The mission of the
Invisible Histories Project is to document queer
southern history. The project, founded by Josh Burford,
seeks to build a community archives to preserve the
diverse LGBTQ legacy. This growing network of
community-based archives is helping to fill in the
missing social history of LGBTQ people across the south.
Growing up in the small Alabama town of Dolomite in the
1970s, Tony Christon-Walker recalls, “I didn’t have the
words for what I was. I didn’t have gay role models to
show me that I was going to be okay, that there was
nothing wrong with me.” Which is why Christon-Walker,
now the director of prevention and community
partnerships at AIDS Alabama and an organizer of the
first Birmingham Black Pride in 2018, was responsive
last year when he received a message from Josh Burford,
an archivist and LGBTQ educator.
Burford explained that he and Maigen Sullivan, the
gender and sexuality diversity coordinator at University
of Alabama and an LGBTQ educator, had just launched the
Birmingham-based Invisible Histories Project (iHP), a
non-profit with a mission to collect and preserve the
material history of the Queer South.
“Josh told me what he was doing with iHP and I said,
great, but don’t forget about black people,” recalled
Christon-Walker. “But I didn’t have to remind him that
black gay people are constantly being left out.” Walker,
who is HIV positive and a cancer survivor, felt that iHP
aligned with his life-long work to combat stigma and
ignorance in the black community.
That need to be represented is one of many voids Burford
and Sullivan are working to fill with iHP in the South,
which is home to the largest LGBTQ population regionally
in the US. The starting point: connecting LGBTQ
Southerners to their rich and complex history. “You’ve
got to see the past to imagine a queer future,” says
Burford. “Archiving is resistance. Every time we
identify something, we are resisting the notion that we
He and Sullivan found a partner institution in the
University of Alabama (UA) in Tuscaloosa. Both received
undergraduate and master’s degrees at the Tuscaloosa
campus and Sullivan is currently finishing her doctorate
at the Birmingham campus. The Andrew W. Mellon
Foundation recently awarded UA and iHP a grant of
$300,000 that will support the project as it broadens
its reach. “We have been talking about expanding to
Mississippi and Georgia for a while,” explained
Sullivan, “and with the Mellon investment, now we can.”
As they did in Alabama, Burford and Sullivan will help
LGBTQ individuals in those states connect with
institutions to build a network of community-based
archives. The Mellon grant will support iHP satellites
on two campuses (University of West Georgia and
University of Mississippi at Oxford) where iHP staff
will advise faculty on oral history projects,
coursework, and research while graduate students gain
hands-on experience sourcing and cataloguing materials
that may also inform their scholarly work.
The goal is to launch iHP networks in every Southern
state, ultimately inscribing a kind of “rainbow history
trail” across the region. “A lot of the work we do is
convincing people that their collections of historical
LGBTQ materials and artifacts have value, that their
stories matter,” says Burford. There is a sense of
urgency to collect those stories before they disappear,
so iHP has prioritized outreach to LGBTQ people over 70.
“Our queer elders are in critical health, so we feel a
sense of urgency to spend time with them and listen to
their stories and their struggles and joys,” Burford
explained. “So much has already been lost.”
The ever-growing archive now comprises hundreds of
pieces from some twenty collections: diaries,
correspondence, internal memos, photographs, banners,
quilts, and such contemporary memorabilia as posters,
pins, t-shirts, and stickers. The oldest item is a
chapbook of poems handwritten in 1912 found in a thrift
shop. Files and boxes have come from ordinary LGBTQ
citizens; advocates like Tony Christon-Walker; and
prominent figures such as Patricia Todd, an openly gay
member of the Alabama House of Representatives; and Dr.
Glenda R. Elliott, a longtime activist and professor
emerita at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).
“It means a great deal for me personally and
professionally to be involved in the project,” says
Elliott, who has given dossiers from three different
LGBTQ community programs in which she held leadership
roles, including the Alabama Safe Schools Coalition, a
statewide organization that worked to protect LGBTQ
students in K–12 schools from bullying, harassment, and
violence. “The archive will validate the lives and
legacies of LGBTQ individuals and provide a foundation
for current and future generations to form their
After cataloguing, iHP holdings are dispersed among
several regional partner institutions, including the
Birmingham Public Library and the Special Collections of
the UAB Libraries, where they can be easily accessed. “A
piece of paper in a box means nothing if nobody can get
to it,” says Sullivan. Public programming s is getting
the word out too. This past March, the inaugural Queer
History South Conference, organized by Burford and
Sullivan, was held in Birmingham. The networking
opportunity was a huge success. “Being in a room with
150 people representing the Queer South and hearing
about their challenges and successes was a game-changing
moment,” says Burford. “The feedback we’ve had is that
it was energizing,” says Sullivan, who added that in the
weeks and months post-conference, “folks are continuing
to connect in a genuine way.”
As iHP’s profile rises, they hope the South will finally
be recognized for its role in shaping the LGBTQ
movement. “In the 1980s, activists from New York came to
meet and learn from activists here,” added Burford.
“That’s the piece that’s missing from mainstream LGBTQ
history,” which has tended to focus on people and events
in coastal cities like New York and Los Angeles.
“Discounting us is such a disservice to all the work
Southern Queers have done,” says Sullivan.
At a time of deep political divisions in the US, taking
a stand feels more urgent than ever to Burford and
Sullivan. “We do our best work in these moments of
change,” says Burford. “There is a hunger to do this
work now,” says Sullivan. “If the Queer South is
suddenly a hot topic, then we unapologetically feel that
we need to lead that conversation.”
Invisible Histories Project of Alabama is designed to be a repository for the
preservation of the history of LGBTQ life in the state of Alabama. The archive
will preserve, collect, and protect the living history of the diversity of the
Queer community and experiences both urban and rural across the state of
Alabama. The Invisible Histories Project of Alabama is a community driven
project that seeks to engage the entire state of Alabama in the process of
protecting the vanishing LGBTQ history of our state.
Burford, who is heading up this important initiative, is an ALGBTICAL member, is
on the Board of Directors of the Invisible Histories Project of Alabama. He
says, "The queer community has lost so much history since the mid 1980s. The
AIDS epidemic wiped out one entire generation of community leaders, and their
histories were oftentimes intentionally destroyed. We can’t even conceptualize
the things that we’ve lost because we don’t really know at this point what we
have. People generally don’t imagine that their history is important. There’s
millions of people involved, but we want to celebrate individual people toiling
away oftentimes in isolation or in very small groups making what for them are
small gains but for the community is a large gain."
an award-winning historian, archivist, and educator with over 20 years of
experience creating stronger communities for Queer and Transgender people across
the US. He is a nationally recognized educator and trainer who has worked with
K-12 schools, colleges and universities, corporations, and non-profits to bring
greater knowledge about the ways each can be more inclusive of diverse
identities, engage in self-evaluation about best practices, and can create
pathways for increased retention of minority individuals.
Josh is a native of Alabama who grew up in Anniston. He attended The University
of Alabama for his undergraduate degrees in English and History. Josh finished
his Master’s degrees in 2006 with an MA in American Studies (with a
concentration in LGBT history of the late 20th century) as well a Masters in
Library and Information Studies. A historian and archivist by training, Josh is
passionate about education and advocacy for Queer Youth and the preservation and
documentation of Southern Queer History.
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.
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.
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.
In addition to being the
notorious bisexual daughter of Rick Burgess of the famous Rick & Bubba Radio
Show, Brandi Burgess is an actor, director, and teaching artist.
Brandi Burgess is the
Education Programs Manager at Philadelphia Theatre Company, where she manages
teaching artists, designs curriculum for students, fosters school partnerships
and facilitates theatre accessibility for individuals with disabilities. Brandi
has been a teaching artist for 10 years, working with diverse populations.
She was the Special Programs
Director at Wolf Performing Arts Center where she facilitated the “citizen
artist” initiative that empowered people to evaluate the civic duty of an artist
and create an original play with a social justice platform. She also designed
Wolf PAC’s inclusion practices, as well as founded QUILT, a multi-faceted
theatre program that served individuals on the autism spectrum.
Brandi has designed two
premiere “relaxed performances” for theaters in the Philadelphia area, which
offer modified rules for patrons with unique sensory processes. Other favorite
gigs include serving as Assistant Artistic Director for Prague Youth Theatre,
directing 10 shows in one season, as well as serving as a teaching artist at the
acclaimed New Victory Theatre in New York City.
Brandi also enjoys community
organizing, acting, and writing.
Roy Moore Suspended for Defiance Over
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
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.”
uphold the integrity and independence of the
--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
--Failed to abstain from public comment about a
pending proceeding in his own court
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.
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.”
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
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
Alabama Court of the Judiciary suspended Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore for the
rest of his term in office.
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.
“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.”
Judge Roy Moore Goes to Trial for Barring
Same Sex Marriages
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.
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
Alabama's LGBT Movement Emboldened by
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
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
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
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
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
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
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."
Judge Roy Moore Faces Possible Removal for
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.
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.
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!"
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
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.
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:
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
“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
“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
Huffington Post and Southern Poverty Law Center)
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).
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.
"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."
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."
SPLC Files Ethics Complaint Against Judge Roy Moore
Statement from Richard Cohen, President, Southern Poverty
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
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
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
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
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
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.
An Alabama appeals court said the state's ban on consensual oral and
anal sex, aimed at criminalizing homosexual conduct, is
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."
A federal lawsuit has been filed on behalf of a same-sex couple living
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.”
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.
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
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.”
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)
Rep. Patricia Todd, Alabama's first openly gay legislator, wed her
longtime partner, Jennifer Clarke, on Sept 14 in Provincetown,
“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
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
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
Magic City Acceptance Project
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.
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.)
"Homosexuality is not a
lifestyle acceptable to the
general public... homosexual
conduct is a criminal offense."
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
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
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
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
students that being gay is a crime is
not only wrong, it's unconstitutional
according to our nation's highest court.
openly LGBT state legislator explains why she is trying to change the
laws to make sex ed in schools less homophobic and more
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
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
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
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
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.
"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
"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
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
"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.
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
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
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
"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.
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
said of Moore's
comments on gay
marriage that it
we still have
Todd is the
and the state's
first openly gay
laughable to me.
We're going to
downfall of the
you have war and
When you look at
states that have
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.
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
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
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."
HRC in Alabama
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).
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 letterletting 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.”
Melanie Drake Wallace, ALCA
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
Melanie Drake Wallace, ALCA
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?
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
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.
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.''
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.''
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.''
David Crary /
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."
Dr. Mischelle StoneTells 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
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
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
(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.
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
"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
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
He said the community
should support the children no matter what kind of family they grow up
"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
"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
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
Thomas / Associated Press Writer)
Alabama Hate Crimes
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
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
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
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.
RAWLS / Associated Press Writer)
Hate Crimes Bill Includes
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."
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.