Mississippi’s LGBTQ community discuss hate crime reporting in wake of Smollett case

This Feb. 21, 2019 booking photo released by Chicago Police Department shows Jussie Smollett....
This Feb. 21, 2019 booking photo released by Chicago Police Department shows Jussie Smollett. Police say the "Empire" actor has turned himself in to face a charge of making a false police report when he said he was attacked in downtown Chicago by two men who hurled racist and anti-gay slurs and looped a rope around his neck. Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi says Smollett turned himself in early Thursday, Feb. 21 and was arrested. The charge could bring up to three years in prison for the actor, who's black and gay.(Source: Chicago Police Department /AP Photos | Source: Chicago Police Department /AP Photos)
Updated: Feb. 21, 2019 at 8:44 PM CST
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JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - The Jussie Smollett case is fueling questions about whether real victims of anti-LGBTQ hate crimes will now come forward.

Rev. Brandiilyne Mangum-Dear is a pastor of a church in Hattiesburg, and is among those in the LGBTQ community concerned about the potential impacts of what police say was a fabricated story by the actor.

“It could cause people to look at the situation and say, you know, well look at the LGBTQ community," explained Mangum-Dear. "They have to stage hate crimes because it doesn’t really happen and it discredits the entire community.”

Mangum-Dear says she’s been on the receiving end of hateful comments on social media as recently as Wednesday.

“It happens every single day in our state," she noted. "Do you report it? Who do you report it to?”

The Human Rights Campaign notes that while the FBI does collect data, there are issues at the local and state level.

“There is no mandatory reporting of hate crimes,” said Rob Hill, HRC Mississippi state director.

Mississippi’s hate crime laws currently cover crimes against someone because of race, color, ancestry, ethnicity, religion, national origin and gender. This year, advocates tried to get sexual orientation, gender identity and disabilities added to that list.

“It would allow them to be able to prosecute that at the statewide level without having to wait for the FBI and the federal government to step in Mississippi to prosecute those crimes,” said Hill.

But those two bills failed at the State Capitol. Meanwhile, the community still fears instances of discrimination following the 2016 passage of the Religious Accommodations law.

“It’s like a waiting game," explained Mangum-Dear. "We’re waiting to see if someone is harmed, how badly they are harmed, if they will even report it. It’s like we’re all in limbo waiting for something tragic to happen so that something good can come of it. And that is a terrible way to have to live.”

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