Mississippi Senate Calls for Constitutional Convention, Raising Civil Rights Concerns

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Civil-rights protections could be "rolled back" if Mississippi joins a conservative group's effort to amend the U.S. Constitution, a prominent civil-rights organization is warning.

On Thursday, the Mississippi Senate passed a resolution calling for a new constitutional convention. It would be the first since the original convened in 1787, and would grant representatives from all 50 states broad power to write or even rewrite the U.S. Constitution. Already, 28 have called for a convention, drawing the proponents close to the two-thirds necessary.

Last month, Sen. Angela Burks Hill, the Picayune Republican who is the lead sponsor of Senate Resolution 596, told the Jackson Free Press that she and other proponents are focused on limiting federal power, and have no intention of rolling back civil rights.

"I see a runaway federal government, and I see the opportunity that the founders gave us in the Constitution to reclaim the powers that belong to the state," she said at the Capitol on Feb. 21. "And I try to keep our federal government from going bankrupt, which I don't think Congress has any intention of doing right now."

But Jody Owens, who heads the Mississippi branch of the Southern Poverty Law Center said curbing federal power would threaten civil rights in states like Mississippi, where slavery, segregation, and prohibitions on women's rights and LGBT rights only ended following federal intervention.

"In Mississippi, historically and now, we know that far too often the federal government has been the lynchpin that has brought out equality in states like Mississippi that needed motivation," Owens said. "It is our position that any bill that would roll or even have a possibility to roll back those fundamental Constitutional rights are bad for all Mississippians."

All but one Republican voted for the resolution Thursday, and all but one Democrat voted against it. Sen. J.P. Wilemon Jr.,

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