40 years of LGBTQ Pride in Alabama

Birmingham, Ala. — More than 1,000 people rolled, walked, watched and cheered on the night of June 9 as Alabama celebrated 40 years of marching in the streets for LGBTQ rights and liberation. Central Alabama Pride organized the week’s events, with people attending from all over the state, including from regional associations: Rocket City Pride (Huntsville), Equality Shoals (Muscle Shoals), Druid City Pride (Tuscaloosa), Pride on the Plains (Auburn), Montgomery Pride and Mob Pride (Mobile).

Over 100 exuberant contingents were there, with a significant number of churches making a statement against extreme right-wing Christian nationalism, like that of former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore. Notoriously anti-LGBTQ, Moore was recently defeated in a bid for the U.S. Senate.

Grand marshals included the Magic City Acceptance Center, an affirming space for LGBTQ 13-to-24-year-old youth; PFLAG Birmingham (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays); and TAKE Resource Center (Transgender Advocates Knowledgeable Empowering), which supports trans women of color.

Connections between liberation struggles were made through a small group from the local National Organization for Women and a larger representation from Planned Parenthood. Some participants wore vests marked “Clinic Escort,” a reminder that defense of clinics offering abortion has been necessary in Birmingham since a fascist right-winger bombed the New Woman, All Women Health Care Clinic in 1998, killing one person.

The largest contingents were hundreds of dramatically enthusiastic workers. They were marching under the logos of their corporate bosses — Apple, Honda, T-Mobile and others. Companies trying to co-opt Pride events for advertising and recruitment is not a new capitalist tactic. It dates at least from 1977, when racist, anti-labor Coors Beer first sponsored an anti-LGBTQ event in Colorado.

But the huge contingents of workers suggested another possibility, springing from the recent pushback of Google workers against their company’s Pentagon contract. (WW article, tinyurl.com/yc5vrf2n) On this Birmingham night, hundreds of workers marching in the heart of the Deep South, waving rainbow flags and exulting in LGBTQ lives, offered hope of their uniting to fight independently for social justice and workers’ rights.

Lessons for the continuing LGBTQ struggle from the historic battles and campaigns of the Black Civil Rights Movement in Alabama are alive in the present moment. In September, Birmingham became the first Alabama city to pass an LGBTQ-inclusive human rights ordinance. The recently elected young Black mayor, Randall Woodfin, has asserted: “Birmingham is the cradle of the Civil Rights Movement,” with a duty to lead in ensuring the rights of everyone, “no matter their race, sexual orientation, religion, or gender identification.” (randallwoodfin.com)

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