Alabama vs. Georgia

by Brian Moniz

The two states on top of college football are at the bottom when it comes to LGBT rights.

Today is the day of the big College Football Championship game between Alabama and Georgia, and with most sports fanatics excitedly waiting in anticipation for the big matchup, we started thinking: What if we researched how gay-friendly these two states are? Both Alabama and Georgia have reputations for being especially slow in catching up to the rest of country when it comes to progress on civil and human rights, and neither state is particularly glorified for their pro-LGBT stances on much of anything. Let’s compare these two states on the day of their big game and see how they rank against each other.

Today, Alabama and Georgia rank in the bottom half of the country on trans rights (Georgia — 37, Alabama — 47), but when it comes to overall LGBT rights, gay marriage recognition, anti-discrimination laws, bullying protection in school for LGBT youth, gay adoption policies, according to the Movement Advancement Project, Alabama ranks dead last. Georgia ranks in the bottom five states along with Tennessee, Nebraska, and South Dakota.

Alabama is a state with 4.8 million people in it, with roughly 113,000 (or 2%) of them being LGBT. Georgia has 10.3 million people in it, with roughly 312,000 (or 3%) of them being LGBT. Both states are in the deep south, also known as the “Bible Belt”, where Christianity is deeply rooted in the culture and law-making, allowing many gay-discrimination policies (often sugar-coated as “religious freedom” laws) to maintain strong support among most of the locals.

Not all news is bad for the LGBT community in these two states. Birmingham and Mobile in Alabama, and Atlanta and Savannah in Georgia, are four cities that have at least some form of protection for gays in the workplace, and all four recognize gay marriage. Of course, none of these major cities are San Francisco or New York by any means, but they are, today, much more LGBT friendly than they were twenty years ago.

Cities are places where you have a multicultural experience because people are generally more diverse and tolerant. Businesses are more gay-friendly because they understand that LGBT people have money just like everyone else, and need goods and services just like everyone else. Big cities are where the jobs are, and employers are more likely to hire someone who has the skills for a position regardless of their orientation or identity. Another major factor that makes a city more attractive for LGBT Americans is the anonymity it provides. If you grew up in a rural town in the south with a smaller population, chances were that everyone knew who you were, and the bullying, violence, and harassment was much more rampant. To this day, Atlanta’s own motto has long been “The city too busy to hate.”

Alabama took a huge step in the right direction this past November when they rejected Roy Moore, who said that homosexuality should be illegal, and elected gay-friendly Doug Jones to Senate. Alabamians must have finally had enough of the country thinking everyone in that beautiful state is nothing more than racist, sexist, homophobic, ignorant rednecks when they used their election to show, “Roy Moore isn’t us!” Birmingham and Atlanta are leading the way in the south against prejudice when they say, “These homophobes don’t represent all of us!” Alabama and Georgia have a full plate in front of them, but at least in their major cities, they are showing an effort to move in the right direction.

It’s great that places like Birmingham and Atlanta are safe-spots for people in the LGBT community to live if they must reside and work in the south, but there is still so much more work to be done in Alabama, Georgia, and the rest of the country when it comes to protection from religious discrimination, wrongful termination at work over being gay or trans, violence and harassment, housing discrimination, and many other areas. It’s never going to be good enough to just have a piece of a state be progressive and tolerant, while the rest of it remains stuck in the past with hateful laws and prejudice, homophobic and transphobic policies being written into place. Alabama, Georgia, you can do better than this, I know you can!

About the Author:

Brian Moniz is a 29-year-old man from San Jose, Calif. He studied filmmaking and writing at San Jose State University from 2010–2013 and got his bachelor’s degree in Radio-TV-Film. Throughout his high school and college years, he worked as a music and movie journalist and critic. Having only recently come out of the closet himself in 2014, Brian enjoys writing about LGBTQ issues. His only regret when it comes to his sexuality is that he didn’t come out sooner. Read more by Brian here.