Tag: LGBTQ

Alabama Doesn’t Have a Voter Problem. It Has a Democracy Problem.

In Chief Justice Roy Moore, Alabama has the personification of any bigotry that you can imagine sitting atop its high court. Here is a guy who believed so fervently that the nation’s courts should validate only one religion and its precepts that he was thrown off the bench after refusing to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the front of the State Capitol. After founding something called the Moral Law Foundation (doing the sort of work you would expect from it and him), he ran for the Republican nomination for Governor in 2010, expecting that the love would still be there from the right-wingers that dominate the Alabama GOP. His faith was found wanting.

Then came 2012, when Roy Moore defeated sitting Chief Justice Chuck Malone in the Republican primary to advance into the general election. Now, given the sentiment that has been expressed in opinion pieces like this one, you would be led to believe that he faced a candidate of great credit to the bench and the people of Alabama in that election.

This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: Why anywhere is better than Birmingham for DNC 2016.

When one thinks of Alabama, what comes to mind first? Is it the Civil Rights Movement, which made the state ground zero for its organizing efforts? Is it that movement’s most recognizable leader, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? Is it The University of Alabama or Auburn, which holds a combined 17 national championships in Division I-A football? Is it the steel mills that once served as the backbone of the state’s industrial power, or the space and rocket research that we are known for now? Maybe it is the musical tradition of this state, with natives like Lionel Richie, Percy Sledge, and Hank Williams, Sr.?

Nah. If you are a liberal or some other sort of left-leaning individual, Alabama is probably known first and foremost as one of the most conservative states in the Union. After electing Republican governors for most of the previous two decades, Alabamans helped House Minority Leader Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn), along with Senate counterpart Del Marsh (R-Anniston), storm the statehouse in 2010. That election gave the Republicans near total control of state government, with a supermajority in both houses and nearly all the statewide constitutional offices. In 2012, the defeat of former Lieutenant Governor and then-President of the Public Service Commission Lucy Baxley meant that there were no longer any Democrats holding statewide office in Alabama. And while there has not been any polling on the gubernatorial race here, it is safe to say that Gov. Robert Bentley (R) has this pretty well locked up. He will likely be assisted by the fact that, for the first time in Alabama history, there will be no Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate. That’s right: Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, who became one of only two nominees for the federal bench since the Depression to be blocked by the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1986, will sail into his fourth term without even so much as a campaign.

The situation is pretty damn ugly for Alabamans on the Left. But news came through today that put smiles on many a Democrat’s face today: Birmingham is one of the six finalists to host the Democratic National Convention in 2016. This would seem to be great news. As the mayor’s chief of staff put it, “You have to look at Denver pre and post-convention, Charlotte, pre and post-convention, and then you’ll get a sense of what it means to a city in terms of economic impact and pride to those who live, work and play in those cities. And then there’s the impact that you can’t measure. It has both short-term and long-term effect.”

Who could pass up an opportunity to go after something like that? Positive economic benefits in the short- and long-term! A shot in the arm to Democrats across the Yellowhammer State! A commitment to make a play for the South!

This sounds fantastic! And yet here I am, proceeding to write about why Birmingham would be, in the words of Alabama native and never-was candidate for governor Charles Barkley, a TURRRRRRIBLE decision to host the DNC in 2016.

Power of the People: Remembering Senator Martin Nesbitt

I didn’t know him personally, but I had watched and listened to him. And I was moved. In a time when complacency and silence plagues much of mainstream political discourse, even in public service capacities, I had always been moved to listen to Sen. Martin Nesbitt speak. Not only did he speak, but also people listened in my home state of North Carolina. In a time where we are still fighting against the stereotypes associated with using a southern accent, he did not hide his drawl.  As I think about how quickly and what a shock his illness and death occurred, I continue to return to Joan Didion’s words in The Year of Magical Thinking: “Life changes fast. Life changes in an instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.”

While life certainly changes fast, one thing that will steadily stay in my mind about Sen. Nesbitt is his work for keeping the people, the grassroots, at the forefront of the political and policy conversations for my state. He made strong statements in the North Carolina General Assembly during points when it would be easy to be silent, to feel silenced, to feel like it would do no good. Yet, he did not forget to speak up and speak up loudly. He will be missed. As I think about the upcoming elections and moving North Carolina forward, not just in a “is this candidate electable” way but in a “is this candidate electable AND gives a damn” way, I think about Sen. Nesbitt’s work; I hope that we carry his work with us as we press forward.

One Weekend at Camp: How 40 young people and a horrific injustice softened this blogger’s heart.

This weekend, I spent some time at the Southeastern LGBTQ Activist Camp in Jackson, Mississippi. This yearly gathering is a true example of the sort of coalition- and community-building effort that will be crucial to securing long-lasting progressive victories across the South. Working in concert with the GSA Network, GLBTQ youth organizations from across the South bring young people together for four days of trainings and workshops centered around building power in their communities, agitating against intersectional oppression, and fighting for policies that are inclusive of GLBTQ youth in their schools and their communities. The camp is a mix of rigorous training and lighthearted fun, which are both sorely missing from the lives of GLBTQ youth in the South. Everyone appeared to be getting a lot of mileage out of the camp, and enjoying one of the few safe spaces for GLBTQ youth that exists in the South.

Then the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case came down: George Zimmerman was not guilty.

The Cartoon Parade Comes To Town

I’ve been living and organizing in the South (mostly around LGBTQ issues) since 2008.  My friends and family from various parts of the country don’t visit much.  It’s difficult to entice folks to come to Mississippi or Alabama.  It’s not really on the way to a major destination, so folks don’t just pop by.  Interest from family and friends in my work has waxed and waned over the years.  When the work was highly visible (say, a major legal case that made national news) or easy to understand (such as organizing something concrete like a conference or an event) there was interest.  More long-term and difficult to describe work, like youth development and community-building that’s less concrete, doesn’t seem to garner much interest from my loved ones.  That’s perfectly fine with me.  I love my work, and if communities rally around and behind it down here that’s all that matters.

The Westboro Baptist Church and their circus of hate came to town on May 18.  All of a sudden, folks I don’t hear from much were flooding my inbox.  Did I know the group was coming?  What was I planning to do about it?  Did I know of a protest that would be organized?  Was there a place to send money to fund the protest?  Judging from the swell of interest, you’d think that something important was about to happen in my community.

The Power of Conversation

Most of us experience a variety of conversations on a daily basis without giving a second thought to what exactly we are doing. We share information with others, exchange stories with one another, and engage in dialogue. We can do such through a variety of mediums now, such as in-person and online. While having a conversation is a ubiquitous aspect of our society, we often give little thought about its possible impact and power. Conversations, though, hold powerful implications on abilities to not only affect people’s opinions on issues, but also create a stronger sense of community for organizing efforts.

“You can’t get to courage without walking through vulnerability.”

Meagan M. O’Nan is a guest blogger for The South Lawn.  She is a spiritual leader, life coach, and Mississippi native (among many other amazing things).  The original blog piece can be found on Meagan’s blog

For video of the interview that Meagan describes, see the original blog post.

Almost two years after moving back to Mississippi, I got a call one morning from our local television station (this interview was a good 8 months ago, now). The producers asked me if I would be willing to come in and talk about my perspective on same-sex commitment ceremonies being allowed in state buildings. The reason this conversation was a hot topic was because a same-sex couple applied to have a commitment ceremony in a state building in Jackson, Mississippi. This didn’t go over well with most people, but there was no law in place to keep the couple’s application from being dismissed. Ultimately, they were given permission to have their ceremony, but most of the state was in an uproar. The television station wanted me to come on and talk about how this made me feel as an openly gay woman. They mentioned that they would be having someone else come on and talk with me, but they didn’t tell me who.