In the same week that President Obama filed an amicus curae report with the Supreme Court arguing in favor of marriage equality, Mississippi’s first openly gay mayoral candidate was killed. Oh America, you charmer. Clarksdale is known for being a violent town, so perhaps it was candidate Marco McMillian’s anti-crime stance that led to his murder. Doubtful, but one can never know.
His killer was also black, but it would be unreasonable to simply dismiss racial motives out of hand. At this time, the murder isn’t being investigated as a hate crime. While I’ll grant that little is currently known about the case, the situation seems suspicious as hell to me. McMillian’s SUV was involved in a head on collision on Tuesday. Someone else was behind the wheel, and McMillian wasn’t with the vehicle. He was not, in fact, anywhere to be found. Police launched a search and found his body on Wednesday. Ouch.
If not racially motivated, and if McMillian was murdered for his sexual orientation, prosecution might still have to take another tack. Mississippi doesn’t define murder for sexual orientation as a hate crime. Federally, protection exists, but federal authorities don’t get involved in crimes without specific reasons.
But here’s the rub. Because the city is violent, there’s a good possibility that the man was killed in the course of campaign work or even just normal life by someone who didn’t care about his sexual orientation or race, just his money and possessions. A former mayor reports she was recently robbed at gunpoint, and local authorities may have good reasons to investigate other motives. Of course, alleged murderer Lawrence Reed isn’t saying why or even if he killed McMillian. He’s probably lawyered up and keeping mum.
I’m a born conspiracy theorist. And I live in the South. This is the part of the country where judges deny married lesbians the right to second parent adoptions. Mississippi and Alabama (among others) still have sodomy laws on the books, even though the federal supreme court ruling in Lawrence v. Texas makes them unenforceable. The religious right still dominates a lot of thinking down here. This isn’t the North, or even the Midwest, where the dramatic shift towards supporting equality is slowly taking wing.
I’d like to give the Clarksdale authorities the benefit of the doubt. After all, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. But the way that the possibility of a hate crime has been dismissed so quickly is, in and of itself, suspicious to me. It would seem like the police and prosecution would want every possible angle to be fully explored. Because sometimes, a cigar is everything symbolic and metaphorical that the patient imagines it to be.