In a state where 86% of voters cast ballots for a ban on gay weddings in 2004, and where opposition is fierce to last week's Supreme Court ruling declaring same-sex marriage a constitutional right, Meeke Addison stands out from the fire-and-brimstone preachers and politicians usually associated with the fight against gay marriage.
Her view of marriage came from divorce. It was her mother's divorce, and according to family lore, it came after Addison's father handed his wife a pearl-handled pistol, told her to use it on anyone who tried to break into their apartment, and walked out.
Despite being left with five children to raise, Addison said, her mother trumpeted the value of marriage and instilled in her a passion for the institution that has turned Addison into one of Mississippi's most vocal opponents of same-sex marriage.
Addison is a 36-year-old black woman. She is not a preacher or a politician. Her views are as hard-line as theirs, and her words can be as harsh, but her voice is honey smooth, whether she is speaking on her weekday radio show, "Airing the Addisons," on a Christian-based network, or speaking on behalf of the American Family Assn., a national Christian group based in Tupelo.
One of the things that rile Addison most about the same-sex marriage issue, which peaked in Mississippi on Friday when the state attorney general directed court clerks to stop issuing marriage licenses to gay couples, is the idea that same-sex marriage is a civil right.
"I'm a black woman, so when I think of a civil right and the fight for freedom, it kind of strikes a chord for me that your sexual preference is not equal to the color of my skin, an immutable characteristic," Addison said in an interview Saturday, a day after the Supreme Court's ruling. "It's offensive, just that what you want to do in your bedroom is the same thing as the color of my skin and who I am."
Addison does not claim to speak for black people in general, but she said the color of her skin gives her an insight into an issue that has been noted in public opinion polls on same-sex marriage.
Overall, public support for it has risen in the United States, according to the Pew Research Center, but blacks lag considerably behind whites in backing the right of gays and lesbians to wed.
A poll this month showed that 59% of whites and 41% of blacks favored same-sex marriage. In 2001, the races were roughly equal in their support, with whites at 34% and blacks at 32%.
Addison sees no contradiction in the idea of a young black woman being so solidly in sync with right-wing conservatives on one of the country's most divisive social issues. Like most conservatives, Addison is deeply and proudly religious, and she traces her opposition to being brought up in a religious household and studying the Bible as a teenager in New Orleans.
"When you come across passages that condemn homosexuality, you don't dispute that," said Addison, who rejects the idea that a true Christian who lives according to the Scriptures can be gay. "It is never supported biblically, so for a Christian to say they are a Christian and they are also homosexual … if you go according to Scriptures, they're mutually exclusive."
In her bluejeans and lacy top, and large gold crosses adorning her ears, with a ready smile and calm demeanor, Addison did not look like the person who earlier in the week had warned listeners of the "demonic" and "evil" threat facing marriage and of the deviant path that marriage could take if homosexuals, as she refers to gays, were allowed to wed.
Threesomes and foursomes even could demand to be wed if they loved one another, Addison said.
"We could be entering a time where the fire could be turned up under the feet of Christians, and I don't mean that in a good way," Addison told listeners on one of her recent shows as she awaited the Supreme Court decision.
When the ruling came, Addison said, she was not entirely surprised because of what she calls a national trend to undermine Christianity and sell the country on the idea that what used to be alternative lifestyles now are the norm.
For Addison, a married mother of four children ages 1 to 8, her vision of family gelled while growing up in New Orleans, where her mother raised her children alone after their father left. Despite the hardship, Addison said, her mother taught her that marriage is an honorable institution. She also told her children that each was conceived after their parents were married, Addison said.
"She always wanted us to know that, and that has shaped my world view: that marriage is important. That the structure of family is important and we don't get to change that just because we want to," she said.
If there is one thing Addison is thankful for in the Supreme Court's decision, it is that the ruling does not compel religious leaders to perform same-sex marriages.
Only the future will tell whether businesses such as florists and caterers will be legally required to serve same-sex couples planning weddings, and that is something that concerns Addison and that she says could force Christians to choose between keeping their jobs or adhering to their belief system.
"I think each case will present an opportunity for the Christians to learn whether or not they're going to really be able to live according to their convictions," Addison said. "I think we're going to have to wait and see how that plays out."