The Religious Freedom Restoration Act went into effect Tuesday and the L.G.B.T. community is responding. On the beach in Biloxi, just across from the Coliseum, set-up was underway for a silent protest. Speakers from across the state will gather to share thoughts on what the new law will mean for all minority demographics, especially the L.G.B.T. community.
Lynn Koval is an owner of Just Us Lounge in Biloxi. As a member of the L.G.B.T. community, she fears the Religious Freedom Restoration Act will not be used for its intended purpose, but will be misused to discriminate. Koval says, “And it may be taken very differently in these other states, and it may in fact do what it was intended to do. However, in the State of Mississippi, it will take on a different meaning.”
Koval says that meaning will be one of discrimination against not only the L.G.B.T. community, but all minorities in Mississippi, something Koval says she's seen firsthand. Koval also says, “I've experienced it myself, even on the Coast, 20 years ago. Do I think it’s going to happen? Yes.”
While Koval believes the Coast is improving, L.G.B.T. advocate, Jeff White-Perkins, says he received a call just last week of a Desoto man being asked to leave a restaurant because “we don't serve people like you.” He says Tuesday night’s rally is about remembering individuals like this. White-Perkins says, “Kind of think in silent contemplation of the things that we have to deal with that are coming up next. We've used our voice, we've tried, we've gone, yelled, screamed, tried to get things changed, and that hasn't worked, so we're going to come together and just prepare for what's coming on later.”
White-Perkins and his group have passed anti-discrimination referendums in eight cities along the Coast and have helped organize events to support the L.G.B.T. community in response to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Moving forward, White-Perkins hopes his group can be a resource to those who may be hurt by the law. He also says, “If they are affected by this law in some way, that they'll actually have places they can turn to and people they can go to.”
White-Perkins is planning to kick off a broader L.G.B.T. organization later this month. Reverend Martin Todd Allen from Get Equal Mississippi, Constance Gordon from the A.C.L.U., and Kenneth Givins from Come As You Are Campaign all spoke at the rally Tuesday night. Those at the rally hope the law will bring them closer together in support of fellow L.G.B.T. community members and their allies.