Advocates push for revisions to Mississippi’s hate crime law

Published: Jan. 31, 2022 at 7:08 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - There’s a renewed push to revise Mississippi’s hate crime law and the clock is ticking for lawmakers to take action this session.

”Here’s the bottom line: No Mississippian or any American should be targeted based on who they are,” explained Rob Hill, state director of Human Rights Campaign Mississippi.

Mississippi has a hate crime law. There’s an enhanced penalty for any felony or misdemeanor if it was done with a bias that includes several factors. But there are groups left out of that like the LGBTQ+ community and those with disabilities. So, advocates are pushing for the law to be revised.

“Need to update Mississippi’s hate crime law to include disability, sexual orientation and gender identity,” added Hill.

This is the fifth year that a bill like this has been filed. And groups, including some clergy members, have said it goes beyond politics.

“When we believe that we are created in the image of God, that’s everybody,” noted Rev. Warren Coile with the United Methodist Conference of Mississippi. “Full stop. Whenever we target someone who is other, we sin.”

In September of 2021, the FBI’s Jackson field office launched a “hate crimes awareness campaign” as part of a nationwide effort to encourage reporting to law enforcement. That release notes an increase in reported hate crimes compared to the previous year.

But a closer look at the information reveals the data is incomplete.

It notes that in Mississippi, the 2020 FBI Hate Crime statistics are based on data received from 92 of 251 law enforcement agencies in the state that year. That’s not even half. So, right now, we don’t know exactly how big of an issue it is. But there are recent examples from 2021.

“Two trans Mississippians... Dominique Jackson, a Black trans woman and Mel Groves, a Black trans man, were killed,” described Hill of two Jackson, Mississippi cases. “Neither of these cases have been solved.”

The deadline for House Bill 1467 to be passed out of the House Judiciary B committee is Tuesday.

“We cannot tolerate hate in our state,” said Dr. Scott Crawford with the Mississippi Coalition for Citizens with Disabilities. “We’re better than that, or we should be.”

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