I was nine years old and growing up in Spanish Fort, Ala. when then-Chief Justice Roy Moore was removed from the bench in 2003 for refusing to remove a marble statue of the Ten Commandments from the Alabama Judicial Building in Montgomery.
I was too young to pay much attention, but I remember a lot of fuss being made on the news. My parents explained to me what separation of church and state was, and why it was wrong of Moore to force Christian iconography into a government space.
I was 21 in May 2016, when Moore was suspended as Chief Justice for telling probate judges not to perform same-sex marriages, despite the Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges the previous summer. This time, however, I was fully aware of what was happening, and heartbroken.
I’d celebrated the Obergefell ruling with my partner in Florida the day the decision was announced. We laughed, we cried, we jumped up and down. We had never doubted our future together, but knowing for certain that we could someday get married made everything so much more real.
But back home in Alabama, things were falling apart. Government authorities were saying they would leave office before performing a same-sex wedding or issuing a marriage certificate to a same-sex couple. Many people from home, who I loved growing up and continue to love now, posted their disgust online, condemning the Supreme Court’s decision as the work of the devil.
There’s no way for them to know how much their words hurt me, and have made it hard for me to come home to visit.
I’ve moved away from the South completely, but frequently felt the need to explain Alabama within my social circles. For people in Chicago, life in the Yellowhammer State seems like science fiction–how could it possibly be real? Why would anyone even consider voting for this guy?
The thing is, I can explain the culture, and I can explain what people believe and where those beliefs come from, but I will never truly understand it. Not from where I sit as a bisexual woman who believes in God, but not that the Bible is the absolute truth, or that any group of people deserves to be relegated to second class. Not from where I sit as a person who does what Jesus commanded us to do in John 13:34to love one another fully, as Christ loved us. Not this “hate the sin, love the sinner” mess so often expressed to me.
I’ll never understand how people can commit to living in God’s image, and yet put party over His word. I’ll never understand how people can look at their friends and neighbors, who they say they love, and genuinely believe they are better. That they will leave their friends behind when they ascend into the kingdom of heaven. I’ll never understand how people can listen to the stories of Moore’s accusers and not believe them.
And yet, it’s happening. A strange Southern pride and too-strong party identification have merged with what it means to be a good Christian. Conservative values have become erroneously synonymous with Christian values. And while I don’t doubt the sincerity of their beliefs, nor do I believe that all conservative values are wrong, I firmly believe that Moore supporters are gravely mistaken in their choice.
But don’t count all of us Alabamians out. (And yes, it’s Alabamians with an “i”–I don’t know what that “Alabaman” word is.) I have seen more mobilization from Alabama Democrats than I think I ever have. Particularly in more liberal centers such as Birmingham and other college towns like Tuscaloosa, “Vote Doug Jones” is the talk of the town.
The national attention on little ‘ole Bama is making a lot of people take pause. Is a pause enough to get a Democrat in office? I’m not sure about that. But I’m hopeful. I’m hopeful that the people I love back home will vote based on the values I know they live by, instead of the values toted by a party. I’m hopeful that voters won’t sit passively by and let an alleged sexual predator and proven bigot take office. I’m hopeful that my home state will someday stop being the butt of late night hosts’ jokes because, I promise, it is a state with plenty of good people.
Sweet home Alabama, please do the right thing.
Image via Getty