The Mississippi Legislature creates laws without input from any experts. That held true last week, when, as Kayode Crown reported, lawmakers passed a ban on care for transgender minors without input from one transgender Mississippian or any medical professionals with expertise on the topic.
Lawmakers have focused on the fact that, in addition to banning standard care such as puberty blockers and hormone treatments, the bill bans gender-affirming surgeries for people under 18.
“I’m not a doctor, I’m not a professional in this regard,” co-sponsor Nick Bain said on the House floor in January, before admitting that he was “not aware of any” minors receiving such surgeries in Mississippi. In fact, on the House floor in January, both Republicans who supported the bill and Democrats who spoke against it seemed unfamiliar with issues surrounding transgender health care.
The legislation, of course, did not grow organically out of a need to respond to pressing matters in Mississippi, but instead is part of a coordinated national effort to roll back rights for transgender people. At the Mississippi Free Press, we’ve often reported on such legislation, like in 2021, when the Legislature passed a bill written by out-of-state actors that banned young trans people from playing on school sports teams that match their gender identity.
We similarly reported extensively on the story behind the Mississippi abortion ban that ultimately led to the downfall of Roe v. Wade, and the Arizona-based organization that engineered that law and helped shepherd the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. When national actors spearhead legislation in Mississippi, they aim for national impact. But as a news team, so do we.
MFP Aims For Fair and Contextual Journalism
While Mississippi often gets overlooked, the state repeatedly made national news last week. As many of our readers know, on Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a case alleging that Mississippi’s congressional districts are racially gerrymandered. The case is part of the continued fallout from the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder, in which the court’s conservative justices struck down Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act on the basis that “things have changed in the South” since the 1960s, as Chief Justice John Roberts said.
Meanwhile, more developments on state efforts to take over parts of Jackson’s legal infrastructure, which Kayode has been reporting on since January, have continued since national news organizations began picking up the story. On Feb. 23, 2023, Kayode reported that the Mississippi Senate stripped out provisions that would have established a state-appointed court system in the capital city, replacing it instead with language that would give the now-limited state-run Capitol Police concurrent jurisdiction over the entire capital city.
Another important story from last week is the newly revealed footage from the police shooting of 15-year-old Jaheim McMillan in Gulfport and a Harrison County grand jury’s decision not to indict the officer involved. The video, which Kayode reported on, brings into question claims that Gulfport Police as well as local activists and witnesses made in the shooting’s immediate aftermath.
Of course, not everything the Mississippi Free Press reported on last week was breaking news. Kayode also reported on a group of Jackson fathers who are volunteering to help out at local public schools and the state auditor’s continuing focus on “fatherlessness”; MFP Culture Reporter Aliyah Veal wrote a wonderful story on a local Jackson music panel featuring professionals from the music industry; and I set out to make sense of the Mississippi Democratic Party’s controversial decision to bar two candidates from running for governor in the August party primaries, leaving presumptive nominee Brandon Presley as the lone candidate atop the ballot.
Even on weeks when the news comes fast and furious as it did last week, we still aim to ensure we’re covering communities and issues across Mississippi fairly and contextually. And if that means we aren’t the first to report a story, that’s OK with us.
As we wave goodbye to February and near the end of winter, we promise to continue doing the work—and hopefully with a bigger team soon. Our reporting will always be paywall-free because we believe it’s important for our work to be available to all, but you can help us continue to grow our newsroom and cover more ground by donating to our nonprofit at mfp.ms/donate.
You can also join the MFP VIP Club for just $10 a month or $100 per year and gain access to exclusive member events. Whether you give to us or just share our stories, you’re helping us grow our impact in the state—and across the nation.
For all that you do to support this team and this work, thank you.
This MFP Voices essay does not necessarily represent the views of the Mississippi Journalism and Education Group, the Mississippi Free Press, its staff or board members. To submit an opinion for the MFP Voices section, send up to 1,200 words and sources fact-checking the included information to [email protected]. We welcome a wide variety of viewpoints.