Alabama’s First Openly Gay Rep Isn’t Wasting Any Time, Re: LGBT Employee Rights

There is a bill in Alabama that would stop the state’s agencies from discriminating against LGBT employees — I know, a revolutionary idea! — which is legal language that does not presently exist as state law.

And it’s because one state assemblywoman has vowed to fight for LGBT employee rights in her state – and she isn’t giving up.

and this is what she looks like

In Alabama, a right-to-work state, you can be fired for a lot of reasons. And being gay isn’t included under federal civil rights protections, like workplace laws that prevent discrimination based on religion, or sex. This leaves state employees in Alabama, including teachers, in the closet. Really. Teachers in Alabama schools are afraid to come out, or even risk being thought of as gay, because they could be fired for it. And so, how did the only openly gay member of the state legislature respond?

She wrote HB 273, a 164-word bill, challenged that head-on, describing a ban on any discrimination based on “gender-related self-identity, appearance, expression, or behavior, regardless of the person’s assigned sex at birth.” And even though the bill’s sponsor, Representative Patricia Todd, knows the bill is unlikely to make it out of the Republican-dominated State House, she will continue to legislate toward protections for LGBT persons. In fact, this is just the beginning of what she describes as a “campaign” for equal employment rights for LGBT state employees.

But Todd probably won’t be pursuing the bill until there’s less on the tables of the state government: it’s currently listed as “awaiting committee approval,” and the committee head can’t even be reached. In fact, it’s likely the bill won’t be actively pursued until next year.

people can't even think you're gay in alabama, did you know that

“I think it will be a difficult one [to pass],” Todd said, “but you’ve got to start somewhere.” And in the meantime, she is building support for the legislation within state employees’ group, and strengthening her efforts overall. It’s hard to get data on LGBT employees, and there are no known numbers for how many get fired, and especially for what reason.

Patricia Todd represents district 54, in downtown Birmingham — as in “center of the struggle for African-American Civil Rights in the 50s and 60s,” as in “where Martin Luther King Jr wrote The Letter from Birmingham Jail.” Birmingham is also considered relatively gay-friendly compared to the rest of the state.

There may be a new political revolution bubbling in Alabama, but it’s going to take a long time. And Representative Todd is determined, and well-equipped, to pursue change, but she’s going to need help. Homophobia in schools effects the mental health of gay students, manifests as gay bullying and other acts of violence, and makes it okay for students to experience discrimination even from authority figures, and not just their peers. Change in schools cannot happen for gay students until schools are safe spaces – and this is an important step. Organizing around this issue could result in major legislative changes. Be heard now, if you’re from Alabama, or forever hold your peace…

And your tongue.

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Carmen spent six years at Autostraddle, ultimately serving as Straddleverse Director, Feminism Editor and Social Media Co-Director. She is now the Consulting Digital Editor at Ms. and writes regularly for DAME, the Women’s Media Center, the National Women’s History Museum and other prominent feminist platforms; her work has also been published in print and online by outlets like BuzzFeed, Bitch, Bust, CityLab, ElixHER, Feministing, Feminist Formations, GirlBoss, GrokNation, MEL, Mic and SIGNS, and she is a co-founder of Argot Magazine. You can find Carmen on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr or in the drive-thru line at the nearest In-N-Out.

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  1. I just want say wow this is great! Good luck! I’m from AL and bisexual and I had no clue LGBT wasn’t in that. I am conservative and you guys have to remember that not all Republicans are anti-gay and disagrees with gay rights. Just because someone disagrees doesn’t mean that they hate. I am hoping it does go through the house liberal or not. Good Luck!
    Work it girl! :)

  2. That picture with the girls whispering in each other’s ears makes me want to think of an entertaining game of telephone being played in which the end result is everybody thinking somebody is a lesbian, when really, the first person was just trying to pass along the fact that they’re involved in theatre.

  3. Yeah, I spend three months out of every year praying and hoping that I won’t get accidentally outed in the middle of my elementary kids’ basketball season and be forced to quit coaching, because it’s literally my favorite thing in the whole world and they would literally drop me like a hot potato if they ever found out. This seems like something that should not exist in the twenty-first century.

    So, go Patricia Todd! I’m standing behind you, lady!

  4. I am an Alabama native, current resident, and a gay lady. I am so excited about this legislature, but Birmingham, one of the largest cities in the state, is not really that gay friendly. In fact, it is supported by quite a bit of blue-haired fundamentalism. I have found that northern Alabama– Huntsville, Athens, and Florence– is a LOT more gay friendly.

    • Going off on a tangent here but I attribute that to a lot of smart people being in that part of the state. Northern Alabama does have strong aerospace & defense, research & technology, life science, and electronics sectors among others. I think I read about Huntsville having the most PhD’s per capita in the state or something.

      • Born and raised in Huntsville and I would totally second you on that. I would not be surprised if you were right about the PhD’s per capita thing. Also, those BRAC recommendations have resulted in more transplants from other parts of the country, making Huntsville more diverse than other parts of Alabama.

    • I…I feel like blue-haired fundamentalism is the RIGHT kind of fundamentalism, though.

    • I have to agree. I just moved back to Birmingham, and it does not feel so LGBT-friendly. I was hoping it had progressed a little in the time I was gone. I am SO excited about Rep. Patricia Todd, though!

    • whoa, cowgirl! I’m from Huntsville. Where in the world are these lesbians you speak of?

      • Kaffeeklatsch downtown is supposed to be gay friendly.

        Going to a roller derby meet couldn’t hurt.

        Also, I know there used to be a lesbian bar downtown near I-565 called Partners, but I have no idea if it’s still up and running.

        I also feel like the Flying Monkey Arts Center is kinda queer friendly. I remember going to poetry meetings at their old space and feeling like I’d found a secret society that no one else knew about in Huntsville.

        • blairalyse— the alabama lesbian is indeed difficult, many times, to find.

          kumquat is totally right. Actually, a friend of mine met her girlfriend of a year and a half at the roller derby. Also, the Havoc hockey games at the Von Braun Center seem to attract a few lesbians. The Flying Monkey Arts Center is SUPER queer friendly in my experience as well… just be careful because it is a bit of a rough neighborhood.

          The Vieux Carre is a gay bar/club in Huntsville that is regionally famous for it’s drag shows and, on a good night, a dozen or so sporty gay ladies.

          Pretty much everything in downtown Florence is gay friendly, specifically The Route of Art Gallery which sponsors quite a bit of cool folk art and I think is operated by a gay man. Rivertown Coffee Co. seems to attract all the queer kids from UNA, especially after about 9 PM. Florence does not yet have a gay bar, but there are rumors of one in the near future.

          Also, fun fact, the Starbuck’s in Athens staff is about 33% gay, 100% gay friendly.

          Hope that helps!

  5. Wow, this was unexpected. You go, Rep. Todd! Here’s hoping Alabama will suck less sometime in the near-ish future.

  6. I think it’s a great idea. I’m from south alabama which isn’t gay friendly at all. My friends,family and my job accept me..the rest of alabama dont. But they dont mind spending my tax money.

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