Former Alabama Governor Fob James, whose political career began in Alabama in the late 1970s, led multiple attempts to bar same-sex rights in Alabama. James signed multiple Alabama laws officially banning same-sex marriage recognition. These and other regional state laws kickstarted a grassroots movement for the legalization of gay marriage. The Obergefell v. Hodges case in the US Supreme Court led to the passage of same-sex marriage nationwide in 2015. Yet, today couples wishing to marry in Alabama are unable to purchase marriage licenses in eight counties. Furthermore, when gay couples marry in Alabama, other laws related to child adoption hinder their ability to have a family. In 2017, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed the Alabama Child Placing Agency Inclusion Act, allowing religious-based adoption agencies to turn away same-sex couples looking to adopt. Gay Alabamians still face a long road for equal rights. According to Rolling Stone magazine, Alabama is the number two worst state for gays in America. Yet, county by county, there are pockets of support and achievement for gays in Alabama.
The University of Alabama at Birmingham was recently named the “best college for LGBTQ students in Alabama.” Jefferson and Shelby Counties are Alabama counties with city-based non-discrimination ordinances for LGBTQ+ people. In Birmingham, the Magic City Acceptance Center organization developed an affirming space for gay youth. They also host marches and attempt to educate the public by spreading awareness of gay issues today. While local politicians are still motivated to appeal to their base, signs of recent positive change for recognition and equality of LGBTQ+ Alabamians are forthcoming. There is a widespread movement afoot to preserve LGBTQ+ history in the US and in Alabama. In 2021, Governor Ivey edited a law signed by Fob James involving gay sex education in Alabama schools. The reworded law now leaves out language many felt discriminatory. Alabama continues to see headway with the first openly gay politician former House of Representatives, Patricia Todd. Through the unity of the regional gay rights movement and strength in numbers, the future is perhaps looking better for LGBTQ+ Alabamians.
Lennon Hebert is a recent graduate from Helena High School in Helena, Alabama, and a current freshman at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, majoring in nursing. He wants to become a labor and delivery nurse and women’s health educator upon graduation. When not doing schoolwork, he spends his free time reading, playing contemporary piano, and tending to his many, many houseplants