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Bisexual Daughter of Host of Rick & Bubba Radio Show

 

January 2017

 

"I am an activist for gender equality, feminism, social justice, and a better tomorrow."

 

AL.Com Article by Brandi Burgess

Open Letter to Rick Burgess by Meredith G

 

Brandi Burgess is the bisexual daughter of Rick Burgess of the Rick & Bubba Radio Show in Birmingham, Alabama.  She is an actress and activist living in Philadelphia.  And she will no longer stay silent.  In a recent article featured in AL.Com, Brandi talks about being bisexual and her hurtful relationship with her religious father who has been very vocal about his anti-LGBTQ stance.  Here are some excerpts from the AL.Com article:

My first memories are of me sitting under my father's radio desk, listening to him talk. Rick Burgess has built an entire career sharing the stories of his life. He has amassed an incredible following, because he speaks his truth. People love him. People hate him. His boldness has always inspired me.

 



As I grew older I became a prominent character in his stories. I was the exuberant softball player whose passion got her thrown out of games, the angsty teen late to church, the young woman in Israel almost traded in marriage for 40 camels. I was a punch line, a glittering prop, a cartoon. 

 

Then - in his eyes -- I failed him.  Gone were the stories of my boyfriends being taken down "to the hunting room" before first dates. I was erased. Recently, I've returned, cast as the prodigal daughter.  The story my father tells is one of a lost lamb, covered in shame. In his public musings, he speaks of my sin. Without my consent, he uses me as a cautionary tale.

 

For the past three years, my father and I have been debating God's stance on homosexuality. It started with my Instagram post at a Pride parade: a picture of a mother holding a sign saying "I love my gay son." I got a text demanding its removal: "How dare you compromise my platform!?", "Remember who you represent.", "Are you a gay?"

I have been praying, researching and meditating on the many emails, sermons and verses my dad has sent me. I always come back to the same conclusion. Love is love.  I shared this with him. "I love you. I'm sorry. I still love God." I promised to be discrete.  This led to a constant barrage of shame. "You think you're so mod, so special. But you're nothing. You're typical."

My story is not that of all queer people from an evangelical home. I have the privilege of now belonging to a safe community. Yet, I let my father's message of shame define me. I hated my body, sabotaged relationships, believed I was unworthy of love.

So now, I am writing to the young women who feel like they don't belong in their bodies, to the boys who want to kiss boys, and those on the spectrum in between:

Perhaps you have heard my father on the radio and it makes you want to go to sleep and never wake up. I love you. Your worth is untouchable. Find a good friend. Invest in therapy. Dance in the middle of the night and hold yourself accountable to the life you've always wanted. At the root of all this hate speech is fear. This is not your fear to carry. Release it.  I am redeemed. I have surrendered to the beautiful mystery of God's love, have witnessed its vast complexity.  I am praying for my father.

 

(From: AL.Com)

 

LINKS:

 

AL.Com: Brandi Burgess is Bisexual Daughter of Rick & Bubba Radio Host

Silent For Too Long: An Open Letter to Rick Burgess

 


 

September 2016

 

Alabama’s top judge was suspended from the bench without pay for the remainder of his term, the state’s Court of the Judiciary said on Friday, September 30.

This is the second time Roy S. Moore, chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, has been effectively pulled from office, following his ouster in 2003 over his refusal to obey judicial rulings ordering him to remove a Ten Commandments statue from the Alabama Judicial Building.

 

A complaint was filed by the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission charging Moore with violating judicial ethics in issuing an order in January stating that probate judges in the state “have a ministerial duty not to issue” marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

In a 50-page judgment Friday, two days after Moore appeared for a hearing in the case, Alabama’s Court of the Judiciary found him guilty of failing to comply with the law, uphold the integrity of the court and “perform the duties of his office impartially.”

 

--Failed to uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary
--Failed to avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all of his activities
--Failed to respect and comply with the law and failed to conduct himself at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary
--Failed to avoid conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute
--Failed to perform the duties of his office impartially
--Failed to abstain from public comment about a pending proceeding in his own court

 

A group representing Moore in this case decried the court’s decision as “an unbelievable violation of the law” for suspending the justice through the end of his current term in 2019, noting that he will be unable to seek reelection at that time because of state age restrictions.

“To suspend Chief Justice Moore for the rest of his term is the same as removal,” Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, said in a statement. Staver said that because the commission lacked the votes to fully remove him, “the majority instead chose to ignore the law and the rules.”

Moore, a father of four, was removed from office in 2003 after he refused to remove the Ten Commandments monument he had installed in a judicial building in Montgomery.

He was reelected to the bench in November 2012, and his six-year term runs through January 2019 — at which point he will be unable to run for another term, as Alabama has age limits preventing anyone 70 or older from being elected or appointed as a judge.

In the decision on Moore, the nine-member judiciary court said that a majority agreed with the Judicial Inquiry Commission that Moore should be removed from the bench but noted that only a unanimous ruling could pull him. Instead, the court unanimously decided to suspend him, which takes effect immediately.

 

The judiciary court’s judgment said it was focusing on Moore’s actions, rather than litigating same-sex marriage, which was ruled constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court last year. In its judgment, the judiciary court said that while some of its members “did not personally agree with” that Supreme Court ruling or think it “was well reasoned,” they could not reexamine that issue.

Instead, they pilloried Moore for his actions, saying that some of what he said in his January order was “incomplete, misleading, and manipulative” and writing that the order’s purpose was to direct probate judges “to stop complying with binding federal law.”

 

The Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission had argued for removing Moore from office, saying that his actions were “even worse” than his behavior when he was removed in 2003, the judiciary court noted. The judgment Friday also said this was the second time Moore has been brought to this court.

Staver said that Liberty Counsel, a group best known for defending the Kentucky clerk who would not sign same-sex marriage licenses last year, would file an appeal of the decision with the Alabama Supreme Court. Liberty Counsel has previously criticized what it described as “politically motivated charges” against Moore, and Staver said the commission wanted the chief justice “to usurp the authority of the Alabama Supreme Court” by ordering all probate judges to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Moore’s ouster was celebrated by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which filed ethics complaints against Moore.

“The Court of the Judiciary has done the citizens of Alabama a great service by suspending Roy Moore from the bench,” Richard Cohen, president of the SPLC, said in a statement. “He disgraced his office and undermined the integrity of the judiciary by putting his personal religious beliefs above his sworn duty to uphold the U.S. Constitution. Moore was elected to be a judge, not a preacher.”
 

(From Washington Post)
 

LINKS:

 

Washington Post: Judge Roy Moore Suspended

New York Times: Judge Moore Suspended Over Gay Marriage Order

Montgomery Advertiser: Roy Moore Suspended as Chief Justice

NBC News: Judge Moore Suspended from office for Anti-Gay Marriage Order

NPR: Judge Moore Suspended for Rest of Term Over Gay Marriage Stance

AL.Com: Chief Justice Suspended for Rest of Term

Slate: Anti-Gay Judge Suspended for Gross Judicial Misconduct

Crooks & Liars: Homophobic Alabama Judge Suspended for Rest of Term

Washington Post: Judge Moore Blames Atheists, Homosexuals & Transgender People

 


Reaction from Southern Poverty Law Center

 

September 2016

 

The Alabama Court of the Judiciary suspended Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore for the rest of his term in office.
 

The Court ruled that Moore violated the canons of judicial ethics by ordering Alabama's probate judges to defy a federal court injunction requiring them to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples on a non-discriminatory basis. This is the second time in 13 years that Moore has been sanctioned as a result of ethics complaints filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center.


“The Court of the Judiciary has done the citizens of Alabama a great service by suspending Roy Moore from the bench,” said SPLC President Richard Cohen.


“He disgraced his office and undermined the integrity of the judiciary by putting his personal religious beliefs above his sworn duty to uphold the U.S. Constitution.


“Moore was elected to be a judge, not a preacher. It's something that he never seemed to understand. The people of Alabama who cherish the rule of law are not going to miss the Ayatollah of Alabama.”

 


Gay in Alabama

 

August 2016

 

Documentary About AIDS/HIV in Alabama: Ending the Silence

 


Judge Roy Moore Goes to Trial for Barring Same Sex Marriages

 

August 2016

 

Suspended Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore will go on trial next month on judicial ethics charges after the Alabama Court of the Judiciary late Monday issued an order that denied Moore's request to dismiss the charges.

The court, in a brief one-page order, also denied a motion by the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission that sought an order removing Moore from the bench without a trial.  

The Alabama Court of the Judiciary met for a hearing to consider a motion by Moore to dismiss the judicial ethics charges against him regarding a same-sex marriage administrative order he issued to probate judges in January. The Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission also argued for its motion for the court to remove Moore from the bench now for issuing that order, despite federal and U.S. Supreme Court opinions and orders that says gay marriage is legal nationwide.

(From AL.Com)

 

LINKS:

 

AL.Com: Roy Moore Headed to Trial

HuffPost: Judge Roy Moore Faces Trial for Barring Same Sex Marriages

AL.Com: Judge Roy Moore Suspended from Office

SPLC: Judicial Ethics Complaint

Ala Supreme Court Dismisses Petitions Opposing Gay Marriage

 


Alabama's LGBT Movement Emboldened by Orlando Tragedy

 

June 2016

 

The Deep South was a hard place for Jayme Parsons to come of age as a young gay woman.  "Some of the memories I have growing up was with guys driving down the road and yelling 'fag' at me and that kind of thing," said Parsons, who lives in Mobile. "People are capable of anything."  The days after Omar Mateen murdered 49 at a gay club in Orlando were difficult and fearful ones for her. But she got her hope back, she said, at a candlelight vigil Wednesday at a Mobile church that has ministered to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community since the mid-1980s.

Parsons, like others in Alabama's LGBT community, is again rolling up her sleeves and preparing for policy battles ahead. "When you are faced with divisiveness, communities do sprout up and always have that strength," she said.

 



The battles at the Statehouse in Montgomery and in city halls in deep-red Alabama will be numerous. But the Orlando massacre is again pushing gay rights issues to the forefront of national conversations.  In Alabama, there is no shortage of issues for LGBT leaders to dive into: Rewriting the state's sex educational policy to make it more accepting, adopting municipal non-discrimination ordinances covering LGBT people, and pushing for comprehensive anti-harassment and bullying policies at public schools to include LGBT students.

These battles, and more, come about one year after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage. Alabama was among the few states to push back, with probate judges – following orders from Chief Justice Roy Moore – refusing to issue marriage licenses.

"I do think the struggle for marriage equality was a hard struggle but when it finally came to us, it came quickly aside from the judges not issuing marriage licenses," said the Rev. Sara Sills, a pastor at Cornerstone Metropolitan Community Church in Mobile, the scene of Wednesday's vigil. "We're still fighting this battle in Alabama, and that is OK. There is an equality we have not had before and I'm thrilled to see that young people ... that there are promises that lie ahead in their lifetime."

Hate and Homophobia

According to the Human Rights Campaign, seven "anti-LGTB" bills were introduced in the Alabama Legislature last session, but none passed. Nationwide, the HRC counted nearly 200 bills in 35 states viewed as harmful to the LGBT movement. Only 22 of these bills remain.  "It perpetuates hate and homophobia," said Benjamin Newburn, an organizer of the second annual Shoals Pride Fest that took place this past week. "The Alabama Legislature has rarely issued any types of or introduced legislation that would be helpful to this community. But we are constantly seeing legislation that muddies the waters."

Alabama law provides no explicit LGBT protections in the workplace, housing or public accommodations. But the state is one of six to restrict the inclusion of LGBT topics in schools. And Alabama's sex education language identifies homosexuality as a criminal offense and describes the LGBT lifestyle as unacceptable.

Rep. Patricia Todd, D-Birmingham – the state's first ever openly gay elected official -- has introduced legislation in recent years to remove that sex-education provision and to ensure public education curriculum is "culturally sensitive." 

 

"If we cannot get it rewritten, we'll get it challenged in court," said Cari Searcy, the Mobile woman whose adoption lawsuit in 2014 led to U.S. District Judge Ginny Granade's landmark ruling in 2015 that Alabama's ban on same-sex marriages was unconstitutional.  "It makes a lot of sense to me why people are afraid of coming out when they are being taught this," said Searcy, who along with her spouse were able to legally adopt their 10-year-old son last year following a decade-long battle. "No one wants to be labeled. It's not a good start for anyone who is questioning their sexuality."

 



At city halls, HRC and others are eying the prospects of adding LGBT non-discrimination clauses to local ordinances. Said Eva Kendrick, state manager for HRC: "Out of the 435 incorporated municipalities in Alabama, exactly zero have non-discrimination policies on the books."  Advocates for these policies got a boost this past week when Jackson, Miss., became the first community in that state to adopt a similar ordinance. All seven of Jackson's council members voted to support the measure that prohibits gender identity and sexual orientation as a factor in the refusal of public accommodations, housing and employment.

Opponents say the Jackson ordinance violates the state's pending religious freedom law, which garnered national attention earlier this year.  Newburn said the Jackson vote is a "good first step," but realized that it's "more than what we've gotten in the state of Alabama."
 

Ringing Off the Hook

But what Alabama's LGBT community is likely to see, especially throughout the rest of the month, is a larger embrace of their movement due to the variety of Pride activities taking place in Florence, Huntsville and Birmingham.  LGBT Pride month is celebrated in June to honor the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City, which were viewed as a tipping point for the gay rights movement in the U.S.

Rocket City Pride in Huntsville, which typically draws around 5,000 people, was expected to see more people attending its activities on Saturday. The increase was related to the outpouring of emotion to the Orlando massacre, according to James Robinson, executive director of the Free2Be resource center in Huntsville.  "We had people saying, 'I don't know if I was coming to it' who are now saying they plan to come," said Robinson. "I think this will be the largest crowd we've ever had."

In Florence, the Shoals Pride event – a week-long celebration – has grown in its second year. Last year's inaugural Shoals Pride drew 800 people, but that number is expected to rise substantially this year due to an increase in the number of activities.  "My phone is ringing off the hook," said Newburn.

Cities throughout the U.S., such as Chicago and New Orleans, are hosting Pride events this weekend that are expected to draw large crowds and heightened security following the Orlando tragedy. The events in Huntsville and Florence also expected to be watched with increased police presence.

Mobile is among the few larger cities in Alabama without a June Pride event. Past Pride activities took place in April, but efforts are under way to move them to October. But Mobile could become a focal point for Alabama's LGBT community. Searcy, as the new executive director of Equality Alabama, said the group's offices will be relocating to downtown Mobile. And, she said, the focus will be to expand the organization to encompass the entire state.  Among the activities the newly reorganized Equality Alabama will tackle in Mobile is the establishment of a counseling and support program for youths ages 14-18.

Statistics, through the Centers for Disease Control, show that LGBT teens in grades 7-12 are more than twice as likely to have attempted suicide as their heterosexual peers. "As a lesbian growing up in the South, I never had any resources like that," said Searcy. "To be able to provide a resource for teens, for me, is some I feel passionate about."

 

(From John Sharp, AL.Com)

LINKS:

 

Alabama's LGBT Movement Emboldened by Orlando Tragedy

Alabamian's React to Orlando Nightclub Shooting

Reaction From Alabama Leaders

Alabama Politician's React to Orlando Shooting

 


Judge Roy Moore Faces Possible Removal for Ethics Complaints

 

May 2016

 

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore could once again be removed from the bench as the result of judicial ethics complaints filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center after he instructed state court judges to defy a federal court order and enforce the state’s unconstitutional ban on same-sex marriage.  Ruling on the SPLC complaints, the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission (JIC) announced late yesterday that it has filed ethics charges against Moore, setting up a trial in the Alabama Court of the Judiciary.
 

“Moore has disgraced his office for far too long,” said SPLC President Richard Cohen. “He’s such a religious zealot, such an egomaniac that he thinks he doesn’t have to follow federal court rulings he disagrees with. For the good of the state, he should be kicked out of office.”

The court removed Moore from the bench once before, in 2003, in response to an SPLC ethics complaint after he refused to comply with a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument that he installed in the state judicial building. He was re-elected to the post in 2012.
 

LINKS:

 

HuffPost: Judge Roy Moore Faces Trial for Barring Same Sex Marriages

AL.Com: Judge Roy Moore Suspended from Office

SPLC: Judicial Ethics Complaint

Ala Supreme Court Dismisses Petitions Opposing Gay Marriage

US Supreme Court Overturns Ala Court and Restores Parental Rights in Lesbian Adoption Case

SPLC Calls for Chief Justice Roy Moore's Removal From Office

The Drag Queen Who Helped Bring Down Roy Moore

 


Alabama News Updates

 

Federal Judge Bars Alabama From Blocking Gay Marriage

Ala Supreme Court Dismisses Petitions Opposing Gay Marriage

US Supreme Court Overturns Ala Court and Restores Parental Rights in Lesbian Adoption Case

SPLC Calls for Chief Justice Roy Moore's Removal From Office

People Mag: What It's Really Like to Be Gay in Alabama

The Inside Story: Gay Marriage in Alabama

Commentary: Are We American or Just Alabamian?

Prancing Elites: Queer Gender Non-Conforming Dancers Shaking Up Alabama

 


The Prancing Elites

 

January 2016

 

The Prancing Elites Project is a queer reality TV show and it is back for a second season.  And there's nothing else quite like it currently on television.  The Prancing Elites Project follows a group of queer, black, gender non-conforming individuals from Mobile, Alabama as they navigate the nuances (and dangers) of being queer in the deep south while coming to live as their authentic selves.   Made up of Adrian Clemons, Kentrell Collins, Kareem Davis, Jerel Maddox and Tim Smith, "The Prancing Elites Project" is a bold and powerful look at a group of queer people who are thriving in a part of America traditionally considered extremely homophobic.



"We are a black gay male and gender non-conforming dance team from Mobile, Alabama, and we're fabulous!" Clemons told The Huffington Post. "We were rejected in high school from auditioning for the dance teams, so we came up with our own group called The Prancing Elites. Here in Mobile, we struggle with a lot of discrimination because of who we are and what we do. Basically we stand to let everyone know it's OK to be who you are, and to feel comfortable in the skin you’re in. Also live your life for you, because honesty starts within yourself! We, The Prancing Elites, live to BUCK another day!"

The group also emphasized that they want viewers to not only take away a sense of their lives as The Prancing Elites, but to also to feel inspired to live authentically as themselves. "Watching this show, I want people to feel empowered to do anything that they put their minds to," Maddox told The Huffington Post. "I want people to understand that no matter who or what you are, we all have an opportunity to be great just by being alive. Never let society tell you what you 'can't' do just because you're 'different.' Different people create different changes and sometimes being different is GOOD! BE YOU!"

 

LINK:

 

Prancing Elites: Queer Gender Non-Conforming Dancers Shaking Up Alabama

 


Judge Roy Moore Defies US Supreme Court

 

January 2016

 

Roy Moore, the chief justice of Alabama's Supreme Court, made headlines on January 6 when he directed local judges to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  But his order should have come as no surprise. Moore has a long history of using his perch in Alabama's judiciary to advance his own religious agenda.  Here are some key facts to know about Wednesday's order and about the man dubbed the "Ayatollah of Alabama" by the Southern Poverty Law Center:

1. Moore is telling judges to do something that clearly violates a federal court ruling.
2. Moore cited the Bible when advising Alabama to disobey another federal court order on same-sex marriage.
3. Moore argued that the state should keep kids away from gay parents.
4. Moore was thrown off the Alabama Supreme Court for installing a Ten Commandments monument in a government building and then refusing to remove it.
5. Moore supports public prayer, but only if it's Christian.
6. Moore cannot be re-elected, but he can run for higher office.

 

Now, as part of a new ethics complaint, the Southern Poverty Law Center is calling for Chief Justice Roy Moore's removal from office. The SPLC issued this statement:

 

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore should be removed from the bench for advising state probate judges to enforce Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban, the Southern Poverty Law Center said in a new supplement filed today in its ongoing ethics complaint against Moore.


“Chief Justice Roy Moore is once again demonstrating that he is unfit to hold office,” SPLC President Richard Cohen said. “Despite the fact that Alabama probate judges are under a federal court order that bars them from discriminating against same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses, Justice Moore has irresponsibly advised them to do the opposite. You would think after being removed from the bench once before that the chief justice would know better.”


The SPLC complaint describes how Moore’s administrative order issued today violates the Alabama Canons of Judicial Ethics, which instruct judges to “respect and comply with the law” and promote “public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.”
The Judicial Inquiry Commission could recommend that Moore face ethics charges in the Alabama Court of the Judiciary. That court removed Moore from the office of chief justice 13 years ago after he refused to comply with a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state judicial building.


The opinion removing Moore from the bench states that the oath of chief justice commands Moore “to support both the United States and Alabama Constitutions.” It also notes that if there is a conflict between the documents, “the Constitution of the United States must prevail.” The 2003 opinion followed a successful SPLC lawsuit to remove the judge’s Ten Commandments monument from the state judicial building and a complaint that the SPLC filed with the Judicial Inquiry Commission.


“Just as Chief Justice Moore’s previous refusal to comply with a federal court order disqualified him for judicial office and necessitated his removal from the bench, his advising other judges to violate a federal court order also requires his removal as Chief Justice of this state’s highest court,” the supplement states.
 

(From Huffington Post and Southern Poverty Law Center)

 

LINKS:

 

SPLC Calls for Chief Justice Roy Moore's Removal From Office

Six Things You Should Know About Judge Roy Moore

Judge Roy Moore Defies Supreme Court Ruling

Judge Roy Moore: Laws Are Superseded by God

Feds Tell Moore He Must Obey Supreme Court Ruling

 


What's Happening in Alabama?

 

Alabama is the Heart of Pride

Ala Supreme Court Creates Chaos Over Marriage Issue

UAB Opens Alabama's First Mental Health Clinic for LGBTQ Patients

Wedding Photos at Jefferson County Courthouse

Gay in Alabama

 


Birmingham LGBT Pride Parade

 

June 2015

 

The annual Central Alabama Pride Parade took place on Saturday, June 6 in Birmingham.  It was a festive event and very well attended.  ALGBTICAL members (Paul Hard, Gary Williams, Michael Lebeau) were on hand for the event.  Several LGBT organizations were represented in the parade (including PFLAG), along with LGBT-affirming churches and several local companies (including Macy's, Wells Fargo, T-Mobile).

 

 

LINKS:

 

Advocate Mag: Alabama is the Heart of Pride

Central Alabama Pride

 


Marriage Equality Comes to Alabama

 

February 2015

 

 

Same-sex couples began marrying in parts of Alabama on Monday, February 9, acting on the strongest signal yet from the US Supreme Court in favor of gay marriage ahead of an expected ruling, but numerous state judges avoided granting marriage licenses to gay couples in apparent defiance of the high court.

The Supreme Court earlier in the day cleared the way for Alabama to become the 37th state where gay marriage is legal by refusing a request by the state's Republican attorney general to keep them on hold until it decides later this year whether laws banning gay matrimony violate the US Constitution.

 

 

 

But same-sex couples in 42 of Alabama's 67 counties encountered difficulties in getting marriage licenses, gay rights advocates said, with some counties refraining from issuing licenses to gay couples and others shutting down their marriage license operations altogether.  This followed an order by Roy Moore, the conservative chief justice of Alabama's Supreme Court, instructing probate judges to issue no marriage licenses to gay couples despite a federal court ruling in January throwing out the state's gay marriage ban, effective on Monday.

 

In Birmingham, dozens of same-sex couples married at the courthouse and an adjacent park, where they were greeted by supporters supplying cupcakes along with a handful of protesters bearing crosses and Bibles.

Wiping away tears, Eli Borges Wright, 28, said he was overjoyed to be marrying the man he has been in a relationship with for the past seven years. "After all of these years, I can finally say this is my husband," he said.

 

LINKS:

 

NPR News: Alabama Courts Issue First Marriage Licenses to Same Sex Couples

USA Today: Alabama Now 37th State to Allow Gay Marriage

AP/YouTube: Alabama Becomes 37th State with Same Sex Marriage

CNN: Same Sex Couples Wed in Alabama

ABC News: Same Sex Marriage Stand Off in Alabama

Yahoo News: Judge Roy Moore Refusing to Cooperate with Federal Ruling

Reuters: Same Sex Marriages Begin in Some Parts of Alabama

NY Times: Gay Marriage in Alabama Begins

 


"We are still trying to take it all in. It's overwhelming. We're very grateful. Wow. It happened. For us it was never about marriage equality. It started with us trying to gain parental rights for our son that we created."

- Cari Searcy and Kim McKeand, plaintiffs in Mobile case
 

"I understand how painful it can be for the state to tell you that your marriage is inferior in the eyes of the law. I am elated that other couples will no longer feel that pain."

- Paul Hard, plaintiff in Montgomery case

 

"It's a historic day. I can't tell you how ecstatic I am. Lots and lots of people can celebrate their love today."

- State Rep. Patricia Todd

 

 

LINKS:

 

Update on the Paul Hard Court Case
Court Denies Bid to Extend Delay on Same-Sex Marriages

Big Plans for Monday, Feb 9

Trip to the Marriage License Office

Judge Says Ruling Applies to All

Second Couple Wins Same-Sex Marriage Challenge

SPLC Files Ethics Complaint Against Judge Roy Moore

Details of SPLC Ethics Complaint Against Judge Roy Moore

Commentary by John Archibald: Alabama After the Same sex Marriage Ruling

Federal Judge Strikes Down Ala's Gay Marriage Ban

Cari and Kim: The Couple Behind the Lawsuit

Judge Strikes Down Gay Marriage Ban in Alabama

About Alabama's Pro-Marriage Ruling

Couple is Grateful for the Ruling

Gay Couples in Birmingham Celebrate Court Ruling

 


Alabama's Gay Marriage Ban Struck Down

 

January 2015

 

Alabama's same-sex marriage ban was struck down by a federal judge.  The court ruled that the ban is unconstitutional.  Alabama became the latest state to see its ban on gay marriage fall to a federal court ruling, as the issue of same-sex marriage heads to the U.S. Supreme Court.  It looks like Alabama will be the 37th state to allow same sex marriage.

U.S. District Callie V.S. Granade ruled in favor of two Mobile women who sued to challenge Alabama's refusal to recognize their 2008 marriage performed in California. The ruling is the latest in a string of wins for advocates of marriage rights. Judges have also struck down bans in several other Southern states, including the Carolinas, Florida, Mississippi and Virginia. The U.S. Supreme Court announced this month that it will take up the issue of whether gay couples have a fundamental right to marry and if states can ban such unions.

Alabama plaintiffs Cari Searcy and Kimberly McKeand have been a couple for more than 14 years and have an 8-year-old son together who was conceived with the help of a sperm donor. They filed a federal lawsuit after a court refused to recognize Searcy as the adoptive parent of the boy because they were not spouses under Alabama law.

 

Ben Cooper, Equality Alabama Board Chair, issued this statement:  "The United States District Court for the 11th Circuit in Alabama struck down the ban on marriage equality in Alabama. This court clearly found that the Alabama Constitution and the Alabama Code containing these prohibitions are unconstitutional because they violated the due process clause and the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. For years, Equality Alabama has been a leader in moving this state forward, repeatedly questioning the ban on marriage equality and equal rights among all of its LGBT citizens. We expect and hope that the attorney general will uphold the decision to recognize same-sex marriage. These laws are irrational and finally have come to the forefront of this debate thanks to brave women like Cari Searcy and Kimberly McKeand. We have received the direction from our 11th circuit federal district that the institution of marriage is a fundamental right and a vital personal right not to be denied to any person. I am positive with this landmark decision there will be many questions. Yet opportunities now to reinforce and bring Alabama among its fellow states where equality is undeniably a reality."

 

LINKS:

 

Federal Judge Strikes Down Ala's Gay Marriage Ban

Cari and Kim: The Couple Behind the Lawsuit

Judge Strikes Down Gay Marriage Ban in Alabama

About Alabama's Pro-Marriage Ruling

Couple is Grateful for the Ruling

Gay Couples in Birmingham Celebrate Court Ruling

Judge Puts Alabama Same Sex Marriage on Hold

Alabama Appeals Decision Blocking Ban on Same Sex Marriage

Same Sex Marriage on Temporary Hold in Alabama

Ala Attorney Genl Seeks Stay of Court Ruling

Two Men Politely Denied Marriage License in Jefferson County

Second Couple Wins Same-Sex Marriage Challenge

Roy Moore Says He'll Ignore Court's Ruling

Chief Justice Defies Federal Court Ruling

Opponents Dig in at State Level

SPLC Files Ethics Complaint Against Judge Roy Moore

 


SPLC Files Ethics Complaint Against Judge Roy Moore

 

February 2015

 

Statement from Richard Cohen, President, Southern Poverty Law Center:

 

We have filed an ethics complaint against Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore over his public statements urging the governor and state judges to defy federal law and continue to enforce Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriages.

We’ve been down this road with Moore before. You may remember him, in fact, as the “Ten Commandments judge.”  In 2003, we filed an ethics complaint over Moore’s open defiance of a federal court order requiring him to remove his giant Ten Commandments monument from the courthouse. That complaint led to his removal from office.

Unfortunately, Alabama voters elected him chief justice again three years ago.  Now, he’s at it again – confusing his personal religious beliefs with his duty to uphold both state and federal law, including the U.S. Constitution.

Our complaint spells out three specific violations of Alabama’s Canons of Judicial Ethics: his improper comments about pending cases; his lack of faithfulness to the law; and his disrespect for the integrity of the judiciary.

It all started last week when a federal judge struck down Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage.  In a letter to Gov. Robert Bentley yesterday, Moore claimed that marriage is Biblical and beyond the reach of the federal judiciary. He asked the governor and other judges to join him in defying “judicial tyranny” and warned that “we will have a confrontation.”

It’s an open secret that Moore wants to run for governor again in Alabama.  So he’s wrapping himself in religion to get there in the same way that the segregationist George Wallace used race to further his political career a half century ago. In both cases, it’s the same thing – pure demagoguery.

Moore’s action is unethical, irresponsible, and lawless. It’s precisely what got him removed from office the first time.  For the sake of all Alabamians who believe in the rule of law, we hope the result is the same this time. The people of Alabama elected Moore to be a judge, not a pastor.
 


Gay Down South

 

June 2014

 

Christian and Gay and Living in Alabama

Paul Hard Interview About Gay Rights in Alabama

Blue Cross Blue Shield Offers Same Sex Benefits

Maybe When We're Dead: Gay Rights in Alabama

3rd Annual Rocket City Pride Event in Huntsville

Gay Sex Ban Struck Down by Ala Court of Appeals

ACLU Challenges Alabama's Same Sex Marriage Ban

 


Bham Southern College Offers Same Sex Benefits

 

August 2014

 

Birmingham-Southern College's President announced on August 22, as the new school year kicked off, that the college would begin offering the same benefits to same-sex married couples as is currently offered to other married couples who work for the college. This expanded policy for BSC employees has the full backing and endorsement of the Methodist bishop who presides over the area within which BSC operates. Birmingham-Southern College is a four-year private liberal arts institution affiliated with the United Methodist Church.
 


Paul Hard Interview on Huff Post

 

August 2014

 

Things are happening in Alabama.  Paul Hard's high profile lawsuit regarding marriage equality is one of the prominent stories drawing attention to the fight for LGBT rights in Alabama.  He was recently interviewed by Huffington Post and featured on Huff Post Live.  Huffington Post staff reporter Lila Shapiro wrote an article after her recent visit to Alabama, entitled, "Maybe When We're Dead."  the article was about the efforts being made in Alabama to obtain rights for LGBT citizens.  Her article highlighted several positive stories from around Alabama in general and Birmingham in particular.  Many prominent LGBT activists were mentioned in her article, including ALGBTICAL member Paul Hard (Counselor Education Professor at Auburn University Montgomery).

 

 

Lila was interviewed about her article on Huff Post Live along with Paul Hard (Montgomery), Lauren Jacobs (Birmingham), and Rep. Patricia Todd (Birmingham).  See the links below.  Read the articles, see the photos, and view the videos.

 

LINK:

 

Paul Hard Shares Heartbreaking Story on Huff Post

Huff Post: Paul Hard Interview About Gay Rights in Alabama

Lila Shapiro Article: Maybe When We're Dead: Gay Rights in Alabama

 


Gay Sex Ban Struck Down

 

June 2014

 

An Alabama appeals court said the state's ban on consensual oral and anal sex, aimed at criminalizing homosexual conduct, is unconstitutional.  The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals issued its unanimous ruling in Williams vs. Alabama, the appeal of a Dallas County man who was convicted of sexual misconduct, though the jury found the homosexual sexual encounter was consensual.  The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals said a portion of Alabama's sexual misconduct statute is unconstitutional. It was referring to code section 13A-6-65, which reads in part, "consent is no defense to a prosecution."

The state appeals court noted the legislative commentary for the statute says the consent section "was changed by the legislature to make all homosexual conduct criminal, and consent is no defense."  In its ruling the Alabama court pointed to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the 2003 case Lawrence vs. Texas, which found a Texas law barring same sex intimate contact was unconstitutional. The high court said there was no "legitimate state interest which can justify its intrusion into the personal and private life of the individual."

 

LINKS:

 

Al.Com: Gay Sex Ban Struck Down by Ala Court of Appeals

Wikipedia: Lawrence vs Texas

USA Today: Sodomy Laws in the US
Salon: Sodomy Laws Still Exist?
 


ACLU Sues Alabama

 

June 2014

 

A federal lawsuit has been filed on behalf of a same-sex couple living in Alabama.  April and Ginger Aaron Brush were married in Massachusetts and they now want their marriage to be recognized in the state of Alabama.  “The word marriage, in itself, brings validity and respect to any committed relationship,” said April Aaron-Brush. “One's marriage status shouldn't change simply by crossing state lines. Gay couples seek to be married for the very same reasons that opposite-sex couples choose to be married-- love, honor and commitment.”

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Alabama filed the lawsuit in Birmingham. A portion of it reads:

“Alabama’s refusal to recognize Plaintiffs’ marriage unlawfully denies them many of the legal protections available to different-sex couples, including, but not limited to, the right to make medical decisions for an incapacitated spouse, access to health insurance and retirement benefits, property protections, and inheritance.”

ACLU representatives say its ultimate goal is to ensure people not only have the freedom to marry, but also the same access to the benefits of marriage.  “All loving and committed couples deserve the dignity and protections that come with marriage, no matter where they live,” said Susan Watson of the ACLU of Alabama. “It’s time for marriage equality to come to Alabama.”

The ACLU is fighting a legal battle in thirteen states against laws that ban or fail to recognize same-sex marriages.  “The past year has witnessed a historic transformation in public support for marriage for same-sex couples,” said Chase Strangio, staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project. “We hope that this case will help bring the Deep South into the national march toward the freedom to marry.”

 

LINK:

 

WVTM/NBC News: ACLU Files Federal Lawsuit Challenging Ala Same Sex Marriage Ban

 


Paul Hard Files Lawsuit in Alabama

 

February 2014

 

Dr. Paul Hard, longtime ALCA and ALGBTICAL member, is suing Alabama over same-sex marriage rights. He is a Montgomery man who married another Alabama man in Massachusetts, and is challenging Alabama's law prohibiting the recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other states.  David Fancher was killed in a car crash north of Montgomery after his marriage to Paul Hard.  The accident led to a wrongful death case.  The Alabama law prevents Hard from sharing in any proceeds from that case, according to lawyers with the Southern Poverty Law Center, which is representing Paul.

 

   

 

The Southern Poverty Law Center has filed a lawsuit challenging Alabama laws that refuse to recognize same-sex marriages on behalf of Paul Hard.  The suit seeks to overturn the state’s Marriage Protection Act and the Sanctity of Marriage Amendment, which ban the recognition of same-sex marriages from other states.  The SPLC announced Paul Hard’s lawsuit at a news conference at the federal courthouse in Montgomery on February 12.  Paul Hard’s lawsuit seeks recognition of his marriage under the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the US Constitution.

 

LINKS:

 

Advocate Mag: Marriage Recognition Suit Filed in Alabama

Huff Post: Alabama Tried to Erase Gay Man's Marriage

AL.Com: Paul Hard Files Lawsuit in Alabama Concerning Same Sex Marriage Rights

Montgomery Advertiser: Paul Hard & SPLC Challenging Ala Same Sex Marriage Laws

NBC TV 13 News: Lawsuit Challenges Alabama's Stance on Out-of-State Gay Marriages

WFSA TV News: SPLC Files Federal Lawsuit Targeting Alabama's Same Sex Marriage Ban

On Top Mag: Alabama Man Sues for Recognition of his Marriage

LGBTQ Nation: SPLC Challenges Alabama's Same Sex Marriage Ban

 


Gay Down South

 

February 2014

 

Paul Hard Files Lawsuit in Alabama Concerning Same Sex Marriage Rights

Glenda Elliott Awarded for Safe School Efforts

Auburn Transgender Student to be Honored

Rep. Patricia Todd Gets Married

ABC 33/40 Interviews Patricia Todd About Her Marriage

Alabama's First Openly Gay Lawmaker Marries Longtime Partner

Ala Chief Justice Moore Calls for Constitutional Convention to Ban Gay Marriage

Roy Moore Pushing All 50 Governors to Back Gay Marriage Ban

 


Trasnsgender Student at Auburn University


February 2014

 

Darcy Corbitt is beginning her new life at 21 years of age.  The Auburn University senior no longer wanted to go by her birth name, David Hall. She wanted to start again as Darcy.  Corbitt struggled with such feelings throughout her childhood and said despite being born biologically male, she never felt like a man.  “I tried to be that person for 18 years and it didn’t fit me,” Corbitt said.

 

With help from her friends, she began exploring the idea of living as a woman. Bonnie Wilson, in the Women’s Initiatives Office, said she recalled a poignant conversation about gender identity with Corbitt when she still went by David.  “I asked her, ‘if there weren’t any barriers, what would you be?’” Wilson said. “And Corbitt said, ‘a woman.’ And I said, ‘then that’s what you are.’”  Corbitt said she also credits Spectrum, Auburn’s Gay-Straight Alliance, with helping her come to understand her identity.  “If I didn’t have the GSA, I don’t know what I would have done,” Corbitt said. “I’d have probably killed myself.”  Corbitt sent an email to every professor she’s worked with in the past to let them know about the change.  The faculty responded with immediate and overwhelming support.  “The University was really classy about it,” Corbitt said.  Today, Corbitt said she embraces her identity as a woman. She dresses in a women’s suit with thick-frame glasses, a red-and-orange scarf and a purple shirt to match her purple wristwatch.

 

On Sunday Feb 16, at the 16th annual Vigil for Victims of Hate and Violence on the steps of the state capital, Corbitt will receive the Stephen Light Youth Activist Award. The award is named in honor of a gay rights activist who died in Birmingham in 2012 at age 25. Michael Hansen, communications director for Equality Alabama, the group presenting the award, said Corbitt earned the honor when she shared her story with The Auburn Plainsman.  "Her story touched many lives throughout Alabama and beyond," Hansen said. "It was a bold and courageous move, especially on a campus recently voted the nation's most conservative public university. I have gotten to know Darcy via Facebook since then and have been extraordinarily impressed with her passion, intellect and activist spirit. Personally, she has been inspired me to become more informed and vocal in my advocacy for the trans* community."  Corbitt said she wasn't so sure she deserved the honor. "I don't consider myself an advocate," she said. "I thought about it for a few days. Every time I put on lipstick and go out into the world and live my life as a woman, I'm showing people I'm human too, I'm brave and I'm not going to let people tell me who I am."

 

(From Kyle Nazario, Auburn Plainsman and Jeremy Gray, AL.Com)

 

LINK:

 

AL.Com: Auburn Transgender Student to be Honored

Auburn Plainsman: From David to Darcy

 


Rep. Patricia Todd Gets Married

 

September 2013

 

Rep. Patricia Todd, Alabama's first openly gay legislator, wed her longtime partner, Jennifer Clarke, on Sept 14 in Provincetown, Massachusetts.  “It was beautiful. It was perfect,” Todd, said of the afternoon ceremony on Cape Cod.  The brides wrote their own vows and said their I do's in front of a beach gathering of 60 close friends and family members.

 

Clarke's 25-year-old daughter, a third-year law student, officiated the ceremony. Clarke sang a love song to Todd during her vows.  In addition to being Birmingham's representative in Montgomery, Todd is the associate director of AIDS Alabama. She has also served on the board of Equality Alabama.  Clarke is chief housing officer at YWCA Central Alabama.

 

LINKS:

 

Rep. Patrica Todd Gets Married

ABC 33/40 Interviews Patricia Todd About Her Marriage

Alabama's First Openly Gay Lawmaker Marries Longtime Partner

 


Gay Down South

 

November 2013

 

Jon Stewart Visits Alabama to Test Gay Attitudes

Equality Alabama Website

Queer Organizing in the Deep South

Magic City Acceptance Project to Help Alabama LGBT Youth

Auburn Transgender Student: From David to Darcy

Birmingham Gay Community Examiner

Twinkle Cavanaugh's Anti-Gay Comments

Paul Hard Interviewed on Montgomery Television

Ala Teens Petition Legislature to Repeal Anti-Gay Law

SONG: Southerners on New Ground

LGBTQ Nation: Alabama News

HRC Index: Southern Companies Evolving on LGBT Rights

 


Safe Zone Launched at Bham Southern College

 

September 2013

 

Birmingham-Southern College becomes the latest in a growing list of higher education institutions in Alabama that has launched its own support program for its LGBT students.  ALGBTICAL Past President, Michael Lebeau, is the coordinator of the newly formed committee that has implemented the Ally Training Program at Birmingham-Southern College to provide LGBT resources to faculty and students. The Ally Training Program team conducted its inaugural training session for the student staff of Resident Advisors this past summer.  The first faculty/staff training session was held on September 13.  The second session is scheduled fore November 15.  So far, response from the BSC campus community has been very favorable.  Michael Lebeau is a career counselor at Birmingham-Southern College and is working in collaboration with other staff and faculty at BSC to provide this needed service to the campus.

 


Magic City Acceptance Project

 

July 2013

 

A new initiative operated by Birmingham AIDS Outreach this week received a $20,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham to help LGBT youth in the metro area avoid those problems. The effort has also raised $62,000 from other sources since May 2012.  The Magic City Acceptance Project grew from the work of small volunteer groups, mostly adults who had seen firsthand what young LGBT people faced, said Amanda Keller, the initiative's project director. To accomplish that, MCAP will work with youth-service agencies in Jefferson and Shelby counties, training more than 400 professionals at those agencies and assisting in research conducted by more than 100 area public health professionals. The goal of those training sessions is to help people who work with young people provide better care, regardless of what they think or believe about gay and lesbian people, said Sarah Young, a licensed social worker who is working as MCAP's youth engagement director.  ALGBTICAL member Glenda Elliott is part of this important project and is representing the Alabama Safe Schools Coalition (ASSC) and ALGBTICAL.

 

LINK:

 

Magic City Acceptance: New Project to Help Alabama LGBT Youth

 


Rallies Celebrating Court Decision

 

June 2013

 

On June 26, in response to the rulings by the US Supreme Court regarding DOMA and Prop 8, Equality Alabama hosted celebration rallies across the state of Alabama.  Rallies were held in Birmingham, Huntsville, Tuscaloosa, Mobile, and Florence. LGBT families, local activists and supporters, guest speakers, and television media were on hand at all locations.  Rep. Patricia Todd spoke at the Birmingham location.  ALGBTICAL members showed up to express their support at all locations.  ALGBTICAL member, Paul Hard, was interviewed by local TV reporters at the Montgomery location.  ALGBTICAL members were on hand at the Birmingham rally at Al's On Seventh.

 

 

Rally Locations throughout the state:

 

--Birmingham:  Al's on Seventh (2627 7th Ave. S.)

--Huntsville:  Partners Bar & Grill (627 Meridian St. N.)

--Tuscaloosa:  Icon (516 Greensboro Ave.)

--Mobile:  B-Bob's (213 Conti St.)

--Florence:  Sweet Magnolia Cafe (1154 N Wood Ave.)

 

LINKS:

 

Paul Hard Interviewed on Montgomery Television

Equality Alabama FaceBook

 


Alabama Notes


May 2013

Selma and Stonewall: What Ties Civil Rights to Gay Rights?
Alabama Same Sex Couples Say "We Do"

Ala Teens Petition Legislature to Repeal Anti-Gay Language in Education Law
Gay Students in Alabama Finding it Easier

Patricia Todd Sees Uphill Battle as Winnable Fight
Notes on Alabama Gay Population
Campaign for Southern Equality

Patricia Todd: Why Ala Needs to Update its Sex Ed Programs

SONG: Southerners on New Ground

 


Repeal Alabama Gay Criminalization Law


March 2013

 

"Homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public... homosexual conduct is a criminal offense."

 

With the help of Rep. Patricia Todd, two Birmingham high school students, Sarah Noone, 16, from Indian Springs School, and Adam Pratt, 17, from Homewood High School, are taking a stand against an anti-gay Alabama law.  They are asking the Alabama legislature to remove a section of Alabama law that requires sexual education teachers to emphasize "homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public and that homosexual conduct is a criminal offense."

 

 

Sarah and Adam are encouraging people to think of the effect that this law has on lesbian, gay and bisexual youth in schools. It incorrectly tells them that being gay is a criminal act and that society will never accept them. Imagine the self-hatred you would feel inside you after hearing this in class, despite having done nothing wrong? Imagine the message its giving to bullies, too.  "I am a queer high school student living in Alabama, and the world I live in can be frightening," Sarah says. "I’ve devoted my life to helping the LGBT youth of this state find safe places and thrive as a community. As a Youth Leader of the Birmingham Alliance of Gay, Straight and Lesbian Youth (BAGLY), I spend considerable time with individuals who face some of the worst homophobia and transphobia that this country has to offer."

 

Supporting this bill isn’t about accepting gay people, it’s about making our schools a place where all students can feel safe.  But beyond being hurtful, this law is legally and factually inaccurate. In 2003’s Lawrence v. Texas, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex sodomy laws are illegal and cannot be enforced, affecting not only Alabama’s pre-existing sodomy law but also this segment of sexual education curriculum. Telling students that being gay is a crime is not only wrong, it's unconstitutional according to our nation's highest court.

 

LINK:

 

Repeal Ala Law Forcing Schools to Teach That Being Gay is Criminal

Bham News: Ala Teens Petition Legislature to Repeal Anti-Gay Law

Sarah and Adam on You Tube

 


Rep. Patricia Todd Fights for Change

 

January 2013

 

Alabama's only openly LGBT state legislator explains why she is trying to change the laws to make sex ed in schools less homophobic and more comprehensive....

 

 “As you read this and shake your head in disbelief, take a minute to help me and other LGBT Alabamians move our state out of the 1960s… Sometimes when barriers seem most impossible to overcome, we me must not retreat but instead seize the moment as an opportunity to challenge the status quo. And so that moment has come. While today many states are fighting for marriage equality, Alabama once again finds itself far behind the curve, living in another time. But while the issue here may not [yet] be marriage equality, for every LGBT Alabamian, this is our line in the sand.”

-Rep. Patricia Todd

 

 

Alabama's only openly LGBT state legislator explains why she is trying to change the laws to make sex ed in schools less homophobic and more comprehensive:

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., that killed four little girls and awakened a nation. Unfortunately, in so many ways, Alabama remains stuck in the 196's with its unspoken segregation, whispered disparagement of those in poverty, and a ferocious societal adherence to a literalist, unforgiving Bible.  My state has the longest constitution in the country, with over 800 amendments that include requiring a horse in Macon County to wear a diaper in a parade. No, I am not kidding.

Our poverty rate is one of the highest in the country and we spend less money on public education than the majority of states, and it shows. The evidence is, in part, our nearly 60% dropout rate. White flight and "brain drain" from Birmingham, Alabama's largest city, has left in its wake a segregated school system recently taken over by the state Board of Education because of mismanagement. In Alabama the entire tax base rests on a high sales tax, the most regressive form of taxation.

Alabama is the buckle of the Bible Belt, where public policy is based on religious beliefs instead of the U.S. Constitution. It is not easy to come out in Alabama or serve as its only openly gay elected official. As a legislator I am constantly bombared with "Bible babble" that seeks to defend discrimination and hatred toward our LGBT brothers and sisters.

I have spent most of my six years in the legislature working on bills to reduce poverty and increase transparency in our state; in so doing I have passed legislation creating the first Alabama Housing Trust Fund and establishing the first state-funded commission to reduce poverty. I am proud to be seen as the advocate for the disenfranchised and have worked tirelessly on legislation to assure accountablity in state government and transparency in our financial transactions.

I knew when I was elected in 2006 that all eyes would be watching me and I carried the hopes and dreams of the LGBT community on my shoulders. I also knew that I needed time to develop relationships with fellow legislators to gain their trust. In 2010, when the Republicans took control, I realized that my goal to obtain equality for all had just become even more difficult. But sometimes when barriers seem most impossible to overcome, we me must not retreat but instead seize the moment as an opportunity to challenge the status quo.

And so that moment has come. In the upcoming legislative session I will introduce a bill to strike the homophobic language from our state-mandated health education curriculum. In the early 1990s the Alabama legislature passed a law mandating that when HIV education is taught in the public schools, teachers are required to teach "an emphasis, in a factual manner and from a public health perspective, that homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public and that homosexual conduct is a criminal offense under the laws of the state." No, I am not kidding.

It would seem to be a simple fix for those outside the South: First, there is no scientific evidence that this statement is true, and second, the U.S. Supreme Court stuck down sodomy laws in 2003. Understandable, so strike the language!  But, as we know, Alabama does not always follow the federal laws — and we are best known for refusing to follow the law. Remember Gov. George Wallace refusing to allow two black students to attend the University of Alabama? Or maybe you remember when, more recently, our Supreme Court justice Roy Moore refused to remove a stone plaque of the 10 Commandments from the Alabama Supreme Court building? That is Alabama. Interestingly, Moore was just reelected to the Alabama Supreme Court as chief justice, no less, and has spent most of his public appearances spewing hate and preaching that same-sex marriage will destroy our country.  This is what I face as a lawmaker in this state, but I keep reminding myself that my work is much like a missionary's — you go where to work needs to be done.

The legislation I am proposing in the coming session would strike that language from the public school curriculum and would actually take curriculum development out of the hands of the Alabama legislature, where it currently rests, and place it in the hands of the state Board of Education. In fact, my bill's first hurdle will come when I ask for it to be placed on the agenda of the Education Policy Committee, chaired by the most conservative woman in the Alabama House. In fact, she informed me that she doesn't believe sex education should be taught in the schools at all. Ignorance is bliss.

I remain convinced that this bill is a step toward good public policy in Alabama. It may not pass, but what it will do is challenge the Alabama legislature to begin the conversation around these once-taboo issues while providing an appropriate public forum where meaningful debate around the harmfulness and factual inaccuracy of such existing law can take place. Now is the time in Alabama, and now is the opportunity to shift from a course of inequality to full equality.

As you read this and shake your head in disbelief, take a minute to help me and other LGBT Alabamians move our state out of the 1960s. You can help. Equality Alabama will be leading the educational efforts, and it will take money to organize and educate the legislators to do the right thing. You can make a donation to Equality Alabama by going to EqualityAlabama.org.  While today many states are fighting for marriage equality, Alabama once again finds itself far behind the curve, living in another time. But while the issue here may not marriage equality, for every LGBT Alabamian, this is our line in the sand.

 

LINK:

 

Advocate: Alabama Needs to Update Sex Ed Program

 


Alabama Reaction to Inauguration Speech

 

January 2013

 

"All of us are created equal is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth. It is now our generation's task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law - for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well."  With those words, President Barack Obama began his second term and drew a line linking the turbulent struggle black people fought for equal rights as they marched from Selma to Montgomery in 1965 to the battles fought by gay and lesbian Americans that first gained national attention in Greenwich Village four years later.

In Selma, civil rights protestors in 1965 faced billy clubs wielded by Alabama State Troopers. In 1969, a police raid of New York City's Stonewall Inn, a club frequented by gays and lesbians, became a watershed moment in the fledging gay rights movement.

For gays and lesbians across Alabama, today's speech was a beacon of hope.  "Many years ago, when I was a young closeted gay man in Alabama I never imagined or dreamed that I would one day be able to have an open committed same sex relationship. Today, as a much older and very public gay man in Alabama, I not only imagine this but I have hope that I will one day have this relationship and that I will be able to express this love through the public and legal commitment of marriage," said James Robinson of Huntsville, founder and director of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Advocacy and Youth Services.  "This hope is what fuels the courage of people across Alabama and our nation as we press forward and demand our civil and human rights which include marriage equality," Robinson added. 

 

Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law," President Obama said.

 

"Watching my president. Gives me hope, just like MLK," State Rep. Patricia Todd, Alabama's first openly gay elected official, wrote on her Facebook page during today's inauguration speech.  "Today, the power of equality comes alive in a new way," the Birmingham chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays posted on Facebook.  The president's speech comes just seven months after he publicly endorsed same-sex marriage, just two days after Vice President Joe Biden himself spoke out in favor of same-sex unions on a Sunday morning talk show. The president had long said his views on the issue were "evolving."

"At a certain point, I've just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married," the president said in a May interview with ABC's Robin Roberts.  "I had hesitated on gay marriage in part because I thought that civil unions would be sufficient," he added. "I was sensitive to the fact that for a lot of people, the word marriage was something that invokes very powerful traditions and religious beliefs."

In Alabama, that fight won't be easily won.  In October, Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore said that same-sex marriage will be the downfall of the country.  "We can't keep disparaging our military and promoting things like same-sex marriage, L-G-B-T. To hear the President of the United States say that we are promoting L-G-B-T. Let's think about what that is: lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered rights," Moore said.  "Same sex marriage will be the ultimate destruction of our country because it destroys the very foundation upon which this nation is based. Divisive, I've been accused of being divisive I'll tell you what's divisive. It's this Democratic platform," Moore said.

 

LINK:

 

Alabama Reaction to President Obama's Inauguration Speech

 


Alabama Updates

 

January 2013

 

Alabama Reaction to President Obama's Inauguration Speech

Huffington Post: Interview with Patricia Todd

Advocate: Alabama Needs to Update Sex Ed Program

Bham News: Judge Roy Moore Says Gay Marriage Will be Destruction of Country

Left in Alabama: James Robinson & Sara Couvillion

 


Roy Moore Regains Seat

 

November 2012

 

Apparently Alabamians have a short memory regarding the deplorable things Roy Moore did last time he was Chief Justice.  Or maybe some Alabamians don't see his actions as deplorable.  Either way, after nearly a decade, Roy Moore is back as Chief Justice. The Conservative Republican Christian homophobic judge, who was unseated in 2003 as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court after he refused to obey a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state's judicial building, was re-elected to the position on November 6.  Moore, who had spent the last year traveling the state to gain support, defeated Jefferson County Circuit Judge Bob Vance (Democrat) to win back his old job.

 


Roy Moore is Back

 

October 2012

 

Former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, a conservative judge whose fight to preserve a Ten Commandments statue in the state courthouse garnered national headlines, is campaigning to get his old job back with some decidedly anti-LGBT, pro-Christianity rhetoric.  Speaking to a rally of the DeKalb County Tea Party, Moore, who is seeking to regain the office of chief justice, called the upcoming national election a choice between two fundamentally different paths for the country.  He said said the nation must return to its moral and constitutional roots and said that same-sex marriage will be the downfall of the country. 

 

 

Warning that "we will suffer the consequences," Moore emphasized the destructive nature of the Democratic party's same-sex marriage platform.  "We cannot continue to borrow the future of our children and our grandchildren or we will suffer the consequences...  We can't keep disparaging our military and promoting things like same-sex marriage, L-G-B-T. To hear the President of the United States say that we are promoting L-G-B-T. Let's think about what that is: lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered rights," Moore said. "Same sex marriage will be the ultimate destruction of our country because it destroys the very foundation upon which this nation is based. Divisive, I've been accused of being divisive. I'll tell you what's divisive. It's this Democratic platform," Moore said.  And he said that because of the Democrats, "we are losing our rights and freedoms and the very fundamentals of our society like traditional marriage."

 

Rep. Patricia Todd (D-Birmingham) said of Moore's comments on gay marriage that it was, "heartbreaking we still have this divisiveness." Todd is the chair of Equality Alabama and the state's first openly gay legislator. "It's almost laughable to me. We're going to bring the downfall of the country? When you have war and the economy? When you look at states that have same sex marriage, they're all doing pretty good," Todd said.

 

Citizens in Alabama (and nationwide) will recall that Roy Moore gained fame by imposing his religious and moral views on the Etowah Circuit Court, by opening his court with prayer, by displaying the Ten Commandments in his courtroom, by erecting a Ten Commandments monument in the courthouse, by issuing anti-gay court opinions, and by issuing legal rulings based on his biblical views instead of the law.
 

Moore was elected chief justice in 2000 but was removed in 2003 for his refusal to obey a court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the rotunda of the state judicial building.  He has since then twice run unsuccessfully for Governor.  During his time as chief justice, Moore displayed a level of unprofessionalism that was shocking.  He continually violated the concept of the separation of church and state.  From his hateful remarks about LGBT people to his controversial court decisions that showed a blatant lack of compassion and impartiality, he distinguished himself in a manner unbecoming of a judge.  Moore has said that the state should use its powers to punish homosexual behavior. Here is an excerpt from one of his legal opinions: 

 

"To disfavor practicing homosexuals in custody matters is not invidious discrimination, nor is it legislating personal morality. On the contrary, disfavoring practicing homosexuals in custody matters promotes the general welfare of the people of our State in accordance with our law, which is the duty of its public servants... The State carries the power of the sword, that is, the power to prohibit conduct with physical penalties, such as confinement and even execution. It must use that power to prevent the subversion of children toward this lifestyle, to not encourage a criminal lifestyle... Homosexual behavior is a ground for divorce, an act of sexual misconduct punishable as a crime in Alabama, a crime against nature, an inherent evil, and an act so heinous that it defies one's ability to describe it. That is enough under the law to allow a court to consider such activity harmful to a child. To declare that homosexuality is harmful is not to make new law but to reaffirm the old; to say that it is not harmful is to experiment with people's lives, particularly the lives of children."

 

Moore's comments led to protests in front of the state judicial building and drew nationwide criticism from civil rights groups such as GLAAD, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and the Human Rights Campaign. An official complaint with the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission was also filed by the Lambda Legal Defense & Education Fund.

 

LINKS:


Bham News: Judge Roy Moore Says Gay Marriage Will be Destruction of Country
Wikipedia: Judge Roy Moore
CNN: Judge Roy Moore Poised to Return to Ala Supreme Court
Huff Post: Judge Moore Calls Gay Marriage Ultimate Destruction of Our Country

 


LGBT Youth Ministry in Huntsville

 

April 2012

 

"Some people find that hard to swallow," said James Robinson. "But I grew up in a conservative, Bible-teaching church. That's why I have the strong foundation I do as a Christian. And, fortunately for me, I never had a question about God loving me."  Not all who realize they are gay or lesbian have that foundation, Robinson said. A lot of homosexuals are driven out of the church by feeling like outcasts. And, Robinson added, not all can find a message of God's love in a religious community.  "I felt like I was a disease," says one teen who is featured on a recent documentary, Through My Eyes. "I couldn't talk to my pastor about it."  That feeling is common among teens who begin to realize their sexual orientation is homosexual, Robinson said. The ensuing isolation, loneliness and, frequently, bullying are part of the mix that helps keep the suicide rates among gay and lesbian teens three times that of heterosexual kids. The gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender teenager is also more prone to drop out of school, turn to drugs or run away from home.

 

 

"One 15-year-old was put out of his house by his parents!" Robinson said. "I'm alive for a purpose. I have a voice. I'm going to use that voice to help these kids."  That's why Robinson founded GLBT Advocacy and Youth Services two years ago. The non-profit organization, the first of its kind in Alabama, as far as he knows, seeks to support local organizations in offering resources to gay and lesbian teens.  GLBT Advocacy & Youth Services offers a weekly support group for teens and friends of teens who are gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual, questioning and queer, Mondays, 6-8 p.m., at The Studio, 1001 Oakwood Avenue, Huntsville, Alabama. Free.
 

More Info: James Robinson, Executive Director, GLBT Advocacy & Youth Services, 256-425-7804, James@glbtays.org

 

LINKS:

 

GLBT Advocacy & Youth Services

LGBT Advocate in Huntsville Honored at Montgomery Vigil

James Robinson Receives Humanitarian Award

Christian LGBT Youth Ministry in Huntsville

Documentary: Through My Eyes

Left in Alabama: James Robinson & Sara Couvillion

 


Birmingham LGBT Pride Parade

 

June 2012

 

As part of Central Alabama Pride's 8 Days of Pride Celebration, June 3-10, a Mardi Gras style Pride Parade was presented on Saturday June 9 on Birmingham's Southside.  The 24th Annual LGBT Pride Parade, which marched through the Five Points area, was a festive event that was very well attended.  The parade was scheduled to begin at 7:00ish, which roughly translated into 8:30ish.  Lots of fabulous floats!  Lots of local groups and organizations represented!

 

 

 

Prior to the start of the parade, anti-gay protesters showed up to express their message of hate.  The four individuals were members of a Christian group from North Carolina (likely members of Pastor Worley's church).  They held up signs ("Gay Pride Was the Reason Sodom Fried" and more), they berated the parade-goers, and attempted to preach from the Bible using a megaphone.  Police asked them to turn off the megaphone but not before they spewed rhetoric riddled with admonitions for "queers and sodomites" to "repent."

 

 

One of the protesters told one attendee to "repent of his sin."  The religious protesters left before the parade began, yelling "faggot" to the crowd as they departed.  One observer remarked that "the protesters were obnoxious, but they didn't ruin the parade."  Another observer said, "They certainly did not convert anyone to their twisted way of thinking.  They can slink back to North Carolina knowing their time and efforts here were wasted and that they had no impact on the Birmingham crowd except to demonstrate hatefulness, bigotry, judgment, and ignorance all in the name of God."

 

 The crowds of supporters who were on hand for the event were otherwise upbeat and celebratory.  Everyone enjoyed the parade, cheered the marchers, caught beads, and waved signs.  Featured in the parade were such support groups as PFLAG and BAO, the Tragic City Rollers, various churches, local college LGBT groups, and companies like Macy's and J Clydes.

 


Vigil for Hate Crimes Victims

 

February 2012

 

The14th Annual Vigil for Victims of Hate & Violence was held in Montgomery at the Alabama State Capitol on February 19, 2012.


Rep. Patricia Todd issued this reminder:  "Friends, sometimes we forget how far we've come.  We remember Billy Jack Gaither who was brutally murdered in Alabama because he was gay. On February 19, 1999 his throat was cut and his body bludgeoned before being thrown on top of a pile of tires and set on fire. He was thirty-nine-years-old and worked at the Russell Athletics apparel company near Sylacauga, Alabama.  Every year since, outraged citizens have assembled on the capitol steps in Montgomery. Join us as we demand more from our legislators. Why? Because lesbian and gay people are the 3rd most targeted victims yet Alabama’s hate crime law still excludes crimes based on orientation and identity. In 14 years have we learned nothing from Billy Jack Gaither?"  At the vigil, Todd was joined by other speakers, including:

 

Sam Wolfe - civil rights lawyer with the Southern Poverty Law Center where he helped launch their nationwide LGBT Rights Project. The project’s legal action has been reported on the front page of The New York Times, CNN Presents, and Anderson Cooper 360. Wolfe was recently recognized as one of the Best LGBT Lawyers Under 40.

 

James Robinson - established GLBT Advocacy & Youth Services after he began a personal search for deeper meaning in his life. Recognizing a greater purpose in his life, he set out to support youth and young adults who are struggling with issues related to their sexual orientation or gender identity.

 

Sara Couvillon - was told by Hoover High School officials that she couldn't wear a T-shirt that read, "gay? fine by me." The resulting firestorm of media and community support quickly forced the school to reconsider. "It isn't easy being singled out, but if I can give someone else the courage to be who they are then it's worth it to me."

 

After she spoke at the Billy Jack Gaither Vigil, Rep. Patricia Todd sent out this message:  "Never stop trying.  Never stop moving forward.  As we huddled together to banish the cold, we remembered Billy Jack Gaither and the sorrow his death had on our community. He was brutally murdered in Alabama simply for being gay. That was back in 1999 and a lot has changed. Now troops serve openly, sodomy laws are banished, many states marry, and we know things get better. Why then does it seem Alabama was left behind?   People tell me Alabama won't change until forced. They remember Wallace, his pledge of segregation forever, and the certainty in his voice. They say it takes the power of the federal government to overcome such hatred. I say hogwash.  Change came from the freedom riders, the boycotts, the marches, and the sheer power of a single voice when it refuses to be second-class. Johnson may have enacted the civil rights act, but he did so by standing on the shoulders of giants.  Progress starts small. Alice Walker said The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any.  That’s why we can’t just wait for things to get better. I found my voice and see a world of possibility. You too should invest in equality because we each have power. Nurture your voice and inspire your friends because together we'll move Alabama forward."

CONTACT:
reptodd@gmail.com

 


HRC in Alabama

 

October 2011

 

Many of our local heroes participated in the "Road to Equality" program presented across Alabama by the Human Rights Campaign.  ALGBTICAL members Paul Hard, Jessica Merchant, and Jeanell Norvell joined the ranks of celebrities like Mel White, John Smid, Jimmy Creech, Lecia Brooks, David Perkins, and Andrew Haigh.  The HRC Bus Tour visited Montgomery, Tuscaloosa and Birmingham.  On its Montgomery stop (Sunday, Oct 23), the documentary film, "This is What Love in Action Looks Like" was shown.  A panel discussion was presented afterwards.  For a discussion on reparative therapy, the panelists included:

 

Paul Hard (PhD, LPC-S, Assistant Professor Auburn University at Montgomery, Former Southern Baptist Minister), Jeanell Norvell (PhD, LPC, Counselor, Sole Proprietor at Counseling at the Crossroads), Jessica Merchant (ALC, Association for LGBT Issues in Counseling of Alabama, Founder of University of Montevallo’s Safe Zone program), John J. Smid (Director for Grace Rivers Ministry, Former Director of Love in Action), Lecia Brooks (SPLC Director of Outreach), Rev David Perkins (Interim Rector, Church of the Holy Comforter).

 

 

As Glenda Elliott was quoted as saying to Paul Hard concerning the HRC event in Montgomery, "Many thanks for sharing with us the encouraging report on the HRC Bus Tour event at AUM last week. And, many thanks for stepping out as the advisor to the GSA and speaking out!  I think this past week was a good week for the LGBT community and allies here in Alabama!"

 

T-Shirt Controversy at Hoover High school

 

September 1, 2011

 

The SPLC praised officials at an Alabama high school today for restoring the right of a student to wear a T-shirt expressing acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people.  Sara Couvillon, a sophomore at Hoover High School, wore a t-shirt that said, “gay? fine by me.” School officials told her to change her shirt out of “concern for her safety," despite the fact that no one had made any threats.  At first, Hoover High School defended its decision to ban the pro-gay t-shirt.

 

 

This week, the Southern Poverty Law Center sent the school a letter letting them know this case would not be taken lightly:  "Evidently, officials at your school told Sara that she could not wear the shirt because they were “concerned for her safety.” Yet, Sara did not experience any threats of violence, nor did the officials tell Sara that there were threats of violence against gay students from which disruption could have, or did, result. In fact, Sara had routinely worn the t-shirt during the previous school year without incident. Therefore, the officials’ stated reason for the censorship was unfounded and unsubstantiated.  Moreover, even if there are students who will act disruptively in reaction to Sara’s t-shirt, the school has a duty to punish the disruptive students, not to prohibit Sara’s speech.  By censoring Sara out of concern that other students would behave disruptively, your school has allowed those disruptive students to exercise a heckler’s veto over Sara’s free speech rights. The First Amendment does not permit such an outcome."

 

The principal, Don Hulin, responded:  “At Hoover High School, we have a tradition and practice of respecting the rights of students to exercise all of their constitutional entitlements.  We are fortunate to have a diversified student body and we work very diligently to encourage a culture of tolerance and understanding.  In the tradition of the United States Supreme Court case, Tinker v. Des Moines, students at Hoover High School exercise their First Amendment rights without restriction unless such expression disrupts the learning environment or disabuses the rights of others.  Our dress code at Hoover High School is designed to facilitate the learning environment that is so important to our school. The t-shirt at issue has not caused a substantial disruption and the student will be allowed to wear it.  Our focus has been and will be on the learning environment at Hoover High School.”


LINKS:

 

Too Gay For School
SPLC Intervenes and Free Speech is Restored
Digg: Hoover High School Defends Decision to Ban Pro-Gay T-Shirt
Blog: Hoover High School Defends Decision to Ban Pro-Gay T-Shirt
 


Alabama Rights of Conscience Act

 

May 2011

 

Message From Melanie Drake Wallace, ALCA President 2011-2012 

Regarding SB 46 "Health Care Rights of Conscience Act"

 

I am writing to encourage you to write a letter to the state senator in your district and request them to oppose SB 46, sponsored by Senator Cam Ward.  The time is now to speak up on behalf of the counseling profession in Alabama.  Some of the tenets set forth in the aforementioned bill are in direct violation of the ACA Code of Ethics and the ASCA Ethical Standards.  SB 46 would allow health care providers, institutions, and payers the right to decline to provide services that violate the provider's conscience (conscience is defined in the bill as "the religious, moral, or ethical principles held by a health care provider ....").  By contrast, counselors are trained to set aside personal beliefs and values in order to meet the client where he or she may be coming from.  Multicultural competency – the ability to work with a client based on the client's particular beliefs, values, and spirituality – is a core skill required of all counselors.  The Alabama Board of Examiner’s in Counseling, which oversees the profession of counseling in the state, requires licensees to abide by the ACA Code of Ethics.    The Code of Ethics states “[t] he primary responsibility of counselors is to respect the dignity and to promote the welfare of clients” (Section A. law). Counselors and counselors-in-training are included in this bill. 

 

It is critical that we voice our opposition to this bill. I am asking you to speak up by writing your Alabama state senator immediately and ask them to oppose SB 46. Remember, YOU CAN make a difference.  State legislators say it only takes about 12 letters or phone calls to get their attention on an issue.  That means that your single phone call or letter really can make a profound difference.  Here is what you can do:  Download the attached sample letter and personalize it by stating who you are and describe in your own words why opposition to this bill is important to you.  Include your name and contact information.  If you send your letter by email, be sure and follow it up with a hard copy via snail mail!  Identify the names and addresses of the state senator and state representative of your district.  See link below.  Thank you all for your efforts in speaking up for our profession!

 

(From Melanie Drake Wallace, ALCA President 2011-2012)   

 

LINKS:

 

Senate Bill 46

Sample Letter of Opposition

Identify Your District Legislators
ACA Article: Putting Clients Ahead of Personal Values

 


Gay Acceptance Beginning to Grow in Dixie

 

May 2006

 

Alabama...  It's a Bible Belt state, almost certain to toughen its prohibition of gay marriage next month. A major candidate for governor has called homosexuality evil, and a national gay magazine branded Alabama the worst state for gays and lesbians.  So why does Howard Bayless want to stay?

 

Well, his roots are here, he says. So are his friends. He's partial to the congenial neighborhood in Birmingham that he and other gays helped rescue from decline.  "This is where I've carved out a niche for myself,'' says Bayless, leader of Equality Alabama, who has spent most of his 40 years in the state. ``We've created our community here, and I don't want to leave. I'd rather do the extra work of making my neighbors realize who and what I am.''

 

In Mobile, Tuscaloosa and elsewhere, Alabama's gays and lesbians - like their counterparts throughout the U.S. heartland - are slowly, steadily gaining more confidence and finding more acceptance.  That doesn't mean relations between gays and other Americans are settled, for one thing, amendments defining marriage as between one man and one woman have passed in 19 states and Alabama is poised to become No. 20 by an overwhelming vote on June 6.

 

But in the long view, there has been slow, powerful momentum building in the other direction: the quashing of anti-sodomy laws; the extension of anti-bias codes to cover gays; the adoption of domestic-partner policies by countless companies. Recent polls suggest opposition to gay marriage has peaked, and a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution banning it is expected to fall far short of the required two-thirds support when the Senate votes on it in early June.  "What Americans see increasingly is there's no negative impact on their own lives to have gays and lesbians living out in the open,'' said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign. ``They go from an abstract idea to a real person with a real name and a real story. That makes all the difference.''

 

 

Kim McKeand and Cari Searcy experience that phenomenon daily in Mobile, where they live openly as a lesbian couple raising a son to whom McKeand gave birth in September.  "We're out to everybody,'' said Searcy, 30. "We know all the neighbors. Everyone else on our street is straight. They say `Hey.' They all wanted to come over and see the baby.''  The couple loves Mobile but might consider leaving if Searcy's application to become Khaya's adoptive parent is rejected in the courts.

 

Those courts weren't accommodating to social worker Jill Bates, who lives in Birmingham with her lesbian partner. She lost custody of her daughter, now 16, to her ex-husband after a legal battle in which her sexual orientation was held against her.  Still, there are other signs of acceptance. An openly lesbian candidate, Patricia Todd, has a strong chance of winning a seat in Alabama's legislature this year - that would be a first. Mobile's recent Pride Parade drew only a handful of protesters. Gay-straight alliances are active at most universities; in the cities, if not the suburbs and small towns, gay-friendly churches are proliferating.  As acceptance increases, so do the concerns of those who believe homosexuality is sinful and wonder if states like Alabama can resist what some have called the erosion of traditional values.

 

Donna Goodwin, a school board employee in the town of Eclectic, disputes the theory that familiarity with gays leads to support of gay rights.  "I have a lesbian cousin - I can continue to love her without approving of the way she leads her life,'' Goodwin said. "We see each other three or four times a year. We hug. We find out how each other is doing _ but I don't ask her about her girlfriend.'' Goodwin says most Alabamians, however conservative, strive for civility.  "We believe in hospitality - being kind to people whether you approve of their lifestyle or not,'' she said. "But the homosexual community is trying to force us into accepting something that's immoral. If they try to do that, we're going to consolidate and do something about it at the ballot box. We can say, `This far and no farther.' ''  One development that worries her is the increased visibility of gay rights causes at Alabama's colleges, including the University of Alabama, which her son attended.

 

"The university breaks down the moral values of children,'' she said. ``It's like an open door to whatever is popular at the time _ a hang-loose, do-your-own-thing attitude. It's asking for trouble.''  At the campus in Tuscaloosa, political science department chairman David Lanoue doesn't see the kind of sweeping, pro-gay culture some may fear. But he does see young Alabamians getting messages they might not get at their local high schools and churches.  For example, he said, numerous faculty members display rainbow symbols at their offices, signalling they would provide an empathetic ear to any troubled gay or lesbian student.  "Young people have a more liberal attitude toward sexual preference than their elders,'' Lanoue said. ``Through the national media, they've been brought up on the message that gays and lesbians are part of our society.''

 

Patty Rudolph, wife of a doctor in the affluent Birmingham suburb of Mountain Brook, said her son knew by age 12 that he was gay, told his family when he was 14, and by 16 choose to go to school in the northeast because he felt _ despite his family's support _ that Alabama was too inhospitable.  The son is now 18 and returns home periodically, reconnecting with friends and family.  "He loves to see us, but after a couple of days he says, `I need to get out of here,' '' Rudolph said. ``There's no overt ugliness. But he has a sense it isn't as open and welcoming a place as he wants it to be.''  Since her son left, Rudolph has plunged into a new world of activism, doing what she can to make Alabama a state he would one day want to stay in. She speaks at forums and heads the Birmingham chapter of a national support group, Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.  "By telling my family's story, it has a ripple effect. It humanizes the issue,'' she said.

 

Activists say the sternest anti-gay rhetoric comes mainly from evangelical pastors and politicians. Among them is Republican gubernatorial candidate Roy Moore, who was ousted as state chief justice after refusing to remove a Ten Commandments monument he had placed in the judicial building.  Moore has many fans and many critics, including Birmingham city councillor Valerie Abbott. After the judge wrote in a court ruling that homosexual conduct is ``abhorrent, immoral, detestable,'' Abbott persuaded the council to condemn those assertions.  "Our legislature is like no other place on earth _ it's stuck back in the dark ages,'' she said. ``But Alabama is changing, like the rest of the country is changing. Like every new idea, it takes a while to absorb.''

 

Rev. Jim Evans, a Baptist minister in Auburn, received numerous thank-you notes from gay-rights supporters after he wrote a newspaper column criticizing the ban-gay-marriage ballot item as an unnecessary and cynical attempt to frighten voters.  Evans hasn't endorsed gay marriage, and he knows opposition to it is deep-seated. But he also sees change coming as Alabamians such as Bayless, Searcy and Rudolph expand the conversation about gays' place in the state.  "In the South, where we don't talk about unpleasant things, that trend has forced us to talk about it more,'' Evans said. "Once you begin to talk about a prejudice, it begins to die.''

 

(From David Crary / Associated Press)


LINK:

 

365 Gay News Report

 


 

"In the South, where we don't talk about unpleasant things, that trend has forced us to talk about it more. Once you begin to talk about a prejudice, it begins to die.''

-REV. JIM EVANS
 

"It is discouraging when we think about the current environment against gays in our state, but I have to believe that somewhere in our court system there are still fair-minded judges."
-CARI SEARCY

 


Soul Food


Dr. Mischelle Stone Tells How UAB Nourished the Life & Work of a Lesbian Feminist Yankee


The decision my partner and I made in 2004 to leave our home and jobs in Michigan so that I could take a job at UAB was not an easy one to make.  I had lived in Michigan all of my life, and Jean, my partner of nearly twenty years, had lived there for eighteen.  Just a month before making the decision to move, I had interviewed over two days with the faculty and staff in the Department of Justice Sciences for a faculty position teaching criminal justice courses.  Though I thought the interview went well, I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be living and working in the heartland of the South at age fifty-one.

If there was a single factor that drew me to the UAB campus, it was the warm welcome I received from the members of the Department of Justice Sciences.  Though I traveled to the interview by myself, it was clear from my initial interactions with department members that I was a lesbian and, if offered the position, would be moving to the Birmingham area with my partner.  If there was objection or resistance to this, I had no inclination of it either during or after the interview.   In fact, department members were quick to inquire about my partner, asking what she did for work and what her other interests were.  Nearly everyone shared information about where they lived, and why they thought their particular neighborhood would be a good place for Jean and me to live.  I came away from the interview feeling welcomed and wanting to know more about UAB and the Birmingham area.

When I returned to Michigan following my interview, I began to explore the UAB website for indications that the broader University would be as welcoming as I knew the people of Justice Sciences to be.  This was an important issue for me and my partner, as we had long-established relationships in Michigan that supported us in many aspects of our lives.  Coming to UAB would mean leaving the day-to-day support of those relationships behind in favor of living and working in a different culture.  I cannot overstate the challenge we felt moving to an area of the country that was so culturally different from our own, where we knew virtually no one, and where the differences in regional dialects were evident in each and every interaction we had.

In our search of the UAB website, we discovered the spouse/partner relocation program within Human Resources.  Jean made e-mail contact with the program, and was provided with a substantial amount of information and guidance regarding potential employment opportunities at UAB, as well as at a variety of hospitals in the surrounding area (Jean is an R.N.).  Utilizing this information, Jean was able to secure an interview and subsequent employment within weeks of my being offered the position at UAB.  When she was asked by the human resources manager at the hospital where she works what brought her to Alabama, she reported that her partner had taken a job teaching at UAB, and that “she” would be teaching criminal justice.

In addition to finding the spouse/partner relocation program on the UAB website, we also found the Safe Zone program.  This program, along with the “mandatory” diversity training for all employees were important symbols of UAB’s commitment to creating a diverse environment for all students, faculty and staff.  We also found reference to the Gay/Straight Student Alliance (of which I am currently a co-advisor), and we were both encouraged to see a formal student organization addressing the needs of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) students on campus.  In addition we found reference (albeit somewhat remote) to the Faculty/Staff Alliance, an organization that addresses concerns of GLBT faculty and staff.  Early participation in all of these organizations at UAB served to provide me with a “home” that other organizations on campus could not, and each, in their own way, has nurtured my body, soul, and mind.  All three of these organizations have served to connect me to diverse individuals who share similar concerns about living and working as a lesbian in the south, where the GLBT population has been slow to gain the same rights afforded other minority populations.

Despite being nourished by my involvement in Safe Zone, GSSA, and the Faculty/Staff Alliance, I remain struck by what isn’t present at UAB, despite consistent reference by the University administration to the importance of a diverse campus.  Noticeably absent from the menu of benefits available to me as a faculty member is the availability of insurance coverage for my partner.  Even though we have been in a committed relationship as long as or longer than anyone else in our department, we are still denied the right to have her covered as an Other Eligible Individual under my health insurance policy.  Since Alabama is a state that fails to recognize the legality of our relationship by not allowing us to wed, she cannot be considered a “spouse” and is therefore denied eligibility for coverage that other faculty spouses are provided. While some may believe that this is simply an example of indifference on the part of UAB administrators, I believe it sends a clear message of inequality.  Thus, no matter that employees are required to attend mandatory diversity training; we are either committed to treat all people with the respect and dignity they deserve, or we are not.

Similar to the lack of equal access to benefits, I am concerned about the lack of a Center for GLBT students.  Recognizing the unique challenges faced by GLBT students, many other tier one research universities provide a central location that serves as an educational and referral source for the University.  It also serves as a safe space where GLBT students are free to gather and express themselves as they attempt to reach their full potential as students, and in a broader sense, as human beings.  Given the discrimination and prejudice GLBT students experience simply because of who they are, the importance of such a space cannot be overstated.

Three years have now passed since I first came to UAB.  Maybe it is I who has made the adjustments that make living in the south not just bearable but enjoyable.  For example, when I first arrived in Birmingham, it was always a mystery what I would end up with in my order at the drive through at Taco Bell.  No matter how clearly I said “Two soft tacos deluxe, no meat, extra tomato”, I always came away with something different each time I ordered.  Ordering at the counter inside made no difference.  It has taken me three years and maybe just the hint of an Alabama accent, but I can finally get the order the way I prefer it.  And although I still haven’t developed my ear well enough to understand what it is going to cost me, I am confident that, in the end, it will be without meat, just the way I ordered it.  I say if the staff at Taco Bell and I can come to some middle ground on how to get fed, surely UAB administrators and I can continue to work toward a solution to the hunger I feel for equitable treatment for all GLBT faculty, staff and students.

(From Mischelle Stone, Professor in the UAB Justice Sciences Dept, Article reprinted by permission of the author)

 


Gay Adoption in Alabama


A Mobile woman raising a baby boy with the child's mother wants to adopt him as a second parent, a legal step of significance in a state that just passed a constitutional amendment banning gay marriages. Cari Searcy's partner, Kim McKeand, gave birth to the baby boy in December with the aid of a donor. Searcy then sought to become the adoptive parent of the child, who bears her last name. Adoption would give Searcy rights to make medical decisions for the child as well as securing the sense of family in their home. But Searcy's application was denied in probate court May 3. McKeand said the judge ruled against adoption because Alabama does not recognize same-sex marriages. She said their case is now going to the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals.
 


"We're going to do whatever we can to get it passed here," Searcy said. "It is discouraging when we think about the current environment against gays in our state, but I have to believe that somewhere in our court system there are still fair-minded judges."  McKeand, 28, and Searcy, 30, who met at college in Texas and moved to Mobile five years ago, have real concerns about the medical care of the baby, Khaya Ray Searcy. The child was born with a hole in his heart and the first weeks were difficult.


"He had to have open heart surgery in Atlanta and we ran into some issues with my not being a legal parent," Searcy said. "It was really hard."  McKeand said she had to learn how to insert a feeding tube in Khaya's nose before they could bring him home from the hospital. Because she didn't feel comfortable doing the procedure, Searcy volunteered to learn. But the nurses would not teach her.  "They said, 'No, you're not the parent, Kim is,' " McKeand said. "Finally it took our doctor — the cardiologist — to step in and say it was OK."   Khaya now has a clean bill of health, but the couple has not forgotten the experience.   "That's what really pushed me to get this second parent adoption," said Searcy.


The legal resolution of the court case might have a wide impact — according to 2000 census data, there are gay families in every county in the state. And the issue is not confined to Alabama. "It's happening all over the country," said Adam Pertman, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute. "It's happening because the agencies responsible for those kids have decided that the gay and lesbian population is one worth placing kids."

The New York-based institute, which is not affiliated with any gay rights organizations, released a report in March that found there is no child-centered reason to prevent gays and lesbians from becoming adoptive parents. "Research shows gay and lesbian parents provide good homes," Pertman said.


He said the community should support the children no matter what kind of family they grow up in. "Bringing our views or prejudices on the kids is not productive," he said. "The community should support a system that places kids in permanent, safe and loving homes. We have to support that for the sake of the kids."  The American Academy of Pediatrics supports legislation and legal efforts to provide second-parent adoptions by same-sex parents. The Alabama chapter of the academy believes all children benefit from being raised by caregivers who are constant, dependable, loving and dedicated to children's safety. According to an article in the July edition of Pediatrics, in early 2006 efforts were under way in at least 16 states including Alabama to introduce constitutional amendments prohibiting gay and lesbian individuals and couples from adopting children or being foster parents. "Same-sex parenting is a controversial issue in our country," Linda Lee, executive director of the Alabama chapter, said. "Our main concern is that children, regardless of the circumstances in which they live, receive the best of care."


Jonathan Klein, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Rochester in New York, contributed to the July article and is the chair of the AAP Committee on Adolescence. "I think evidence on the developmental outcome of children shows that, overall, two parents are probably better than one," Klein said. He also said that parents with established legal custody have a variety of benefits that isn't always available to same-sex couples even if they're playing that role in a child's life. "I think if parents are not able to be involved in all aspects of their communities because of a community's attitudes, that potentially damages families," Klein said.


Searcy and McKeand talked about being parents, but it wasn't until about a year ago that they felt it was the right time.  "We found a donor who is a really good friend of ours and he signed over all his rights," Searcy said. They enjoy a measure of acceptance in Mobile. Searcy works for a video production company and McKeand works for a broadcaster that provides domestic partner health benefits covering them both.

"Our home is a normal one," said Searcy. "It's filled with love, commitment and support. Our sexual orientation is just a small part of who we are. Kim and I are dedicated to giving Khaya the best life possible and we're going to do what it takes to do that."


(From Amanda Thomas / Associated Press Writer)
 


Alabama Hate Crimes Bill

 

A legislative committee voted largely along party lines Wednesday to expand Alabama's hate crimes law to cover crimes committed because of the victim's sexual orientation. But some Republicans are determined to make sure the legislation goes no further in this election year. Rep. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, said House Republican leaders have agreed "to lock down the House" if the bill comes up for debate. "And we've got the votes to do it," he said.

On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee held a lively debate on the hate crime legislation, with the remarks covering everything from the Holocaust to capital punishment. Some Republican representatives talked against the legislation proposed by Rep. Alvin Holmes, D-Montgomery, but they didn't ask for a roll call vote. The committee had a sharply divided voice vote that broke down largely along party lines, and committee Chairman Marcel Black, D-Tuscumbia, declared the bill approved. Holmes said he expected a close vote, but he believes he can muster enough support in the House to pass his bill.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, said that if the House passes the bill, he expects his committee to approve it, but the prospects in the Senate for passage are uncertain this year.  All seats in the Alabama Legislature are up for election.

The Legislature passed a hate crimes law in 1994 after turning back efforts to include sexual orientation in it. The law mandates longer minimum sentences for crimes committed because of the victim's race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, or physical or mental disability.  For instance, a crime that would normally carry a sentence of one to 10 years in prison would have a minimum sentence of two years in prison.

 



In 1999, Holmes began another push to add sexual orientation to the law because of the killings of Matthew Shepard in Wyoming and Billy Jack Gaither in Alabama. Since 1999, the House Judiciary Committee has approved Holmes' bill several times, and the House a few times, but it has never won Senate approval.  Ward said he has problems with hate crime laws. "We are giving certain victims higher status than others. I consider a victim a victim," he said.  Holmes said the Legislature has long differentiated between different types of crime victims. For instance, Alabama's death penalty law applies to the killing of a public official if the killing was related to the official's public office, he said.

Larry Darby, founder of the Atheist Law Center in Montgomery and a Democratic candidate for attorney general, urged the committee to kill the bill because similar laws in other countries have been used to prevent free speech. He cited British historian David Irving, who is in jail in Austria awaiting trial on charges of denying that Nazis slaughtered 6 million Jews. Denying or diminishing the Holocaust is a crime in Austria punishable by up to 10 yeas in prison.

"Irving's findings are counter to the government-sanctioned version of what is called the Holocaust. The Holocaust has evolved into a religious industry with sacred precepts that are examined only under the penalty of law. Free speech is anathema to the Holocaust industry," Darby said.  Some committee members ridiculed Darby's remarks. "I hear the black helicopters coming," quipped Rep. Dick Brewbaker, R-Montgomery.  Holmes said he was uncertain what would happen to his bill until Darby spoke against it, but his remarks cinched the favorable vote.

Forty-eight states had hate crime laws before the Georgia Supreme Court struck down Georgia's law in 2004 as being unconstitutionally vague. Georgia's law, like Alabama's, did not cover sexual orientation.

 

(From PHILLIP RAWLS / Associated Press Writer)

 


Hate Crimes Bill Includes Sexual Orientation

 

Legislator Pushes Adding Sexual Orientation to Hate Crime Bill

In response to the unrelated beatings of two gay men, a state legislator has proposed amending Alabama's hate crime statute to include sexual orientation.  Rep. Alvin Holmes, D-Montgomery, submitted his proposal last week, more than a month before the 2006 legislative session begins. The move means the bill could come before a committee as soon as the first day after the session's opening day, according to House Clerk Greg Pappas.  Holmes described the recent attacks as "modern-day lynchings." One of the men, 80-year-old James Oliver Bailey of Elmore County, died. The other, Billy Sanford, 52, of Montgomery remains in a coma.


"They've got certain people in this country and in the state of Alabama who hate people because they are gay," Holmes said. "They could be church-going people or the greatest humanitarians in the world but, because they are gay, people hate them."  In both cases, the suspects told police they beat Bailey and Sanford because the men made sexual advances toward them.  "You don't do that in America," Holmes said. "Unless we do something to send a message to these people who commit hate crimes, it is going to keep getting worse and worse."


Opponents of hate crime laws contend they have little impact on sentencing and magnify the gap between different groups. Already, the state law covers crimes motivated by a victim's race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity or physical or mental disability.  "To start saying that some people are more valuable to society than others ... I think the law separates us from each other," said Baldwin County District Attorney David Whetstone, who is prosecuting three suspects in the 2004 death of a gay teenager.


Scotty Joe Weaver, 18, was beaten, stabbed, strangled and his body burned in woods near his Bay Minette home.  "In my opinion we do not need hate crime laws -- what we need to do is prosecute hate crimes," Whetstone said.


Gay rights groups in Alabama are confident the three cases will prompt the Legislature to approve a sexual orientation amendment, an effort that failed the last two regular sessions.  "I think it's a matter of time," said Norma Mitchell, president of the Montgomery Gay and Lesbian Association. "I think this year we have a very good chance because the recent occurrences since 2004 show how much hatred is there."


(From The Associated Press / Crystal Bonvillian / Montgomery Advertiser)

 

 


Hate Crimes Law Must Cover Gays and Lesbians

 

January 2006

Despite the opposition of a few diehards, it is difficult to believe that all of the Republican members of Alabama's House of Representatives would "lock down the House" to keep sexual orientation from being added to the state's hate crimes law.  Surely not all Republican House members are as adamantly opposed to protecting people from being physically attacked because of their sexual orientation as Rep. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster.


The Associated Press quoted Ward as saying that the House GOP leadership had the votes to complete ly block any action in the House to prevent the state's hate crimes law from being expanded to cover sexual orientation.  Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee approved a bill sponsored by Montgomery Democrat Alvin Holmes that would add sexual orientation to the hate crimes law.


The current hate crimes law increases the penalties for attacks that are based on the victim's "race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity or physical or mental disability." Glaringly absent from that list is the victim's sexual orientation.  Ward and those who seem to fear this expansion need to take a deep breath and relax. Nothing in Holmes' bill in any way condones or promotes homosexuality. It simply underscores that it is wrong for anyone to attack someone else because they might be gay.  "We are giving certain victims higher status than others. I consider a victim a victim," Ward told the Associated Press.


But this bill is not about having a hate crimes law; Alabama already has one, which Ward knows full well. What Ward needs to explain is why be believes it is any less a hate crime to attack or kill someone because of their sexual orientation than because they are black or Jewish? And why does he feel so strongly that he would threaten to "lock down the House" to prevent this bill from passing?


If Alabama is going to have a hate crimes law, and it should, there is absolutely no logic to that law not including hate crimes linked to someone's sexual orientation.  By excluding sexual orientation, it is almost as if the legislators are somehow condoning attacks on gays. That is not a message House Republicans should send by going along with Ward's threat.

 

(From Montgomery Advertiser, Editorial)
 


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ALGBTICAL

Association for Lesbian Gay Bisexual & Transgender Issues in Counseling of Alabama