Why was gay, black, Mississippi mayor hopeful Marco Millian murdered?

The horrific death of gay mayor hopeful Marco McMillian sparked fears hate may have motivated his murder. Now more evidence has emerged

Why was gay, black, Mississippi mayor hopeful Marco Millian murdered?
07 March 2013

Marco McMillian was a trailblazer, and the pride of the Mississippi Delta.

In 2004 when he was still in his 20s Ebony magazine hailed him as on the nation’s 30 leaders under the age of 30. And in his 30s the Mississippi Business Journal hailed him as one of the ‘Top 40 Leaders under 40’.

But at age 34 McMillian’s life was mysteriously cut short.

As an openly gay African American candidate running for the mayoral seat in Clarkdale, Mississippi, McMillian was quietly signaling that neither his race nor his sexual orientation would abort his aspirations. On McMillian’s campaign Facebook page is a photo of him posing with President Obama. His campaign motto: ‘Moving Clarksdale forward’.

If there were any place to challenge the intolerant conventions of Mississippi, Clarksdale, the Delta’s gem – known as ‘a place where openness and hospitality transcend all barriers and visitors are embraced as family’ and the birthplace of the blues – would be that place.

Police discovered McMillian’s body near a levee just a 15-minute drive outside of Clarksdale. Mississippi’s unforgettable sordid history of lynching immediately rose up when his family reported that Marco’s body was beaten, dragged and ‘set afire’.

And the 1955 lynching of Emmett Till came roaring back, reminding me of Mississippi’s native son William Faulkner who wrote, ‘The past is never dead. It’s not even past.’

Till was a 14-year of African American child from Chicago who was visiting relatives down in the Mississippi Delta. He was brutally murdered and tortured for allegedly flirting with a white woman. When his body was discovered it was reported that Till was severely beaten, nude, shot in the right ear, had an eye gouged out from its socket, and a cotton gin fan tied around his neck with a barbed wire before his body was dumped into Tallahatchie River.

While thoughts of racial hatred first erupted as the probable motive for McMillian’s murder, they were quickly erased when McMillian’s assailant, Lawrence Reed, 22, an African American male was found and apprehended in McMillian’s wrecked SUV.

Did Reed murder McMillian or did he just steal his car? Or might there be another tale here, one of a ‘down low’ tryst gone awry?

Being openly lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer is no easy feat for African Americans, even in 2013 with a LGBTQ-friendly president like Obama having your back. Being from the South just complicates the matter. For McMillian, his family might also be one of the complications in ascertaining the truth behind his death.

Case in point – it is unfathomable to McMillian’s family to think that the motive for his murder was his sexual orientation. His mother, Patricia McMillian, told CNN that only family and friends knew of her son’s sexual orientation. ‘He did not announce in public that he was gay,’ she said, adding, ‘I don’t think he was attacked because he was gay.’ McMillian’s sexual orientation, however, was an open secret.

According to state investigators, little is known about Reed or how, if at all, he knew McMillian. To the McMillian family Reed is an enigma. McMillian’s mother stated she never knew him, and McMillian’s stepfather, Amos Unger, speaking for the family, told CNN: ‘We never heard of him’.

Although the family states that the cause of McMillian’s death was because he was ‘beaten, dragged and burned’ the Coahoma County Medical Examiner Scotty Meredith stated otherwise.

But just as McMillian’s family might be one of the complications in ascertaining the truth behind his death so too might be the state that’s investigating the case.

In Mississippi LGBTQ couples cannot marry and they cannot jointly adopt. There is no hate crime bill protecting a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The state does not address discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

In other words, an assault on a LGBTQ Mississippian might very well be ignored as a personal matter.

Meredith told CNN the following about his findings: ‘There were signs of an altercation but that didn’t kill him… Beating is not the cause of death. He was beaten, but not badly. This was not a targeted attack. This was more of a personal dispute.’

According to the Associated Press, The Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund and Institute, which supports gay and lesbian candidates for political office, tweeted, ‘Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Marco McMillian, one of the first viable openly #LGBT candidates in Mississippi.’

And according to Denis Dison, vice president of communications of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, in a HuffPo Live interview there are ‘approximately 600 openly LGBTQ elected officials at every level of US government, with about 80 openly elected officials in the entire South’.

Had McMillian won his mayoral challenge he would have been Mississippi’s first – the pride not only of the Mississippi Delta, but also of the entire state.

HAVE YOUR SAY

MORE TOP STORIES

No thumbnail available

Gay gangster accuses jury of 'Googling' him before guilty verdict

Frank Carberry, who was sentenced in 2006 for indecent assault, has employed human rights lawyers to overturn his conviction
No thumbnail available

Gay marriage ban harming Michigan tourism, says analyst

Speaking out at the Pure Michigan Governor's Conference on Tourism
No thumbnail available

New York City Gay Men's Chorus sings at Joan Rivers' funeral

In her 2012 book, Rivers wanted a funeral with 'a wind machine so that even in the casket my hair is blowing just like Beyonce's'
No thumbnail available

Uganda frees British gay play producer on bail

David Cecil will face Uganda court, which may bring in the death penalty for gay people, next month
No thumbnail available

Bradley Cooper to reprise gay role in TV sequel to Wet Hot American Summer

Cooper's camp counselor character had memorable sex scene in a tool shed in cult classic being revived by Netlix
No thumbnail available

Adepero Oduye talks about starring in 'Pariah'

Actress has won raves for her portrayal of lesbian teen searching for her voice
No thumbnail available

Pro-gay marriage Catholic teacher loses job over beliefs

New Zealand teacher lost his job after disagreeing with the religious principal who opposes gay marriage
No thumbnail available

Ontario amends human rights code to protect trans

Canadian province is first in North America to change law to end discrimination against transgender people
No thumbnail available

Bee venom shown to kill HIV, scientists reveal

A chemical in the insect's toxin could be used to destroy HIV cells while leaving the surrounding cells unharmed
No thumbnail available

Clare Balding named among most powerful women in the UK

The list of the UK's 100 most powerful women was compiled by BBC Radio 4's Women's Hour