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Statewide gay group in Miss. splits from national affiliate over direction
by Gip Plaster

Thursday, 16 November 2000

JACKSON, Miss.-Mississippi Gay Lobby, the only active statewide gay group in Mississippi and the only local chapter of the Internet-based NationalGayLobby.org, announced last week that it is separating from the national group and becoming an independent organization. A few days later, the group's chairman Jody Renaldo, resigned his seat on the board of directors from the national gay rights group, citing disagreement over the direction of NationalGayLobby.org. MGL's board of directors voted 3-1 to separate from NationalGayLobby.org. When Renaldo, who was already on NationalGayLobby.org's board of directors, was approached earlier this year by some in Mississippi about forming a state group, he said he took the idea to NGL executive director Michael Romanello. The two agreed in March 2000 to start MGL as a chapter of NationalGayLobby.org, but both now say that was a bad idea. The national group is focused on Internet activism, and a local chapter "doesn't really complement our mission," Romanello said. "NationalGayLobby.org and Mississippi Gay Lobby will continue to work together on projects and issues in Mississippi, but as partners rather than as a national organization and its local affiliate." Renaldo said the change will allow the state group's $25 membership dues to be put to use in Mississippi. Before, $20 of the $25 went to the national group.

Renaldo said he took the issue of separation to the state lobby's board because the national group was focused-and spending money-on goals that differ from his own. Most notable among NationalGayLobby.org's recent controversial stances, with which Renaldo disagreed, is a resolution passed by the group that prohibits its members from using AOL e-mail addresses. NGL took the action after AOL's chief executive and his wife contributed more than $8 million an anti-gay organization in Florida last month. In e-mail circulated Sunday, Renaldo said he resigned from NationalGayLobby.org's board to focus on activism in Mississippi. "I just can't consciously support the direction we are going in, nor the way business is being conducted," Renaldo wrote. "Going it alone, I don't have to worry about kissing anyone's ass."

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