How 6 LGBT Mississippians would be harmed by HB 1523

In 2015, GLAAD shared the work of six LGBT Missippians who are among the many leading advocates in the Magnolia state, working on the ground to accelerate LGBT Acceptance. Yesterday, HB 1523, an anti-LGBT "license to discriminate" bill, passed in the state Senate after passing with overwhelming support in the state House, threatens the well-being of these advocates and the many other LGBT people living in MS. It currently sits on the desk of Governor Phil Bryant, who has already voiced support for the bill.

For GLAAD's Southern Stories Summer Tour GLAAD visited Jackson, attending events and meeting with diverse local leaders of all ages working towards full LGBT acceptance. Here are just a few of those whose daily work is not only changing hearts and minds, but saving lives, and how HB 1523 targets people like them statewide.

It's also worth noting that, under The Religious Freedom Act, which was signed by Gov. Bryant in Apri 2014, it is already legal to for businesses to deny goods and services to everyone on this list, just for being LGBT.

Constance Gordon

Constance Gordon was born and raised outside McComb in Pike County near the Louisiana border. Gordon, who describes herself as a “masculine-gendered woman”, worked for the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi from early 2012 through 2014. Her work there primarily focused on youth and LGBT advocacy that included the implementation of anti-bullying policies and other issues where “youth, justice and LGBT rights kind of crosses over.” While there, she ran Youth of Color, a program that seeks to create Gay-Straight Alliances, and is active in working with several other LGBT rights organizations. Nowadays, she is running her own consulting business, where she helps owners and managers innovate products and services. Under HB 1523, the youth Candace serves can be denied counseling from suicide hotlines, but can subjected against their will to so-called "ex-LGBT conversion therapy," a harmful practice that's been criminalized in multiple states. Also, were Constance to start working for a for-profit corporation, she could be fired for wearing pants.

Yes--for wearing pants.

Dr. L.B. Bell

L.B. Bell, a trans farmer and physician, received his medical degree from West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine in Lewisburg, West Virginia. While legally married in Connecticut in 2011, as a push for marriage equality in their area, L.B. and his partner Sara Bell requested, and were denied, marriage licenses in Forrest County, Mississippi. The applications were part of the Campaign for Southern Equality "WE DO" Campaign. The couple did finally obtain a marriage license after L.B. was able to fight to successfully change his gender markers on his birth certificate. L.B. fiercely advocates for LGBT equality through his work with the trans community and the Hattiesburg Center. The deep connections and culture changing impact of his work are palpable to many individuals, trans or otherwise, in the Jackson area. The Bells make their home in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. While Dr. Bell helps heal people every day as a professional physician, it would be legal under HB 1523 for a doctor to deny him medical treatment, solely because he is trans.

Brandiilyne Dear

Brandiilyne Dear, also known fondly as Bb, is a Pastor of Joshua Generation MCC, a welcoming and affirming church in Hattiesburg, Mississippi that seeks to welcome people of all gender and sexual identities into the faith community. In fact, on the very day marriage equality became the nationwide law of the land, Brandiilyne officiated services for same-sex couples in her area. She is also the founder of The Dandelion Project, an LGBTQ organization in Laurel, Mississippi. She is pursuing her degree in social work at the University of Southern Mississippi. Brandiilyne, who was featured in the documentary 'L Word Mississippi: Hate the Sin', is an advocate for LGBT equality and often finds herself protesting on the steps of the state Capital in hopes of achieving equality in the South. If Bb and her wife, Susan, shared a home together before marriage equality came to Mississippi, adoption agencies could legally deny them the opportunity to adopt children under HB 1523. This also applies to straight or different-gender couples who have lived together before marrying.


Todd Allen

Todd Allen wears many hats, actively serving Mississippi's LGBT community alongside many others in the area. While serving as the Advocacy Coordinator for ACLU-Mississippi, Todd also works at Grace House, which offers support services to men and women who are homeless, living with HIV or AIDS, and recovering from substance abuse. He was part of a team of community leaders to establish the PRISM Center, the city of Jackson's first LGBT+ community center. Todd makes his home in Jackson, Mississippi. Todd works hard to place people in safe homes, but Todd himself could be denied housing in certain buildings if Gov. Bryant passes HB 1523.


Kaylee Bradshaw

Kaylee serves as the Young Adult Ministry Facilitator at the Joshua Generation, based in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Joshua Generation is a radically inclusive Metroplitan Community Church with an award-winning, LGBT-affirming ministry. Kaylee is dedicated to making equality a reality for transgender people and is helping develop a faith-based community built first and foremost on the commandment of love. Kaylee has been a long-time supporter of LGBT rights in the South and continues to fight for greater acceptance in Lamar and Forrest Counties and beyond in the Magnolia State. HB 1523 passing would mean Kaylee could be barred from women's restrooms and made to use men's bathrooms or other male-specific facilities, should service providers or her boss deem it fitting.


Knol Aust

For more than a decade, Knol has been the Chairman of Unity Mississippi, an organization dedicated to establishing and promoting unity the LGBT communities and its allies by serving as a catalyst for statewide education, interaction, entertainment, community growth, visibility, and awareness. In addition to being a web developer and graphic designer, Knol played an integral role in organizing OUToberfest, one of Mississippi's only LGBT festivals that soon become Mississippi Pride. Knol and his partner, Duane, were featured in national and local outlets (among them LA TimesWashington PostRolling StoneBuzzFeed, and Jackson Free Press) when couples in Mississippi were delayed in receiving marriage licenses after the Supreme Court made marriage equality a nationwide reality. While Duane and Knol eventually received their marriage license, state employees will be allowed to refuse them assistance and abdicate any duty Duane and Knol may seek. Couples like Knol and Duane can be denied license or solemnization of their marriage, should HB 1523 pass.


The Southern Povery Law Center helps breaks down the pervasive impact of discrimination within the bill: 

GLAAD has been speaking out against discriminatory laws in several states, including most recently Georgia, North Carolina, and South Dakota. GLAAD’s resource, "Debunking the 'Bathroom Bills Myth'" is a valuable resource for journalists and everyday people to understand the importance and impact of nondiscrimination bills, and ways to debunk falsehoods that often are raised in opposition to such bills. GLAAD is calling on media, both in Mississippi and nationally, to ask media to hold promoters of such discriminatory bills as HB 1523 accountable for false claims they have made.

LGBT advocates and media figures can also find background information about the LGBT community in Mississippi through GLAAD's guidebook on the state. GLAAD developed the resource with the ACLU of Mississippi and The PRISM Center.



Tweet your opposition to Mississippi’s ‘license to discriminate’ bill using the hashtag #NoHB1523. Follow GLAAD on social media for regular updates about HB 1523.