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Mississippi authors protest HB1523, anti-LGBT law

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Neilson Barnard/Getty Images; Jason DeCrow/AP file

As North Carolina continues to face a boycott over its recent transgender bathroom law, Mississippi has problems of its own. Governor Phil Bryant recently signed House Bill 1523, a.k.a. the Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act, allowing religious groups, private businesses, and even government employees to deny service to citizens based on religious beliefs. There are three specific beliefs protected under the law: that marriage should only be between a man and a woman, that no sex should take place outside of marriage, and that gender is assigned at birth. These provisions specifically target LGBTQ populations, and have not sat well with all Mississippians. The law is set to take effect July 1, but on Monday a cadre of well-known Mississippi authors signed an open letter protesting against what they see as discrimination.

“It is deeply disturbing to so many of us to see the rhetoric of hate, thinly veiled, once more poison our political discourse,” the letter reads, which is signed by 95 authors including John Grisham and Donna Tartt, ESPN’s Wright Thompson, and Kathryn Stockett (The Help), among others. “But Governor Phil Bryant and the Mississippi legislators who voted for this bill are not the sole voices of our state. 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.”

The letter is reprinted verbatim below, via the Jackson Free Press, along with the full list of names.

Statement of Mississippi Writers Opposing HB 1523

Mississippi has a thousand histories, but these can be boiled down to two strains: our reactionary side, which has nourished intolerance and degradation and brutality, which has looked at difference as a threat, which has circled tightly around the familiar and the monolithic; and our humane side, which treasures compassion and charity and a wide net of kinship, which is fascinated by character and story, which is deeply involved in the daily business of our neighbors. This core kindness, the embracing of wildness and weirdness, is what has nurtured the great literature that has come from our state. What literature teaches us is empathy. 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.” Mississippi authors have written through pain, and they have written out of disappointment, but they have also written from wonder, and pride, and a fierce desire to see the politics of this state live up to its citizens. It is deeply disturbing to so many of us to see the rhetoric of hate, thinly veiled, once more poison our political discourse. But Governor Phil Bryant and the Mississippi legislators who voted for this bill are not the sole voices of our state. 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.

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.”

Ellis Anderson

Ace Atkins

Howard Bahr

Angela Ball

Marion Barnwell

Steven Barthelme

Matt Bondurant

William Boyle

Carolyn Brown

Kelly Butler

Jimmy Cajoleas

Sarah C. Campbell

Julie Cantrell

Hodding Carter III

Hodding Carter IV

Maari Carter

Jim Dees

James Dickson

Kendall Dunkelberg

William Dunlap

Lee Durkee

Margaret Eby

John T. Edge

Liz Egan

Kelly Ellis

W. Ralph Eubanks

Beth Ann Fennelly

Ellen Ann Fentress

William R. Ferris

Ann Fisher-Wirth

Tom Franklin

Martha Hall Foose

Christopher Garland

Melissa Ginsburg

John Grisham

Matthew Guinn

Minrose Gwin

Becky Hagenston

Derrick Harriell

Brooks Haxton

Gerard Helferich

Ravi Howard

Lisa Howorth

T. R. Hummer

Greg Iles

Deborah Johnson

Rheta Grimsley Johnson

Michael Kardos

James Kimbrell

Taylor Kitchings

Jamie Kornegay

Kos Kostmayer

Catherine Lacey

Kiese Laymon

T. K. Lee

Beverly Lowry

Richard Lyons

Suzanne Marrs

C. Liegh McInnis

Margaret McMullan

Greg Miller

Mary Miller

Andrew Malan Milward

Benjamin Morris

Family of Willie Morris

Scott Naugle

Teresa Nicholas

Michael Pickard

Catherine Pierce

John Pritchard

Douglas Ray

Julia Reed

James Seay

Kevin Sessums

Gary Sheppard

Katy Simpson Smith

Matthew Clark Smith

Michael C. Smith

Michael Farris Smith

Kathryn Stockett

Donna Tartt

Tate Taylor

Wright Thompson

Natasha Trethewey

Tiffany Quay Tyson

Jesmyn Ward

Brad Watson

Larry Wells

Neil White

Curtis Wilkie

Ruth Williams

Austin Wilson

Gerry Wilson

Steve Yarbrough

Steve Yates

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