JACKSON, Miss. — Former Mississippi Gov. Ronnie Musgrove says he now regrets signing a state law in 2000 that bans same-sex couples from adopting children.
Musgrove, an attorney, served one term as governor, from January 2000 to January 2004.
The Democrat first reported his change of heart in an essay this week on the Huffington Post. He also said same-sex couples should have the right to marry.
Musgrove, who is Southern Baptist and has been a deacon, told The Associated Press on Friday that his evolution occurred over years.
“After thinking about this for some time, I realized that if you’re fortunate, age and knowledge breed compassion,” Musrgrove said in a phone interview. “The more I read the (U.S.) Constitution, the clearer it became that you just can’t deny rights to a specific class of people just because some are uncomfortable with what they do not understand.”
Musgrove commended U.S. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, a Republican who recently announced he had changed positions and started supporting same-sex marriage after learning his son is gay.
“Too many elected officials take positions without thinking about the real impact on people and families,” Musgrove said. “I am glad Sen. Portman had the same evolution I did, but I wish all of us had the compassion for other people to think about the impact of political positions before making them policy.”
The 2000 law that Musgrove signed to ban same-sex couples from adopting children divided Mississippi’s religious groups. The state’s Episcopal leader opposed it, but Baptists and Methodists supported it. The American Family Association, a conservative Christian group based in Tupelo, also lobbied for the ban.
Mississippi enacted a law banning gay marriage in 1997, when Musgrove was lieutenant governor and was presiding over the state Senate. In November 2004, a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage was adopted with the s upport of 86 percent of state voters.
“Just like Sen. Portman, we all know or are related to someone who is LGBT,” Musgrove said Friday. “They are our friends, coworkers, neighbors, siblings, cousins, aunts or uncles, children or parents. To deny them basic human or civil rights out of political expediency is just wrong.”
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