"Keep Your Church Out of My Crotch"
"Abstinence is so gay"
Those were some of the slogans on a screen in the backdrop during Dr. Maigen Sullivan's presentation of the so-called "Invisible No More: Alabama's LGBTQ History" program last month at the Alabama Department of Archives and History (ADAH).
That event drew backlash from many, including lawmakers who are now targeting $5 million in ADAH funding allocated in the state education supplemental budget passed by the Alabama Legislature earlier this year.
State Sen. Chris Elliott (R-Josephine) has pledged to file legislation that would strip the funding during next week's special session on redistricting.
During an appearance on this week's broadcast of Alabama Public Television's "Capitol Journal," Steve Murray, the director of the ADAH, downplayed any political aspects of Sullivan's presentation.
"It was very much a traditional talk in the way of a speaker coming in who has done research on a topic and presenting that historical research in a way that is very consistent with our long-standing pattern that really approaches just about every topic under the sun in Alabama history," Murray said, who was in Europe at the time of the presentation.
"So, this wasn't some big Pride Month celebration," "Capitol Journal" host Todd Stacy said. "It was literally history and a discussion of that history."
"That's right," Murray replied. "Looking at primary sources in history — what's available about these efforts decades ago of people in Alabama — these were people who lived here who were starting to create organizations within that community, and looking at the lives of some notable Alabamians who happen to be LGBTQ and some of their contributions to society."
"And that's one of the questions I asked Senator Elliott," Stacy said. "Isn't that part of our fabric? Isn't that part of our history? I understand there are some political issues there, ideological issues there. But that is a legit part of the fabric and conversation of Alabama history."
"It is, and we see that specifically within the realm of our historical work as one of the state's historical agencies," Murray said. "An opportunity to look broadly at the state's history and to be sure we're serving all of Alabama's citizens, all of its taxpayers in a way that means that — you know, we cover a lot of territory in any given year. This one hour happened to be dedicated to this particular topic that we think is a legitimate historical inquiry. It wasn't about contemporary political issues."
Despite Murray's claim, Sullivan did make overtures during the June event for her audience to be engaged on LGBTQ issues.
Watch a clip from IHP co-founder Maigen Sullivan's recent presentation with the Alabama Department of Archives and History. Preserving this history is urgent and necessary. Thank you to all the folks sending us love and support right now. We couldn't do this without y'all. pic.twitter.com/5uVhCzeiPZ— Invisible Histories Project (@iHPSouth) June 21, 2023
"We’re being obliterated," she said. "We’re being intentionally erased, and we have to fight back against that.”
"That's why they are silencing us, that's why they are banning us, and that's why they are rewriting our histories right in front of our face(s), and we can't let them do that," Sullivan also said.
In remarks given to Alabama Political Reporter, Sullivan acknowledged there was a sexual component to the presentation she gave at the Archives.
“However, it is about sex I don’t think we should shy away from that,” she said. “Just as much as genealogy, or we’re talking about the heir to the throne, children or marriage or anything is about sex, because that is who we are as people. This event was also not for children. It was an archive. I mean, how many kids do you know go to a lunch and learn at an archive?"
Jeff Poor is the editor in chief of 1819 News and host of "The Jeff Poor Show," heard Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-noon on Mobile's FM Talk 106.5. To connect or comment, email jeff.poor@1819News.com or follow him on Twitter @jeff_poor.
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