Connect with us

National

Gay mayoral candidate murdered in Mississippi

Suspect arrested; sheriff says no evidence of hate crime

Published

on

Marco McMillan, gay news, Washington Blade
Marco McMillan, gay news, Washington Blade

Marco McMillan (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

The motive for the murder of an openly gay candidate for mayor of the City of Clarksdale, Miss., and the exact cause of his death remained unclear on Friday, one day after sheriff’s deputies charged a 22-year-old man with the candidate’s slaying.

The Sheriff’s Office said the body of Marco McMillian, 34, one of four candidates running in the May 7 Democratic primary for mayor, was found Wednesday on an earthen levee next to the Mississippi River just outside of Clarksdale.

Although Sheriff’s Office officials said the motive for the murder was unclear, they said there was no evidence to indicate the incident was a hate crime or politically motivated.

The body was found one day after Lawrence Reed, the man arrested for the murder, was inside McMillian’s sports utility vehicle when it became involved in a head-on collision with another vehicle at a location miles away from where McMillian’s body was found, a spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Office said.

McMillian was not in the vehicle at the time of the collision. Authorities have not said whether they learned how Reed happened to be in the vehicle at the time of the accident or whether Reed and McMillian knew each other.

Lawrence Reed. (Photo courtesy Coahoma County Miss. Sheriff's Office)

Lawrence Reed. (Photo courtesy Coahoma County Miss. Sheriff’s Office)

At the time they arrested Reed, the Sheriff’s Office also declined to disclose whether it was Reed or someone else who was driving the SUV at the time of the collision.

An emergency medical team airlifted Reed to a nearby hospital for treatment, the sheriff’s spokesperson, Will Rooker, said. The discovery that the SUV belonged to McMillian prompted the Sheriff’s Office to begin a search to find the candidate, whose campaign supporters said he failed to show up for a scheduled campaign meeting.

“We’re just all devastated over his loss,” said Jarod Keith, McMillian’s campaign spokesperson.

Keith told the Blade that although McMillian was viewed as an underdog in the race, he was considered a viable candidate who had a shot at winning.

“We had double the number of Facebook friends the other candidates had,” Keith said. “He would have been a great mayor.”

Clarksdale, which has a population of about 18,000, is a majority black city with an overwhelming majority of voters who are registered as Democrats. No Republican filed to run in the mayoral election.

An independent candidate entered the race and was expected to be on the ballot for the general election, which is scheduled for June 4.

McMillian was a Democrat with ties to Democratic Party activists in other parts of the country. His Facebook campaign page includes photos of him with former President Bill Clinton and then-Sen. Barack Obama.

He was competing against three other Democrats in the May primary, including Chuck Espy, the son of incumbent Mayor Henry Espy, who announced he was not running for re-election.

Henry Espy became Clarksdale’s first black mayor when he first won election to the post in 1989. Except for a four-year hiatus in the 1990s, Henry Espy has served as the city’s mayor since 1989, making it clear that the barrier of electing a black person as mayor of the Mississippi delta city had long been broken.

Keith said McMillian had hoped to break another barrier by becoming Mississippi’s first openly gay elected official. Although his sexual orientation was known to Clarksdale’s political establishment and the media, Keith said his campaign focused on McMillian’s vision for lifting the economy and quality of life for a community faced with poverty and a crime rate far higher than the national average.

Denis Dison, a spokesperson for the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, a national group that provides financial and logistical support for LGBT candidates for public office, said McMillian attended the Victory Fund’s annual LGBT Leadership Conference last November, where he promoted his candidacy.

McMillian served for four years as executive director of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., an internationally known black fraternity. He most recently served as CEO of MWM & Associates, a consulting firm for non-profit organizations. A biography on his website says he worked in the past at Alabama A&M University and Jackson State University.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

National

Louisiana lawmakers fail to overturn Edwards veto of Trans sports bill

Edwards further said that the bill was “mean” because it targets “the most emotionally fragile children in the state of Louisiana.”

Published

on

Louisiana Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards (Photo Credit: Official state portrait)

BATON ROUGE – Louisiana lawmakers failed to override Gov. John Bel Edwards’ (D) veto last month of a bill that would have barred trans girls and women from participating on athletic teams or in sporting events designated for girls or women at elementary, secondary and postsecondary schools.

The measure, Senate Bill 156 authored by Sen. Beth Mizell titled the ‘the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,’ in the Governor’s eyes, “was a solution in search of a problem that simply does not exist in Louisiana,” Edwards said in his veto statement;

“As I have said repeatedly when asked about this bill, discrimination is not a Louisiana value, and this bill was a solution in search of a problem that simply does not exist in Louisiana. Even the author of the bill acknowledged throughout the legislative session that there wasn’t a single case where this was an issue. 

The Republican majority state House chamber failed to override the Governor’s veto after voting 68-30 to override it, according to the state legislature’s website.

The vote narrowly missed the 70-vote threshold needed in the lower chamber to override the veto.

Two-thirds of both the House and Senate must vote to override a governor’s veto, according to the local Baton Rouge newspaper The Advocate.

The Governor reacted to the news that his veto withstood Republican efforts to overturn it in a press conference Wednesday.

Edwards noted that in his view he had “rejected a play” that had no place in Louisiana. 

“I would rather the headlines going out from today be that Louisiana did what was right and best. We rejected a play out of a national playbook that just had no place in Louisiana. That bill wasn’t crafted for our state, I mean go read it and look at the arguments that were made. None of that applies here,” Edwards said.

He further said that the bill was “mean” because it targets “the most emotionally fragile children in the state of Louisiana.” 

“We have to be better than that,” Edwards said. “We have to be better than that.” 

 

Continue Reading

National

Federal court blocks West Virginia Law banning Trans youth sports

“It hurt that the State of West Virginia would try to block me from pursuing my dreams. I just want to play.”

Published

on

Becky Pepper-Jackson (Photo credit: ACLU/Raymond Thompson)


CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A judge of the United States District Court, Southern District of West Virginia ruled Wednesday that 11-year-old Becky Pepper-Jackson must be allowed to try out for the girls’ cross-country and track teams at her school, blocking West Virginia from enforcing a law that bans transgender girls and women from participating in school sports. 

The ruling came in the lawsuit challenging the ban filed by Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of West Virginia, and Cooley LLP.

“I am excited to know that I will be able to try out for the girls’ cross-country team and follow in the running shoes of my family,” said Becky Pepper-Jackson, the plaintiff in the lawsuit. “It hurt that the State of West Virginia would try to block me from pursuing my dreams. I just want to play.”

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice signed H.B. 3293 into law at the end of April. It was one of hundreds of anti-LGBTQ bills pushed in state legislatures across the country in 2021. During legislative debate, it was not endorsed by any mainstream sporting or health organizations. A similar law in Idaho was blocked by a federal court in 2020, and a federal court in Connecticut recently dismissed a challenge to policies that allow all girls, including girls who are transgender, to participate on girls’ sports teams. Legal challenges are underway against similar laws passed in other states.

The Supreme Court recently refused to disturb Gavin Grimm’s victory at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, where he prevailed in challenging his school’s anti-transgender discrimination against him. This decision — which is binding precedent in West Virginia federal court — said that federal law protects transgender students from discrimination in schools.

“This is great news for Becky, and while our work is not done yet, today’s ruling jibes with similar rulings in other courts across the country,” said Avatara Smith-Carrington, Tyron Garner Memorial Law Fellow, Lambda Legal. “It is our hope that courts recognize and address discrimination when they see it, and nowhere is it more visible than in these stark attacks against trans youth.”

“Becky — like all students — should have the opportunity to try out for a sports team and play with her peers,” said Josh Block, senior staff attorney with the ACLU LGBTQ & HIV Project. “We hope this also sends a message to other states to stop demonizing trans kids to score political points and to let these kids live their lives in peace.” 

“We’ve said all along this cruel legislation would not survive a legal challenge, and we’re encouraged by the court’s decision today,” said ACLU-WV Legal Director Loree Stark. “We hope trans kids throughout West Virginia who felt attacked and wronged by the passage of this legislation are feeling empowered by today’s news.”

“We are extremely gratified — for Becky, and for all trans youth — at the court’s recognition that the law and the facts clearly support treating people who are transgender fairly and equally. Discrimination has no place in schools or anywhere else,” said Kathleen Hartnett of Cooley LLP.

Continue Reading

National

Conservative groups attack proposed Alabama capital city’s LGBTQ law

Allege law requires Christians to violate their religious beliefs

Published

on

Alabama State Capitol, HIV, gay news, Washington Blade
Alabama State Capitol (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

MONTGOMERY – The Alabama capital’s City Council is being urged to reject a proposed ordinance that would make sexual orientation and gender identity protected classes under the law.  Matthew Clark, the Executive Director of the conservative Alabama Center for Law and Liberty sent a letter on behalf of his group and six allied organizations asking the Council to abandon a vote implementing the ordnance.

According to the letter, the groups allege that the law would require Christians to violate their religious beliefs or face fines under certain circumstances. Prominent among the other signatures is Mathew D. Staver, Chairman of Liberty Counsel which the Southern Poverty Law Center lists as an extremist anti-LGBTQ hate group.

The SPLC, which has its headquarters in Montgomery, writes; “The Liberty Counsel has also been active in the battle against same-sex marriage and hate crimes legislation, which it claimed in a 2007 news release to be “’thought crimes’ laws that violate the right to freedom of speech and of conscience” and will “have a chilling effect on people who have moral or religious objections to homosexual behavior.” In that same release, the Liberty Counsel falsely claimed that the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyo., had nothing to do with homosexuality, but instead was “a bungled robbery.”

In the letter Clark noted; ““As we read the ordinance, churches could be fined if they refuse to allow transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice, and they might be fined if they refused to let same-sex couples use their facilities for weddings,” Clark said. “They could also be fined if they declined to hire non-ministerial personnel, such as facility managers or secretaries, whose sexual orientation or gender identity contradicts the tenants of the church’s faith.”

“Christian schools, small business owners, and homeowners are also in the crosshairs. Schools could face liability if they decline to let transgender students use the locker rooms of their choice,” Clark said. “Small business owners like Jack Phillips [referring to Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission] could face liability. And homeowners who list their homes on Airbnb could be fined if they declined to let a same-sex couple engage in sexual activities in their home that violate the tenants of their faith.”

Clark then warned the City Council that if it passes the ordinance, litigation could result and the City would likely lose.

The Montgomery Advertiser reported last month that City Mayor Steven Reed said a council vote in favor of the LGTBQ nondiscrimination ordinance that’s now being drafted in Montgomery would send a message. 

“There are signals that communities can send, and this is an important signal not only to those residents that live here right now but people all over the country that have maybe one idea of Alabama and Montgomery, and we want to show them that there’s a different reality here,” he said. 

Reed and his team have been working with the Human Rights Campaign and other advocacy groups to draft an ordinance that would expand protections for LGBTQ residents in the state’s capital city. The proposed measure, which would specifically target discrimination in government, employment and housing based on sexual orientation or gender identity the Advertiser reported.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us @washblade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts

Popular