LGBT rights in Alabama
|LGBT rights in Alabama|
|Same-sex sexual activity legal?||Legal statewide since 2003
(Lawrence v. Texas)
| Same-sex marriage legal since 2015|
Same-sex sexual activity is legal in Alabama and same-sex couples are eligible for the same protections available to opposite-sex married couples. The state has no statute addressing anti-LGBTQ discrimination or hate crimes. Several advocacy groups in Alabama actively lobby for equal rights for its LGBTQ citizens; one of the largest is Equality Alabama.
Law regarding same-sex sexual activity
Same-sex sexual activity has been legal in Alabama since 2003, when the United States Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas struck down all state sodomy laws. The state's sodomy law, although unenforceable, has not been repealed by the Alabama Legislature.
On January 23, 2015, Judge Callie V.S. Granada ruled in Searcy v. Strange that the state's ban was unconstitutional. Her ruling took effect on February 9, after no higher court agreed to the attorney general's request for a stay. Most counties issued marriage license to same-sex couples under order not to do by the Alabama Supreme Court, ruling in another case, on March 3, 2015.
Alabama permits adoption by individuals. State law does not prohibit same-sex couples from adopting.
On October 12, 2012, a unanimous Alabama Court of Civil Appeals turned down the request of a woman to adopt her same-sex spouse's child. The women had been married in California. The court held that Alabama law did not recognize the women as spouses.
Alabama law does not address discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation.
Hate crimes laws
Since 1994, Alabama has had a hate crimes law applicable to "race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, or physical or mental disability." The current law does not apply to crimes committed on account of sexual orientation or gender identity.
On April 24, 2009, State Representative Alvin Holmes introduced HB533, a bill that would have added sexual orientation to the list of hate crime categories. State Representative Patricia Todd, the legislature's first and only openly‐LGBT member, unsuccessfully attempted to add gender identity to the bill but was opposed by Holmes and other legislators. Holmes said he believed that his bill covering only sexual orientation would protect persons victimized as a result of their gender identity. Holmes had introduced identical bills in previous sessions: HB829 (2008), HB247 (2007), HB57 (2006), HB423 (2001), HB85 (2000), and has pushed for the inclusion of sexual orientation in the hate crimes law since at least 1999.
In April 2009, the Alabama House of Representatives passed Holmes' bill by a vote of 46 to 41. The Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee later approved the bill, but the full senate took no action on it before the legislature adjourned on May 15, 2009.
LGBT student organizations at Alabama colleges and universities
In the fall of 1990, a controversy lasting several years unfolded at Auburn University when a group of LGBT undergraduates and graduate students formally sought recognition as a university-sanctioned student organization. Founded officially as the Auburn Gay and Lesbian Association (AGLA), the student organization had several unofficial forerunners including Alpha Lambda Omega (ALO) and East Alabama Gay and Lesbian Society (EAGLS). AGLA was initially prohibited from formal university charter because of opposition by the Student Government Association (SGA) who asserted the argument that the university could not formally sponsor a student organization that in any way advocated for sodomy, since the state of Alabama maintained sodomy laws at the time. LGBT student leaders at Auburn rebuffed these assertions arguing that the purpose of the AGLA was not duplicitous but instead was to serve the community as a social, educational, and advocacy organization. Auburn's LGBT student leaders further asserted that to prohibit them from achieving official university status based on the "sodomy-law argument" was spurious, when in fact the sodomy laws in Alabama were not specific to individuals defined by sexual orientation but instead applied to the criminalization of any non-procreative, sexual behavior by any consenting adults regardless of sexual orientation.
The argument posited then by the SGA—and supported by many influential university administrators—detailed further that if gay and lesbian students (whose potential fornication was in direct violation of the state's sodomy laws) were permitted to congregate on campus, they would use classrooms—and as a matter of course—electricity and other resources paid for by the tax dollars of Alabama residents. It was argued that formally sanctioning a gay student organization would be tantamount to the state of Alabama channeling taxpayer dollars toward illegal activity. The AGLA retained attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Southern Poverty Law Center, who threatened suit on behalf of the AGLA and posited that if the "sodomy-law argument" had been successful in prohibiting LGBT students from maintaining official organization status at Auburn University, the impact would have rippled and potentially applied to fraternities and sororities, whose sanctioned events and activities arguably foster non-procreative sexual behavior, and often in the midst of rampant underage drinking.
In the fall of 1991, during its probationary charter status, the AGLA was awarded "Student Organization of the Year" for its charitable works including social justice projects, AIDS outreach, human sexuality educational panel discussions, and student mentoring projects. Never in the history of the SGA organizational charters had a new student organization been granted such an accolade. Despite the award, the AGLA was denied its official charter until the fall of 1992, after a year of ACLU advocacy, when then university President James Martin stepped in to override the SGA's refusal to grant the AGLA an official university charter.
During the probationary status of the AGLA, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students at Auburn University came under regular attack on campus and were allegedly victims of hate crimes. Once such incident, which was covered by the national news, occurred on January 28, 1992 when 5 members of the AGLA were fired upon while hanging posters and handing out flyers on campus. An 18-year-old freshman pleaded guilty to firing a rifle in the city limits and paid a $99 fine, but was not expelled from the university. A hate crime was also not lodged against the guilty assailant.
To protest the shooting, several hundred people rallied on the Auburn University campus on February 8, 1992 including several local and national entertainers. James T. Sears, a professor at the University of South Carolina and the author of Growing Up Gay in the South, said reaction to Auburn's gay student group was predictable.
State Rep. Patricia Todd, D-Birmingham, became Alabama's first openly gay public official when she was elected in 2006.
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- ALISON: Bills Sponsored by Representative Holmes: Regular Session 2009, accessed June 2, 2012
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- ALISON: Bills Sponsored by Representative Holmes: Regular Session 2001, accessed June 2, 2012
- ALISON: Bills Sponsored by Representative Holmes: Regular Session 2000, accessed June 2, 2012
- Phillip Rawls, "Committee adds sexual orientation to hate crimes," Times Daily (Florence, Alabama), January 17, 2006, accessed June 2, 2012
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- Birmingham Weekly: "Alabama pays for Legislature's dead bills," May 21, 2009, accessed June 2, 2012
- ALISON: Session Adjourn / Convene, accessed June 2, 2012
- Human Rights Campaign: Alabama Birth Certificate Law: Gender Identity Issues, accessed July 5, 2011
- "Patricia Todd, Alabama's first openly gay state legislator, coming to Huntsville to talk Supreme Court gay marriage rulings | al.com". Blog.al.com. June 28, 2013. Retrieved November 2, 2013.