“If we fail to exercise our fundamental right to vote, then I guarantee that so much of the progress we’ve fought for will be under threat.”
Michelle Obama spoke out against the wave of anti-LGBT “religious freedom” bills moving through state legislatures across the country while delivering the commencement address at Jackson State University in Mississippi.
“If we fail to exercise our fundamental right to vote, then I guarantee that so much of the progress we’ve fought for will be under threat,” the first lady said Saturday. “Congress will still be gridlocked. Statehouses will continue to roll back voting rights and write discrimination into the law. We see it right here in Mississippi — just two weeks ago -– how swiftly progress can hurtle backward, how easy it is to single out a small group and marginalize them because of who they are or who they love.”
“So we’ve got to stand side by side with all our neighbors –- straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender; Muslim, Jew, Christian, Hindu immigrant, Native American — because the march for civil rights isn’t just about African-Americans, it’s about all Americans,” she added. “It’s about making things more just, more equal, more free for all our kids and grandkids. That’s the story you all have the opportunity to write. That’s what this historic university has prepared you to do.”
The Mississippi measure, called the Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act, allows individuals and organizations to use religion as a justification to discriminate against LGBT people.
More than 100 anti-LGBT measures are currently being considered across 22 states. Earlier this week, the U.K. issued a travel warning to LGBT travelers who “may be affected by legislation passed recently in the states of North Carolina and Mississippi.” The measures have also prompted a wave of boycotts of the states by businesses and entertainers.
President Barack Obama also addressed the issue in a press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron over the weekend. Obama said that while the people of North Carolina and Mississippi “are wonderful” and that the British people should feel welcome to visit those states, “the laws that have been passed there are wrong and should be overturned.”