Last weekend was "Gay Alabama in Montgomery". Two events took place that should have been better attended, but were meaningful and beneficial for those who did attend.
On Saturday Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out visited the capital of Alabama and spoke. Patrick McAlvey, a survivor of ex-gay therapy also presented his story. Equality Alabama sponsored this event. I got to spend a little time with Wayne on both Friday (in Tuscaloosa) and Saturday, and Patrick on Saturday.
If you haven't seen Patrick's video watch it. No one should have to go through this farce of therapy. Those who practice it should be prosecuted.
On February 20, 2011 the 13th Annual Vigil for Victims of Hate and Violence took place on the steps of the Capitol in Montgomery. Alabama needs a hate crimes law that includes sexual orientation and gender identity. Remember, Billy Jack Gaither and Scotty Joe Weaver were both killed, in gruesome and torturous (thank you Gwen) ways that might have been prevented had the killers thought twice knowing that what they were doing was a hate crime that could result in stiffer sentences for their actions. Of course, many other hate crimes against the LGBT community have been committed, pretty much ignored by the press, and certainly ignored by our elected officials.
The Shouting Stones provided music...
...while the people gathered.
Rev. Paul Britner of Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Montgomery gave the opening words and welcomed all of us. UUF also provided the venue for Truth Wins Out the night before.
Dr. Paul Hard gave a short intro that reminded us why we were there.
Equality Alabama Chair Dr. Joe Openshaw (me) also gave a welcome on behalf of Equality Alabama and reminded those in attendance of how important is is that they follow up EA's letters to the state legislators with their own letters regarding an inclusive hate crimes law. EA sent letters to all the legislators last month outlining the issues important to us and to the state: hate crimes law, anti-bullying legislation and employment non-discrimination.
Mr. Rocky Twilley read a message from Rev. Jo Crisco, pastor at New Hope Metropolitan Community Church.
The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Choir provided True Colors.
Nancy Dobson presented the Billy Jack Gaither Humanitarian Award, presented yearly to a deserving recipient based on their commitment to justice and equality for all people.
The award went to Robert and Jean Graetz. Read about their award here.
Equality Alabama board member Shirley Ann Rawls introduced the keynote speaker...
...Ms. Gwynedd Adelaide Thomas.
Ms. Thomas gave a wonderful presentation, but what struck me the most were her many reminders of hate crimes committed against members of the LGBT community here in Alabama and elsewhere, and her introduction of the label "torture" to those crimes. In reality, those victims actually are tortured, often being beaten, burned, urinated on. Remember Scotty Joe crying Chris, please stop" as his murderer tightened the rope around his neck? It's torture, all right.
Equality Alabama believes this is not a Democrat v. Republican issue, but a humanitarian issue, a love v. hate issue. All legislators should be interested in adding sexual orientation and gender identity to our hate crimes law in Alabama, as this could help to reduce violence in our state.
My photographer did not get a picture, but Rev. Elizabeth O'Neill, pastor of Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Montgomery, gave the closing words.
A reception followed at the Ken Baker Center, which is managed by Equality Alabama.
This picture is from the day the center was dedicated.
I urge you to support the LBGT community in Alabama and the Ken Baker Center by joining Equality Alabama by getting on our email list and with a monetary contribution. A yearly contribution of $35 is suggested, along with a monthly contribution of whatever amount you can afford at this time. Our work is far from complete, and we need your support to continue. Click here to donate to Equality Alabama.
You don't have to be gay to join or support Equality Alabama. We have many straight supporters, and if you believe in equality you should join too!
Our big weekend would not be complete without sharing our accommodations while in Montgomery.
While in the capital we stayed at The Lattice Inn and enjoyed wonderful accommodations and an enlightened and entertaining host.
I recommend The Lattice Inn when in Montgomery. I look forward to visiting again when the temperature is just a few degrees higher and the pool is open.