Navy says Mississippi LGBT law did not affect ceremony location
By TONY PUGH | McClatchy Washington Bureau (Tribune News Service) | Published: April 12, 2016
WASHINGTON (Tribune News Service) — The U.S. Navy is disputing news reports that an upcoming military ceremony in Pascagoula, Miss., had been moved to Portland, Ore., because of opposition to Mississippi’s new LGBT law.
News outlets in Portland were reporting that the Navy had canceled plans to christen and commission an amphibious transport dock ship, the USS Portland, at the Huntington Ingalls Industries shipyard in Pascagoula on May 21.
The story seemed to take off after Portland Mayor Charlie Hales announced last week that he would not attend the christening in Pascagoula unless Mississippi lawmakers repeal HB 1523, which critics say will legalize discrimination against LGBT individuals.
In a recent Facebook post, Hales explained his decision not to come to Mississippi, writing, “The first lady and I were invited by the U.S. Secretary of the Navy (Ray Mabus of Mississippi) to help christen the USS Portland in Mississippi. We were scheduled to go in May. We will not be taking that trip if that discriminatory law is not repealed. It would be a shame if the mayor of Portland couldn’t attend the christening of the USS Portland, but I will not travel to a state that legalizes bigotry.”
But the christening will go on as scheduled — apparently without Hales — on May 21 in Pascagoula, where the ship was built.
The commissioning ceremony — which was never scheduled to be at the same location as the christening — will take place next year in Portland. The Navy’s decision to do so had nothing to do with Mississippi’s controversial law, said Lt. Eric Durie, deputy public affairs officer with the Office of the Secretary of the Navy.
Portland was selected earlier this month after the city asked the Navy last year to host the ceremony, Durie said.
“What we try to do, if possible, is commission the ships in their namesake cities,” Durie said. “The USS New York was commissioned in New York. The USS Detroit will be commissioned in Detroit. And the USS Portland will be commissioned in Portland.”
©2016 McClatchy Washington Bureau
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