LGBT rights in Alabama

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Map of USA AL.svg
StatusLegal since 2003
(Lawrence v. Texas)
Gender identitySex change legal
Discrimination protectionsNo sexual orientation protections statewide;
Gender identity protections under Glenn v. Brumby
Family rights
Recognition of relationshipsLegal since 2015
(Obergefell v. Hodges)
AdoptionLegal since 2015

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in Alabama face legal and social challenges not faced by non-LGBT persons. LGBT rights in the state are limited in comparison to other states. The state's anti-discrimination law does not cover sexual orientation and gender identity. Gender identity discrimination, however, is prohibited by federal law, through a ruling of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Same-sex marriage has been legal since June 2015.

The cities of Birmingham and Montevallo are the only cities in the state to offer members of the LGBT community discrimination protections. Other cities, including Montgomery, Huntsville and Tuscaloosa, have more limited protections.

According to a 2017 Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) poll, Alabama is the only state in the United States where a majority of residents are opposed to same-sex marriage.[1]

Law regarding same-sex sexual activity[edit]

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 The state's sodomy law, although unenforceable, has not been repealed by the Alabama Legislature.

Alabama has a no promo homo law, which states that "course materials and instruction that relate to sexual education or sexually transmitted diseases should include [...] 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." (Ala. Code § 16-40A-2)[2]

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]

Same-sex marriage has been legal in Alabama since June 26, 2015, when the United States Supreme Court ruled in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges that same-sex couples have a nationwide constitutional right to marry.[3]

Strawser v. Strange[edit]

In September 2014, a same-sex couple filed suit in district court challenging Alabama's statutory and constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Judge Callie V. Granade ruled in favor of the couple in January 2015, striking down the marriage ban, but stayed her ruling until February 9.[4] Despite opposition from government officials, same-sex couples began marrying in various counties throughout Alabama that day, though some refused to do so. On March 3, the Alabama Supreme Court found same-sex marriage bans constitutional and ordered county officials to immediately stop marrying same-sex couples.[5]

On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the denial of marriage rights to same-sex couples unconstitutional. The Attorney General announced compliance with the ruling, and several county officials began issuing marriage licenses that day. However, as of 2018, eight counties still refuse to issue marriage licenses to any couples, to avoid issuing them to same-sex couples. State law states that probate judges "may" issue marriage licenses. This language was added following the legalization of interracial marriage in Alabama in 1967.[6]

In January 2016, Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore ordered probate judges to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, stating that the Obergefell ruling did not apply to Alabama. His statement had no legal effect. In May, Moore was charged with ethics charges by the Judicial Inquiry Commission, and was found guilty and suspended in September 2016.[7]

Adoption rights and parenting[edit]

Alabama permits adoption by same-sex couples.

Child Placing Agency Inclusion Act[edit]

Alabama is one of the few states to have a law protecting the right of faith-based adoption agencies to refuse to place a child with a certain couple or individual due to the agency's religious beliefs. The law was signed by Governor Kay Ivey in May 2017.[8]

Discrimination protections[edit]

State level[edit]

Map of Alabama cities that have sexual orientation anti–employment discrimination ordinances
  Sexual orientation and gender identity in both public and private employment
  Sexual orientation and gender identity in public employment only
  Sexual orientation in public employment
  Does not protect sexual orientation and gender identity in employment

Alabama law does not address discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation.[9]

Local level[edit]

The city of Birmingham prohibits all discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. It approved such protections in September 2017.[10] The city of Montevallo passed a similar non-discrimination ordinance in April 2018, becoming the second city in the state to have such protections.[11]

Huntsville and Tuscaloosa have public employment protections on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender identity.[12] Montgomery prohibits sexual orientation-based discrimination in public employment only.[13]

Glenn v. Brumby[edit]

In December 2011, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit (which covers Alabama, Florida and Georgia) ruled that Vandy Beth Glenn, a transgender woman living in Georgia, had been unfairly terminated from her job at the Georgia Legislative Assembly due to her transgender status. Relying on Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins and other Title VII precedent, the Court concluded that the plaintiff was discriminated against based on her sex because she was transitioning from male to female. The Court stated that a person is considered transgender "precisely because of the perception that his or her behavior transgresses gender stereotypes." As a result, there is "congruence" between discriminating against transgender individuals and discrimination on the basis of "gender-based behavioral norms." "Because everyone is protected against discrimination based on sex stereotypes, such protections cannot be denied to transgender individuals", the Court ruled. With this decision, discrimination in the workplace based on gender identity is now banned in Alabama.[14]

Hate crime law[edit]

Since 1994, Alabama has had a hate crime 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.[15]

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.[16] 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.[17] Holmes had introduced identical bills in previous sessions: HB829 (2008),[18] HB247 (2007),[19] HB57 (2006),[20] HB423 (2001),[21] HB85 (2000),[22] and has pushed for the inclusion of sexual orientation in the hate crime law since at least 1999.[23]

In April 2009, the Alabama House of Representatives passed Holmes' bill by a vote of 46 to 41.[17][24][25] 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.[25][26]

HB413 (2016) was sponsored by Todd and Representative Juandalynn Givan to add protections for sexual orientation and gender identity and HB8 (2017), but neither bill made it to a vote.

The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, approved by the United States Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama in October 2009, bans such hate crimes federally.

Gender identity and expression[edit]

Transgender persons born in Alabama may request an amended birth certificate with a changed name and sex after undergoing sex reassignment surgery.[27][28]


Patricia Todd, a member of the Alabama House of Representatives, was elected in November 2006 and became the first ever openly gay elected official in the state of Alabama.[29] In September 2013, she married her wife, Jennifer Clarke, in Massachusetts.[30]

In the 2018 Alabama House of Representatives election, Neil Rafferty, a former member of the United States Marine Corps, was elected to represent the 54th House District of Alabama. Rafferty became Alabama's first openly gay congressman.[31] He resides in Birmingham with his partner Michael Rudulph.[32]

Public opinion[edit]

A 2017 Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) poll found that 41% of Alabamians supported same-sex marriage, while 51% were opposed. 8% were undecided. Alabama was the only U.S. state to record a majority opposition to same-sex marriage.

Nevertheless, the same poll also found that 58% supported an anti-discrimination law covering sexual orientation and gender identity. 34% were against. Additionally, 51% were against allowing public businesses to refuse to serve LGBT people due to religious beliefs, while 41% supported allowing such religiously-based refusals.[33]

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes check.svg (Since 2003)
Equal age of consent Yes check.svg
Same-sex marriage Yes check.svg (Since 2015)
Recognition of same-sex couples Yes check.svg (Since 2015)
Stepchild adoption by same-sex couples Yes check.svg (Since 2015)
Joint adoption by same-sex couples Yes check.svg (Since 2015)
Lesbian, gay and bisexual people allowed to serve openly in the military Yes check.svg (Since 2011)
Transgender people allowed to serve openly in the military X mark.svg
Right to change legal gender Yes check.svg
Ban on conversion therapy for minors X mark.svg
Equal access to IVF for lesbian couples Yes check.svg
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples Emblem-question.svg
Sexual orientation Gender identity or gender expression
Anti-discrimination laws in public employment X mark.svg/Yes check.svg (Varies by jurisdiction) Yes check.svg (Under Glenn v. Brumby)
Anti-discrimination laws in private employment X mark.svg/Yes check.svg (Varies by jurisdiction) Yes check.svg (Under Glenn v. Brumby)
Anti-discrimination laws in public accommodations X mark.svg/Yes check.svg (Varies by jurisdiction) X mark.svg/Yes check.svg (Varies by jurisdiction)
Anti-discrimination laws in housing X mark.svg/Yes check.svg (Varies by jurisdiction) X mark.svg/Yes check.svg (Varies by jurisdiction)
Anti-discrimination laws in credit and lending services X mark.svg/Yes check.svg (Varies by jurisdiction) X mark.svg/Yes check.svg (Varies by jurisdiction)
Hate crime law Yes check.svg (Under federal law) Yes check.svg (Under federal law)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Only 1 state has majority that oppose same-sex marriage, poll shows,, May 3, 2018
  2. ^ "Alabama Code Title 16. Education § 16-40A-2 | FindLaw". Findlaw. Retrieved June 11, 2017.
  4. ^ Kirby, Brendan (January 27, 2015). "Second Alabama gay couple wins same-sex marriage challenge". Retrieved January 27, 2015.
  5. ^ Robertson, Campbell (March 3, 2015). "Alabama Court Orders a Halt to Same-Sex Marriage Licenses". New York Times. Retrieved March 4, 2015.
  6. ^ "2yrs later, 7co. still not issuing same-sex marriage licenses". Alabama Today. June 29, 2017. Retrieved July 7, 2017.
  7. ^ "Alabama's top judge faces ethics charges over gay-marriage order". Reuters. May 7, 2016.
  8. ^ "Ivey signs bill allowing denial of LGBG adoptions". Montgomery Advisor. May 3, 2017.
  9. ^ "Alabama Non-Discrimination Law". March 9, 2007. Retrieved February 22, 2014.
  10. ^ Edgemon, Erin (September 26, 2017). "Birmingham makes discrimination a criminal offense". The Birmingham News.
  11. ^ "Montevallo passes non-discrimination ordinance | Shelby County Reporter". Retrieved May 11, 2018.
  12. ^ MEI 2017: See Your City’s Score
  13. ^ "Municipal Equality Index" (PDF). Human Rights Campaign. Retrieved November 21, 2013.
  14. ^ Examples of Court Decisions Supporting Coverage of LGBT-Related Discrimination Under Title VII
  15. ^ "Alabama Hate Crimes Law". Retrieved December 5, 2013.
  16. ^ ALISON: Bills Sponsored by Representative Holmes: Regular Session 2009, accessed June 2, 2012
  17. ^ a b Birmingham News: Kim Chandler, "House Oks adding sexual orientation to hate crimes law, which now goes to Senate," April 24, 2009, accessed June 2, 2012
  18. ^ ALISON: Bills Sponsored by Representative Holmes: Regular Session 2008, accessed June 2, 2012
  19. ^ ALISON: Bills Sponsored by Representative Holmes: Regular Session 2007, accessed June 2, 2012
  20. ^ ALISON: Bills Sponsored by Representative Holmes: Regular Session 2006, accessed June 2, 2012
  21. ^ ALISON: Bills Sponsored by Representative Holmes: Regular Session 2001, accessed June 2, 2012
  22. ^ ALISON: Bills Sponsored by Representative Holmes: Regular Session 2000, accessed June 2, 2012
  23. ^ Phillip Rawls, "Committee adds sexual orientation to hate crimes," Times Daily (Florence, Alabama), January 17, 2006, accessed June 2, 2012
  24. ^ The Guardian: "On gay rights, two steps forward, one step back in the Alabama house", accessed June 2, 2012
  25. ^ a b Birmingham Weekly: "Alabama pays for Legislature's dead bills," May 21, 2009, accessed June 2, 2012
  26. ^ ALISON: Session Adjourn / Convene, accessed June 2, 2012
  27. ^ Human Rights Campaign: Alabama Birth Certificate Law: Gender Identity Issues, accessed July 5, 2011
  28. ^ "Sec. 22-9A-19. Amendment of vital records". Code of Alabama. Retrieved August 17, 2017.
  29. ^ Wilcox, Barbara (July 19, 2006). "Vote points to first out gay Alabama lawmaker". PlanetOut. Archived from the original on October 14, 2007. Retrieved July 19, 2007. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  30. ^ Chandler, Kim (September 24, 2013). "Alabama's first openly gay lawmaker marries long-time partner in Massachusetts ceremony".
  31. ^ Towle, Andy (November 7, 2018). "Gay Marine Veteran Neil Rafferty Wins Patricia Todd's Seat in Alabama".
  32. ^ "Two Marines In Love: “You Were Willing To Go To War And Possibly Die To Be Sure That I’m Okay”". NewNowNext, January 27, 2017.
  33. ^ PRRI: American Values Atlas 2017, Alabama