State Politics

Pair will bring LBGT hearing to Mississippi Capitol

HB 1523, the ‘religious freedom’ bill, brought out activists on both sides of the issue to Jones Park in April.
HB 1523, the ‘religious freedom’ bill, brought out activists on both sides of the issue to Jones Park in April. File

A Coast state senator and a colleague from the Delta are teaming for a legislative hearing on gender equality and transgender rights next week in Jackson.

It already will likely be the busiest week, with a flurry of conference reports and appropriations bills to consider, but Sen. Debbie Dawkins, D-Pass Christian, who will hold the hearing with Sen. Derrick Simmons, D-Greenville, said they’ll tag-team between the hearing and the Senate floor if they have to.

Dawkins said there was no particular incident that inspired the hearing but she wants to avoid another bill such as the religious-freedom bill that sparked criticism across the United States.

She doubts legislators averse to discussions of sexuality and gender will show up, even though she said she believes it is they who could use a little education on the subjects.

“I believed I was well-educated and tolerant,” she said. “But I’ve learned a lot from talking to activists and others in the transgender community.

“It’s easier when everything is black and white. But there’s a lot of gray when it comes to sexuality.”

Rise Stronger, a liberal watchdog group that formed after the election of President Donald Trump, and the American Civil Liberties Union are helping host and publicize the hearing, which is set for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday at the state Capitol.

Mississippi Rising, a Coast-based group that has been advocating for a new state flag and supporting LBGT rights, said it will be taking some of its members there.

“We will be joining others in testifying before the MS legislature to increase legislator knowledge of and familiarity with transgender people and build support for trans rights,” the group said in an email. “Please join us at the state capitol to show support for trans rights if you can.”

Paul Hampton: 228-284-7296, @JPaulHampton