The funeral of slain Mississippi mayoral candidate Marco McMillian took place on Saturday. Hundreds gathered to commemorate the community leader.
McMillian’s godfather, Carter Womack, told those gathered that McMillian was a civil rights leader for a “new era.”
“Although we are dealing with the tragic loss of a young and great man,” said Womack, “it was a life filled with great accomplishment and contributions … So we celebrate him.”
Rev. Carl Pierce, pastor of Baltimore’s Memorial Church of God in Chirst, who met McMillian as a young politician, said “It don’t matter what they say about Marco because … none of us have a heaven or a hell to put him in.”
McMillian’s body was found on February 26 off of a highway in Mississippi.
A “gay panic” defense may be used in the case , which would rule out hate crime as the cause.
According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), the suspect, Lawrence Reed, who identifies as straight, may have “snapped” as a result of sexual advances on the part of McMillian.
The two men were reportedly in an intimate relationship for the two weeks that they knew each other leading up to the murder.
If the gay panic defense is used, and McMillian’s sexual orientation is cited as the motive for the crime, prosecutors will have to appeal to the federal courts to charge Reed with a hate crime. Under federal law, such a crime is defined as a crime motivated “in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.”
However, Mississippi’s law only includes “perceived race, color, religion, ethnicity, ancestry, national origin or gender” as motivation for a hate crime.
The family of McMillian want the police to reconsider removing the label due to the brutal way in which McMillian was murdered. He was reportedly “dragged, beaten, and burned.”
“Marco’s death is a tragedy,” said Dr. Ravi K. Perry, friend of McMillian and former advisor to his campaign. “He was a champion for justice and now he needs justice. This tragedy brings to light the inequitable protections for LGBT persons throughout various states…” Perry continued. “We need to ensure Marco’s life and legacy is given the same attention he gave so many others’ lives.”
The family made an initial statement to the press via email, saying that “We feel that this was not a random act of violence based on the condition of the body when it was found. Marco, nor anyone, should have their lives end in this manner.”
LGBT campaign organization Victory Fund described McMillian as “one of the 1st viable openly #LGBT candidates in Mississippi.”