The Southern Equality campaign continues its swing through Mississippi. Last week, same-sex couples tried to get marriage licenses in the southern part of the state. On Wednesday, a couple that includes a member of the Air Force Reserve got turned down in tiny Poplarville.
Back in 2004, Mississippi voters put a ban on gay couples marrying in their state constitution. Every single county voted for the ban, with 86 percent of voters saying no to marriage equality – the most among any state to have put that question on the ballot. Mississippians remain opposed to the idea, in proportions that are oddly inverse to what pollsters are finding nationwide. But the bigger news, I think, is how much opinions have changed. New bipartisan polling (pdf) from the Human Rights Campaign finds that 55 percent of voters now object to marriage equality, a fall of 31 points. Among people under 30, support for marriage equality gets a majority of 58 percent.
After one of the couples today got turned down, Clarion-Ledger reporter Dustin Barnes tweeted that “sounds of laughter could be heard in clerk’s office.” A few minutes later, Barnes added more. ”Hinds Circuit Clerk Barbara Dunn said when gay man cried in her office about denial of marriage license, 1 of her employees almost cried too,” he tweeted. “Dunn said she was sure her employees weren’t laughing at same-sex couples who were denied marriage license in Jxn today.” I know it may not seem like much in blue states, but I can tell you from experience that when it’s no longer acceptable for there to be any hint of making fun of gay couples in Mississippi – and when it’s OK to show some empathy for them – you’re looking at real change.