May 14, 2014 10:13:51 AM
JACKSON -- A national group plans to seek anti-discrimination state laws to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people in Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas.
Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin said Tuesday that the Washington-based group is spending $8.5 million for its "Project One America" in the three southern states.
The three states do not have laws to protect people from being fired from a job or evicted from housing because of sexual orientation.
Griffin, an Arkansas native, said Human Rights Campaign hopes to start conversations in families, churches and other places to show a need for equal protection.
"You're just as likely to be gay in Meridian as you are in Manhattan," Griffin said during a news conference at the Mississippi Capitol.
Meridian is in eastern Mississippi, near the Alabama state line. It's also the home of the second-ranking leader in the Mississippi House, Speaker Pro Tempore Greg Snowden, who's a Republican.
Snowden did not attend the news conference Tuesday but was at the Capitol later. He told The Associated Press he doesn't know if the Republican-controlled state House and Senate will consider anti-discrimination bills to protect LGBT residents.
"I'm not sure where the Legislature will draw the line," Snowden said. "We haven't had anything like that before us, and I doubt we will in the near future."
Among those joining Griffin at the news conference Tuesday were Democratic state Reps. Alyce Clarke and Jim Evans of Jackson and Rufus Straughter of Belzoni.
"We are all God's children," Straughter said. "He didn't leave out anybody. All means all."
Mississippi NAACP president Derrick Johnson said the civil rights organization supports equal protection for LGBT residents.
"Mississippi has had a history of not recognizing what America's promise is," Johnson said.
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