2013 was a historic year for the LGBT movement across the U.S. Six states — Rhode Island, Delaware, Minnesota, Maine, Hawaii and Illinois — passed marriage equality laws. The Supreme Court struck down a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The U.S. Senate finally passed ENDA and actually included gender identity! (It’s stalled in the House.) It was a great time for the LGBT rights movement in Alabama, too. Below are 13 reasons why 2013 was a great year. Did we miss one? Leave your highlights in the comments section!
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1. #RollPride! #WarEqual!
Equality Alabama is the statewide LGBT advocacy organization. Formed in 2002 by the merger of a couple of other organizations, the group had some successes in the 2000s but fizzled late in the decade. Equality Alabama gave itself a makeover this year and is back at it! The “Roll Pride” and “War Equal” T-shirts went viral and sold over 500 shirts this fall.
2. Teens’ Petition Gets National Attention
In March, two Alabama teens, Foster Noone and Adam Pratt, launched a petition on change.org that garnered nearly 100,000 signatures and national media attention. Here’s how a story in the Washington Post started a story on the petition: “In Alabama, a 1992 state law requires that sex education teachers tell students that homosexuality is a crime and that it is ‘not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public.’ Now two Alabama students have started a petition on change.org in support of a bill introduced in the state legislature to repeal the law.”
3. The Daily Show Disproves Stereotypes
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart took a trip down to Alabama and Mississippi to test the stereotypes of Southerners being intolerant to same-sex relationships. The result was a funny segment that was not-at-all surprising to those of us who live here.
4. Thousands Show Up To Support Marriage Equality
On Wednesday, June 26, Equality Alabama hosted rallies across Alabama in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling regarding two same-sex marriage cases. Thousands came out to the events across the state, including more than 500 at one gathering at Al’s on Seventh in Birmingham.
5. Non-Discrimination Ordinance Makes Progress
This year, a Birmingham City Council committee passed an inclusive non-discrimination ordinance and sent it to the full council, which gave it to the legal department for review. Though it hasn’t passed yet, this is the closest we’ve come in Alabama to passing a law that protects LGBT people from discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodation.
6. Magic City Acceptance
“Rejection by family. Bullying. Dropping out of school. Substance abuse. Suicide. Studies show those risks imperil young lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender people at a greater rate nationwide than their young straight counterparts. 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.” —via blog.al.com
7. Birmingham Mayor Bell Comes Out For Equality
Birmingham is Alabama’s largest city, so it was kind of a big deal when Mayor William Bell told local CBS affiliate WIAT-TV: “Having grown up here in Birmingham and having lived through discrimination and things of that nature, I’m a firm believer that all individuals are to be treated equally and fairly. The decision by the Supreme Court in relation to DOMA is another step toward that equal respect for all individual rights.”
8. College Republican Stands Up For The Freedom To Marry
College student Stephanie Petelos made waves across the U.S. when she stood up to the establishment of the Alabama Republican Party in support of marriage equality. BuzzFeed even did a couple of stories on her, one of which had the fabulous headline, “Meet The College Republican Who Took On The Religious Right In Alabama — And Won.”
9. IRS Says Legally Married Same-Sex Couples Will Be Recognized For Federal Tax Purposes
The IRS announced late in August that, because of the Supreme Court’s June 26 ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act, it would recognize legal same-sex marriages for on federal tax returns.
10. Same-Sex Married Couples Have Benefit Plan Rights
Shortly after the IRS and Treasury Department announced that legally married same-sex couples could file their federal tax returns jointly, the Department of Labor issues a ruling that same-sex married couples also had rights to benefit plans such as 401(k)s, pensions, health care plans, and others.
11. Equality Alabama Membership Up 11%
Equality Alabama membership grew by more than 11 percent in 2013, thanks in large part to the popular T-shirts, online petitions, and social and educational events.
12. BAO Gets Money for LGBT Youth Center
Birmingham AIDS Outreach got a $50,000 grant this year from the Elton John AIDS Foundation to start an LGBT youth center. According to AL.com, the center will be “a space where young people can meet, participate in structured group activities, talk with counselors, and access free HIV testing and HIV prevention education materials.”
13. Patricia Todd Announces Bill to Repeal Marriage Equality Ban
Alabama’s only openly gay lawmaker, Rep. Patricia Todd, married her long-time partner Jennifer Clarke this year and a few months later she announced that she’s pushing a law next year to repeal Alabama’s ban on the freedom to marry. While Todd doesn’t expect the bill to pass, she does expect it to start a conversation about the effect such a ban has on Alabama’s LGBT families.