Last week, a black couple was told that they could not hold their wedding at the predominantly white Baptist church they attend in Mississippi, a sad reminder that “religious freedom” can just as easily be used to discriminate based on race as it can sexual orientation — at least within the church’s walls. Gov. Phil Bryant (R) responded that the incident was “unfortunate” and has “tainted” Mississippi’s image, in spite of their efforts “to convince the rest of the world that Mississippi has changed.” Bryant said he believes that all couples who want to marry should be able to — except gay couples, because he doesn’t even consider them couples:
BRYANT: Look, when people want to get married, we ought to let them get married. We have enough people that won’t go and get married. I want to make every opportunity I can for any couple that wants to, to go get married.
…I wouldn’t say gay couples, no. I’d say a man and a woman. Let me make sure, let’s get that right. When I say couples, I automatically assume it’s a man and a woman.
If Bryant is so concerned about the reputation of his state, perhaps he should become more familiar with it. According to the 2010 Census, Mississippi has well over 3,000 same-sex couples living there, constituting 3 out of every 1,000 households. A quarter of them (26 percent) are raising children. The numbers may be small, but they are not trivial. It’s clear that Bryant wants people to perceive his state as inclusive of some, but not inclusive of all.