April 22, 2016
JACKSON, Miss. - Today, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Mississippi praised the Jackson Public School Board of Trustees for voting unanimously to extend fully-inclusive sexual orientation and gender identity workplace protections to their employees. With almost 30,000 students, the Jackson Public School district is second largest in the state and one of the first in the Mississippi Public School system to grant employment protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) staff members.
“Every Mississippian, no matter who they are or whom they love, has the right to earn an honest living and provide for their families without fear of prejudice and discrimination in the workplace,” said HRC Mississippi State Director Rob Hill. “As state lawmakers roll back the rights of LGBT Mississippians, we commend the Jackson Public School board members for doing what they can to safeguard these necessary protections for all their employees.”
Superintendent Dr. Cedrick Gray shared, “I am proud to announce the Board of Trustees for Jackson Public Schools has revised its policies to reflect that the District shall not discriminate against any individual because of race, sex, sexual orientation, gender expression or identity.”
The Board of Trustees on Tuesday voted 5-0 to approve the updated policy, which goes into effect immediately.
This week’s vote comes as the Mississippi State Legislature is facing fierce backlash for the passage of HB 1523 -- a deeply discriminatory law that allows almost any individual or organization to use religion to justify discrimination against a host of Mississippians, including LGBT people, single mothers, unwed couples and others. Major national and local businesses are calling for repeal, and performers like Bryan Adams, and most recently Tracy Morgan, have cancelled shows in the state, while actress Sharon Stone has cancelled a film shoot. ABC’s “Good Morning America” co-anchor Robin Roberts, who is featured as the welcoming face of the Hospitality State’s official tourism guide, also decried the legislation, as did native Mississippian actress Sela Ward. Earlier this month, nearly 100 prominent writers from the state, including John Grisham and Kathryn Stockett, also signed a letter protesting the discriminatory law.
On Sunday, May 1, HRC Mississippi will join local advocates in a rally calling on Governor Bryant, Lt. Governor Tate Reeves and House Speaker Philip A. Gunn to listen to fair-minded Mississippians, and repeal H.B. 1523. The rally will culminate in a march from the Mississippi State Capitol to the Governor’s mansion.
In 2014, HRC launched Project One America, an initiative geared towards advancing social, institutional and legal equality in Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas. HRC Mississippi continues to work to advance equality for LGBT Mississippians who have no state level protections in housing, workplace, or public accommodations. Through HRC Mississippi, we are working toward a future of fairness every day—changing hearts, minds and laws toward achieving full equality.