The FBI announced yesterday that it will investigate the murder of openly gay small town mayoral candidate Marco McMillian, whose burned and beaten body was found in Mississippi last week. Local police have declined to characterize the murder as a hate crime and lawyers for the man charged in the case are reportedly considering a “gay panic” defense.
The agency “will assess evidence to determine whether federal prosecution is appropriate,” Deborah Madden, an FBI public affairs specialist, said Wednesday. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and the National Black Justice Coalition, both separately urged the federal government Tuesday to seek potential hate crime charges in a case that has grabbed national attention. Mississippi has a hate-crime law that covers race, religion and gender but doesn’t extend to sexual orientation. However, local and state agencies can seek assistance to pursue a federal hate crime under the Shepard-Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which does cover homosexuality. Or the FBI can come in to investigate at the request of an outside source, as in the McMillian case.
McMillian was thought to be the first openly gay political candidate in the history of Mississippi. (Via Towleroad)