May 17, 2018; WSFA-TV (Montgomery, AL)
Last week, NPQ covered a story about an organization serving LGBTQ youth that was forced to close when its state grants were suspended. A gubernatorial candidate and evangelist from Birmingham, Alabama, Scott Dawson, accused current Governor Kay Ivey of routing taxpayer money to the group, whereupon Ivey declared, “I certainly don’t agree with the agenda or the values of that organization.”
This was met with some outrage; Alex Smith, executive director of Equality Alabama, said in a statement that “our community deserves a champion in the governor’s mansion, not another bully” and Ivey has been “no friend” to the LGBTQ community.
In the midst of all of this, Patricia Todd, Alabama’s first openly gay legislator, published a tweet challenging the governor on her sexuality. “Will someone please out her for God’s sake?” she entreated. “I have heard for years that she is gay and moved her girlfriend out of her house when she became Gov. I am sick of closeted elected officials.”
Ivey has called the tweet a “bald-faced lie,” and none of this sits well with local LGBTQ groups.
“What I am looking at is a bunch of adults engaged in using our community as a political football,” says Equality Alabama’s Michael Hansen. “Kicking us around to score points, and I think people in Alabama are sick and tired of these kinds of politics, old style of politics.”
“Weaponizing queerness through the act of outing others is a violation of the sacred rite that we as queer people undergo in our journey of self-discovery,” said Christopher Cuevas, a representative of QLatinx. “It is a form of psychic and emotional violence; a violence that robs one of their ability to self-actualize and manifest their truth.”
Cuevas, it should be noted, is also a board member of the One Orlando Alliance, which was founded in the days following the Pulse nightclub massacre and had just extended a job offer to Todd for its executive directorship, a position she was to take on June 1st. That board, according to Jennifer Foster, the chair, took an emergency vote of confidence, which resulted in the retraction of the offer. Foster says the nonprofit will begin a new search for an executive director, effective immediately.
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“The Board affirms that Ms. Todd’s recent comments are not aligned with the values of One Orlando Alliance. We strongly believe that coming out is a personal choice and we do not support involuntarily outing.” Foster said.
“Our Executive Director needs to lead our mission-driven efforts and exemplify our values—in all aspects of their everyday life…The Alliance’s collective commitment, to create a safer, more inclusive community for all, includes removing the threat of shame from being a member of our community, and accepting all who join us.”
Todd’s position was evidently not unconsidered, nor was this likely simply an errant tweet.
In 2015, while a sitting state legislator, Todd said she would begin outing colleagues whom she said were either gay or having extramarital affairs if they kept opposing same-sex marriage on the grounds of “family values.”
“Then I’m going to try and hold you in check. Because some of your folks don’t exactly have the greatest family values either,” Todd said. “So be careful when you start throwing that brick. And I realize that it’s not a popular opinion and I’ll get a lot of backlash, but at this point in time, I’m willing to risk everything politically to make this happen.”
The politics of politically motivated “outing” as many readers know, has a long history of dispute among activists.—Ruth McCambridge