This is a op-ed submitted to the Jackson Free Press, Clarion-Ledger, and the on-line Madison in solidarity to Mississippi's LGBTQ Community.
To Governor Phil Bryant and Every Congressman That Approved HB1523, the "Protective Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act."
My name is J. Mercedes Cardona, citizen of your neighboring state, Louisiana. As your neighbor, I am appalled that you have allowed Jim Crow back in the law books. African Americans are still fighting for their civil rights in the Great State of Mississippi as it was just 1995 when the final slaves were emancipated via the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment; 140+ years later than the rest of America. Today in your state, the civil rights of the LGBTQ community are not being honored because of HB1523.
HB1523 is a mask in which hate is disguised. A law intended supposedly to allow Christian citizens to exercise their "beliefs" and refuse flower patrons florae for their homosexual weddings has morphed into language that reads, ". . . To provide certain protections for persons, religious organizations and private associations" to act on their ". . . sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions" to ". . . refuse services." Since when in America do we allow church and state to mingle over such a broad range of society? The very First Amendment of the Bill of Rights reads, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion . . ." How arrogant of you to shred our rights by egregiously acting against the spirit of the Constitution of the United States of America!
My duty as a trans woman in the Deep South is to speak out and bring visibility to this unfairness. Your demagogic rule further isolates your LGBTQ constituents. By enacting HB1523," you justify the mistreatment and exclusion of tax paying Americans giving power to the Christian majority to subjectively enact their "religious beliefs" upon everyone. I am freeing my soul for I can hold my tongue no longer. You, the governor of Mississippi have totally gone against the United States Constitution which explicitly expresses the separation of church and state. Enforcing your religious beliefs on citizens, voters and your community is a traumatic legacy to leave our descendants. Your actions similarly propagate hate using segregation. What advice would you offer a young transwoman in Mississippi? Right now LGBTQ people are the target; who is next?
If ever there was a time that a neighbor needed to show love to the Mississippi LGBTQ community, it is now. I will not be silent while their freedoms are trampled. This is too close to home. It's an empty echo/reminder of past oppressors. The essence of HB1523 is a full-fledged fear induced witch hunt fitted with life draining prose. Using HB 1522 leaves LGBTQ folk with nowhere to go; choices are to hide or leave. However, your loss is our gain as so many of the great leaders around the country share roots in Mississippi.
Last but certainly not least, I pay homage to Mercedes Williamson. Violently murdered in the Mississippi this seventeen-year-old trans woman was found dead in a wooded area on June 2, 2015. I am only grateful that she died before this injudicious law passed and may have been denied the sale of a coffin and/or a burial plot. Do you see the nonsense in this outrageous, stupefying and dangerous law? Governor Bryant, I, J. Mercedes Cardona publicly denounced your disrespectful ways. I hope this terrifying precedent does not spread to every corner of the country; rather, I pray this letter exposes your devious pretentions for the prejudice hoaxes you really are.
With a revolutionary heart, I remain
J. Mercedes Cardona