Alabama

Some Other News from Around the Deep South #9

Welcome, once again, to “Some Other News Around the Deep South” – this, the ninth installment of my periodic look at news stories from the region that may not have gotten so much attention. This installment is admittedly a little Alabama-heavy . . .

While the nation has been watching state-level marriage-equality bans fall like dominoes in the courts, many people may not have noticed that an Alabama court debunked one of the state’s vaguely related legal statutes. In mid-June, Alabama’s so-called “gay sex law” was struck down by a state appeals court, a result of the Williams v. Alabama case. Alabama’s “gay sex law” made oral and anal sex illegal, even when it was consensual— because everyone knows that heterosexual people don’t do those things . . . According to al.com’s coverage of the story, the state’s criminal code on the issue included the fact that “consent is no defense to a prosecution,” which is what the court found to be unconstitutional. Lawyers for the state did attempt to keep the statute on the books by asking the court only to strike down the wording above, but their request was denied. Within a few days, Alabama’s attorney general Luther Strange declared that the courts had made the wrong decision. According to al.com:

Strange said the law needs to remain on the books because “the sexual misconduct statute is an important tool to protect homosexual and heterosexual victims from nonconsensual sex.”

Given the state’s propensity for maneuvering around modern reforms, this matter may not be over just yet.

Moving on to another story you wouldn’t really expect to hear coming out of Alabama: also in mid-June, a white professor at historically black Alabama State University filed a lawsuit against the school’s administration for racial discrimination. The Montgomery Advertiser‘s story on the case explains that Dr. John Garland is “contending that university officials have retaliated against him and his gay partner after they complained about the university’s racially discriminatory practices.” He has claimed in the suit that, after speaking up, he was demoted and given a salary reduction, was taken off the school website, and was moved to an office without sufficient resources. In addition:

Garland’s partner, Steven B. Chesbro, who, according to the suit, is the only dean at ASU not designated as African-American or black, has filed a discrimination complaint against ASU with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and also contends he has been retaliated against by university officials.

Moving east but staying in-state, in early June the Columbus (Georgia) Ledger-Enquirer reported a brief story about a billboard near Auburn’s Village Mall that featured a quote openly attributed to Adolf Hitler, a Bible verse below that, and a row of smiling children with arms around each others’ shoulders. Wait— What? Apparently, a group based in Opelika called Life Saver Ministries ran the billboard, though its name did not appear on it. The article quotes the group’s founder as saying, “We are a children’s organization and had honorable intentions and nothing less.” The billboard was taken down very soon after it was put up.

Once again in mid-June, a “gender non-conforming” teenager in South Carolina drew the attention of the news media when the DMV told him that he had to take off his make-up for his driver’s license picture. According to the CNN.com story, Chase Culpepper went to take his driving test back in the spring and passed it, but when it came time for his picture:

The employee told Chase he couldn’t wear “a disguise” and didn’t look “like a boy should,” the teen told the affiliate.

Culpepper, a boy who typically wears make-up and girls’ clothing, is receiving some assistance: “The Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund is now asking that the DMV allow Chase to retake his photo.” So far, I haven’t seen any stories about whether the South Carolina DMV has yielded to the request.

This last story was all over social media, and though the mainstream nedia seemed to be having none of it, I couldn’t resist. According to a report from a local TV station in central Georgia, WMAZ, a man in Macon accidentally gave himself a particularly unseemly wound when he was putting his .45 in the holster. Their brief story explains that the man initially didn’t realize the specifics of his injury  . . .

When he got to the friend’s house, he took off his pants and saw that he had “shot himself in the penis and that the bullet exited out of his buttocks.” The spent round fell onto the floor.

Uh . . . well . . . after that he went to the hospital— and I genuinely and sincerely hope that he’s OK now. I really, really hope he’s OK.

That’s the skinny on new from the Deep South that may have escaped your notice. Since the TV and newspaper folks seem to hold their focus on a few key issues – politics, crime, economic development and charity fundraisers – it’s easy to miss these kinds of human-interest stories that get only a brief mention between the coverage another political stalemate and another burglary . . .

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