A gay rights group is shifting its focus from the battle for same-sex marriage legalization to other important matters. The gay rights movement led by the Human Rights Campaign is starting to turn its attentions towards matters such as achieving more rights for gay parents, bolstering job security, creating anti-discrimination regulations and even helping to thwart anti-gay bullying. Much of their focus is looking towards the South in an effort to boost support in areas that may have resisted change previously.
The Human Rights Campaign is spending over $9 million in an effort to change the opinions of the public in the South. In an attempt to appeal to the southern community they have recruited locals to be their voices. One local is a former pastor for a Methodist church, Rob Hill. Hill, who lives in Mississippi, chose to come out of the proverbial closet publicly at a news conference held by the Human Rights Campaign. Since coming out as gay to the world, he has taken to promoting equal rights across rural Mississippi.
As part of the campaign to promote gay rights, the organization has taken to locations in Arkansas, Alabama and Mississippi in an effort to promote equal rights and treatment. Hill has traveled around Mississippi on behalf of the organization speaking to various officials and the ordinary people on the local level to promote equality and acceptance. Hill urges people to be on the correct side of history as part of his discussion on gay acceptance.
The shift of focus from the gay rights group comes at a time when 19 states already allow same-sex marriage by law. With many believing that the Supreme Court will ultimately have the final say in the matter of same-sex marriage across the country, advocates for gay rights are looking to promote other areas in which inequalities exist. With individuals such as Hill acting as faces of the movement, the campaign is looking to get other locals involved as well.
Hill has spent his summer going from town to town trying to fire up the local gay populations. There have been some victories in towns such as Waveland, a small coastal town in Mississippi. In Waveland, an anti-discrimination resolution was passed unanimously. While these victories are celebrated by gay rights supporters, more difficult battles will follow.
Mississippi is still a part of what is known as the Bible Belt, an area of the South where religious beliefs are a major part of life. Even in towns such as Natchez which are known to be fairly welcoming to gay individuals, people were hesitant to commit to an anti-discrimination regulation. Some of the gay locals have expressed their reluctance to aggressively campaign for equal rights because they did not want to upset what they consider to be a truce with those who do not approve.
The Human Rights Campaign is hoping that eventually people will be more open to demanding equal rights and treatment no matter what their sexual orientation. As part of the shift in focus, the gay rights group has set up permanent offices in Alabama, Mississippi and Arkansas. The hope is that their presence will help influence public opinion in their favor and get people involved in demanding equal treatment.
By Kimberley Spinney