Posts Tagged ‘Mississippi’

Marriage Equality: A Perspective from an Intersex, Lesbian, Unitarian Universalist from Mississippi

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This post was written by Amy Hinton.

Growing up, the emphasis I learned from my surroundings was that family was important. Family was women getting married and having a family. Family was if you brought children from a previous marriage into a new one that they were treated no different. In all of these things, there was love.

However, there were stirrings in the back of my mind that made me feel different in a way that I kept people at a distance and was probably a bully myself.

To make a long story short: when I was twenty-one years old I found out that I had a genetic condition known as Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, which means that I have XY chromosomes, but I was born and raised physically female. I describe myself as Intersex. A year after finding out that I was intersex, I “came out” as lesbian.

Being intersex has a shame and secrecy attached to it that makes people feel sub-human. I thought being married and having a family was the norm. But then I found out that not only would I never bear children, but without this condition, I would have fathered children, not birthed them. Imagine my shock and confusion for quite some time!

Being intersex female means that my relationship with a woman is seen as a lesbian relationship (homosexual); however, genetically, we’re opposite sex (me XY and she XX). If I were to be with a man, socially we’d be a heterosexual couple, and genetically a homosexual couple.

There is talk about “traditional marriage.” There is talk about going against God’s Word. I grew up with the belief and understanding that marriage was for two people who love each other. Marriage was a bond of love, honor, and friendship..

Jennifer [L] and Amy [R] on their wedding day at Our Home Universalist Unitarian Church, Ellisville, MS, in 2010.

So why a big stink about two people of the same gender being married? If a religious clergy feels they cannot perform a marriage ceremony, then that’s okay! There are faiths and churches that do allow same-sex unions. (Shout out to Unitarian Universalists!) My wife and I married in 2010 in Ellisville, Mississippi, at Our Home Universalist Unitarian Church.

Marriage means many things to many people. As a lesbian, I must look at the legal side of marriage also because those are the benefits I am denied. I am denied the right to be counted as a family on mine or my wife’s medical insurance. We are denied possible tax breaks. We will not be counted for any government benefits after death. Unmarried couples have no legal rights to their partner (gay or straight). There are some instances where the couples can have Power of Attorney, Medical Wills, and other legal documents to protect each other’s rights. When I married my own wife, we had to fill out, notarize, and sign (with witnesses) forms that are about 10 pages long giving each other rights in cases of medical intervention and death. Whereas, those married couples under the law only need one piece of paper – a marriage license.

While it is okay to not be “for” marriage equality, my marriage shouldn’t be banned simply because some religion or political party or individuals don’t agree with it. They are entitled to that belief, but no one is entitled to deny me equal protection under the law.

This post was written by Amy Hinton. You can find her at

What Dr. King Taught Me in Mississippi

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The message below went out to Standing on the Side of Love supporters on Thursday, January 5, 2012. You can sign-up for these emails here.

Just weeks before I met Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for the first time, I said goodbye to New York City and thumbed my way to All Souls Unitarian Church in Washington D.C., where they were recruiting for the Freedom Rides — buses headed into the segregated South to test racial segregation policies.  The first wave of freedom rides made national news when a bus in Alabama was firebombed by a mob that held its doors shut as it burned and later viciously beat the riders when they were able to escape.  The next wave of Riders, they told us, had to send a message that the bombing would not deter the protests. So, I hopped on board.

In Jackson, our group used the whites-only facilities at the train station.  It wasn’t a pretty scene – hatred surrounded us.  I had no idea how respond.  Stokely Carmichael, a fellow rider, had been down South before and was well-versed.  He asked me if I had ever heard of non-violence, offering a brief description.  “Hell no,” I said, one of the few uneducated young people in a group full of mostly college students. “Whoever heard of such a thing?”

Following others’ lead, I held my ground that day without responding to the aggression, and I gave a straight razor I always kept on me to another Rider to dispose of.  Eventually officers herded us all onto paddy wagons with billy clubs, spitting on us along the way.  I would later spend 40 days in Parchman Penitentiary for my act of civil disobedience, but for the next few days, the other Riders and I were confined in Hinds County jail, where we met Dr. King.

I remember first seeing him in person, larger than life.  Dr. King had a group of students gathered around him, and he was teaching the art of non-violent action.  He told us, it’s the most powerful weapon we have, because if we try to fight or use weapons to overcome our situation, the repercussions would be much worse than if we project love.

As I watched, it appeared to me like he was a modern-day Jesus mentoring to his disciples. This was a particularly funny feeling for me, since growing up, I was used to worshipping a blue-eyed, blond-haired, six-foot-tall Jesus.

Indeed, Dr. King wasn’t just an ordinary man; he was an extraordinary leader.  And the principles of non-violence he espoused helped save my life.

This year, communities across this country will remember the work of Dr. King on  January 16th, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Dr. King was all about love.  In our effort to continue the work that he started, can you join me in honoring the spirit of this holiday by bringing this fantastic campaign of love into your community’s commemoration of MLK, Jr. Day?

Click here to learn how you can commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with love, and receive several Standing on the Side of Love placards your congregation can bring with you to community events.

Many months later, the words of Dr. King followed me as I traveled with SNCC to embark on a voter registration project in Liberty, Mississippi, where my efforts, with Mr. Bob Moses, to escort four local blacks to the courthouse to register to vote were met by a racist, violent mob.  A crowd of a dozen whites shouted hostile questions to us about why “niggers from New York” were stirring up trouble. A thin old man named Bryant Jones was in a shaking, uncontrollable rage, talking about how black men were raping white women up North.  He began to pummel me.  Mr. Moses pulled me around the waist, trying to maneuver me out of the beating and the crowd of 15 or so people surrounding us.  The old man kept swinging, possessed of a hatred so intense that it seemed to consume what strength he had.  He was holding me so tight around the collar, I put my hands on my collar to ease the choking.  He just kept hitting and shouting, “Why don’t you hit me, nigger?”

Bryant Jones, was trying to get me to abandon the non-violent code that Martin Luther King, Jr. had taught us.  But I heeded Dr. King’s teachings.  After a while, tired, Bryant yelled to his crowd, ‘Why don’t we lynch this nigger?’  The crowd had various reactions, but made no efforts to get involved further.  When Bryant mentioned lynching and the crowd did not respond, it was the first time I realized that all white people were not evil.  Fifty plus years ago.

I told Mr. Bryant, ‘If you’re through beating me, I’d like to go now.’  One of the men who had been attempting to register then drove me away from the scene after Bryant released me.

Had I fought back, I might not be here today to share this story with you.

Thank you, Dr. King, for teaching me that non-violence and love is always the answer.  For that, and so much more, I honor you.

Please join me in honoring Dr. King’s spirit this year. Click here to get more information:

As a man in my 70s looking back on my life, including my time as a Freedom Rider in the 1960s, and thinking about what difference I can still make, I am inspired by the very notion of a Story of Us, and a Story of Now, and excited about the THIRTY DAYS OF LOVE that we are about to embark upon as a community.  I plan to participate in as many of the calls to action as possible, and to reflect on the importance of this moment in time to our country.  Please join me in signing up for THIRTY DAYS OF LOVE.

With liberty and justice for all,

Travis O. Britt, Sr.
Landover, Md.
Travis Britt, Sr.’s involvement with the Freedom Rides to end segregation in the 1960s are chronicled in books like the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Parting the Waters.”  After his time in the South, Mr. Britt lectured extensively in the northeast to enlist a new generation of activists in the civil rights movement. Years later, Mr. Britt organized a 1000-mile walk to generate support in the African American community for the Carter Presidency, which led to a personal audience in the Oval Office with the new President. At the age of 68, Mr. Britt achieved a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from Bowie State University.  Today, Mr. Britt carries on the legacy of his late wife, Maryland State Sen. Gwendolyn Britt, advocating for her signatures issues, including equal marriage rights for same-sex couples and voting rights for convicted felons.

Will Teaching Civil Rights Affect Mississippi’s Future?

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Positive news from the Magnolia State!

The AP reports that in the 2011-12 school year, Mississippi will become the first state to require that a civil rights/human rights curriculum be taught throughout all grades in its public school systems:

Civil rights is typically a part of social studies programs in the nation’s public schools. State officials believe Mississippi is the first state to require civil rights studies throughout all grades in its public school systems. To ensure civil rights are taught in the schools, the state has made the subject part of an assessment test students must pass for graduation.

“To not know history is to repeat it. And to learn the good things about Mississippi and America and the bad things about Mississippi and America is important for every Mississippian,” [Gov. Haley] Barbour said when asked about the curriculum during an interview with The Associated Press in December.

This is particularly good news coming from a state with a notorious legacy of brutal racism, and the highest proportion of African Americans in the nation.


According to the Jackson Free Press, Susan Glisson, Chair of the Mississippi Civil Rights Education Commission, says the curriculum is designed to be more empowering for students:

“So much of the way civil-rights history has been taught before is based on the “savior” narrative, the idea that some amazing charismatic leader has to come in and help you save your community,” Glisson said.

“That’s just not accurate civil-rights history. The Civil Rights Movement was accomplished by ordinary citizens…we can learn from them how to accomplish social change on our own. That’s what this kind of good teaching will do: show students how they can change their communities for the better.”

Whether the curriculum content connects the dots between other struggles for human rights remains to be seen, but some civil rights leaders are hopeful:

Derrick Johnson, president of the Mississippi NAACP, said the curriculum will help students better understand current political issues.

“In many cases, what we see today concerning the treatment of undocumented workers is very reminiscent of the treatment of African Americans during and before the Civil Rights Movement,” Johnson said.

Map of UU Congregations in Mississippi

Map of UU Congregations in Mississippi

Undoubtedly, the curriculum will be a positive step in helping students understand the history of oppression of African Americans, and the birth of civil rights movements. The curriculum could borrow a lesson or two from the UUA’s anti-racism programs, which dig deep into the power dynamics of racism, and the various ways racism manifests itself.

If the dialogue spurred by the new curriculum promotes understanding of other anti-oppression movements, all the better for immigrants and LGBT people.

Tamar Jacoby, president of ImmigrationWorks USA, a network of business groups that favors more legal immigration, has listed Mississippi as one of the states that could pass an Arizona/SB 1070 style law in the coming year.

For LGBT individuals, a friendlier climate is also sorely needed. In 2004, Mississippi voters approved a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage by a vote of 86% to 14% — the largest margin in any state. The state’s sodomy law had to be struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003, and there is still no state law banning discrimination against LGBT people. In 2010, the whole country took notice when a Mississippi federal court intervened and ruled that school officials violated a lesbian student’s First Amendment rights when it canceled the high school prom rather than let her attend with her girlfriend.

Regardless of how Mississippi’s new civil rights curriculum affects the socio-political climate for immigrants, LGBT people and others in the coming years, Mississippi has taken a tremendous step. Mississippians should be proud of the state’s new educational model, which will hopefully be adopted by other states across the country.

Post by Campaign Manager Dan Furmansky

Post by Campaign Manager Dan Furmansky