The battle between the Alabama Department of Archives and History (ADAH) and lawmakers continues after ADAH director Steve Murray sent a letter to lawmakers defending last month’s event celebrating LGBTQ+ history in the state.
After the event, State Sen. Chris Elliott (R-Josephine) announced plans to sponsor a bill to revoke $5 million in funding from the department over the event's sexual content.
In an email to members of the Alabama Legislature, Murray attempted to explain the event's details and describe what effect removing the funds would have on the department.
According to Murray, the June program, titled "Invisible No More: Alabama's LGBTQ+ History," was "consistent with the mission of the Archives."
Murray further said that state-supplied funding was only used for a small portion of the associated costs.
"The only direct costs associated with the program were a speaker stipend and mileage reimbursement, both paid by a competitive grant from the Alabama Humanities Alliance using federal funds," Murray said. "State dollars pay for the operation of the building, the salaries of staff, and the costs associated with promotion—printing, email, the website, etc."
Murray attempted to clarify the event's purpose, specifically in light of Elliott's proposed bill.
"The Archives respects the authority and responsibility of the Legislature to appropriate funds as you see fit," Murray said. "We hope you will make an informed decision, based on familiarity with the June 15 program and awareness of our agency's commitment to integrity and service in the promotion of evidence-based history."
In response to Murray's letter, Elliott expressed further displeasure with the event's content and the talks given by sundry speakers.
"Despite serious concerns expressed by at least nine Alabama legislators about the content of a program focused on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, Pansexual and Two Spirit individuals, the Alabama Department of Archives and History and its director has intentionally and knowingly engaged and promoted controversial topics where the underlying topic is sex, types of sex and with whom one has sex," Elliott told 1819 News. "The program included images with phrases like 'keep your church out of my crotch' and 'abstinence is so gay.'
"These are not topics suitable for discussion at the Alabama Department of Archives and History. Director Murray's letter doubles down on the program and defends its content which the presenter herself contends "…it is about sex. I don't think we should shy away from that." In his letter to legislators, Director Murray also missed an opportunity to distance himself from his presenter's comments that lawmakers discussions about adjusting ADAH appropriations are 'fascist.' It is incumbent on the Alabama Legislature, in next week's special session, to send a clear message that these types of conversations are not appropriate in the Alabama Department of Archives and History and that bureaucracies should listen to legislators and respect the people that we represent. It is clear from Director Murray's letter that this message has not yet been received."
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