations of an Interracial Family in the American South"; Donna Tartt, who won the Pulitzer Prize for her latest novel, "The Goldfinch"; Gulfport native Neil White, whose 2009 memoir, "In the Sanctuary of Outcasts: A Memoir," covers the 18 months he spent in federal prison for fraud; Pass Christian Books owner Scott Naugle; Ellis Anderson, whose "Under Surge Under Siege" won the Eudora Welty Prize; Gulfport native Natasha Trethewey, who won the Pulitzer for her third book of poems, "Native Guard"; and Jesmyn Ward of DeLisle, who won the National Book award for "Salvage the Bones."
The writers also called for the repeal of the law.
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"The 95 undersigned writers from Mississippi stand opposed to any violation of civil rights, including discrimination against LGBTQ citizens, and call for the repeal of the recently enacted House Bill 1523," they wrote.
The law protects three specific beliefs: the belief that marriage should only be between a man and a woman, that only married people should have sexual relations, and a person cannot switch genders.
"But Governor Phil Bryant and the Mississippi legislators who voted for this bill are not the sole voices of our state," the statement says. "There have always been people here battling injustice. That's the version of Mississippi we believe in, and that's the Mississippi we won't stop fighting for."