GetEqual Mississppi, a gay advocacy group, has issued a travel advisory for the LGBT community. The advisory is to let the community know that it is advised to avoid Mississippi unless you are absolutely required to go.
The reason for the alert is because Mississippi has decided to try to pass the "Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act". The bill, which would make discrimination against LGBT people legal, is about to be voted on by the Mississippi House of Representatives, where it is expected to pass. Once passed, the bill would go to the governor for a signature or a veto.
Zach Magee, an organizer for GetEqual Mississippi, had this to say about the travel advisory:
“This bill is progressing at a very rapid rate, making my beautiful state a potentially dangerous place for anyone perceived as ‘different’ from the right-wing extremists who have crafted this bill. While the LGBT community — including both residents and visitors — will be negatively impacted by this bill, it is also a license to discriminate against any group seen as ‘different,’ including women, racial or ethnic minorities, or immigrants. Religious freedom, in my eyes, does not mean blatant discrimination of any kind — unfortunately, discrimination is a fundamental part of this bill.”
Growing up in Arkansas, I have been to Mississippi many times and for many reasons. Though I have never felt unsafe there, I never traveled alone. Additionally, I never traveled off the beaten path.
GetEqual is encouraging LGBT travels to avoid traveling alone, only book travel with hotels that are known to have a non-discriminatory policy, only visit established gay-friendly bars, and always be aware of your surroundings.
While I think the travel advisory is more about politics and making a statement than anything, we have to remember that Mississippi is the state where a gay mayoral candidate was strangled and burned, and, to make matters worse, the murderer cannot be charged with a hate crime because Mississippi does not use sexual orientation in determining hate crimes.
I think it is always smarter to be aware of your surrounding no matter where you are traveling. Additionally, if you are concerned about making a difference in the world, always make sure you mostly frequent businesses and locations that represent the type of the world you want to see.
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