Alabama Senator Doug Jones claimed having a gay son has impacted his views on LGBTQ rights in a Wednesday Senate meeting.
Jones’ son, Carson, spoke with INTO in November about his father’s upset win over Roy Moore in the 2017 election, and in the interview, he addressed his sexual orientation publicly for the first time. The 22-year-old said his parents were supportive after he came out to them in a blog post following the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling legalizing marriage equality.
“I love you,” his mother told him in a text message.
In a series of comments first reported by the Washington Blade, Jones affirmed his support for Carson. The first-term Congressman told the LGBTQ newspaper that he “expressed unconditional love and wanted to make sure [his son] knew that.”
“[A]t that point, and it was just pretty much that simple,” Jones said.
The former prosecutor, who became the first Democrat to represent Alabama in the Senate in more than two decades following his 1.5-point victory, claimed his son’s coming out impacted his stance on equality. Jones said it “would be misleading” to suggest that having an LGBTQ child didn’t have an influence on his policies.
“At the end of the day, a lot of this is so personal,” the politician told those gathered.
Jones also cited, however, the wave of same-sex marriages in Alabama which followed the Obergefell decision as motivating his allyship. He referred to the “love” and “happiness” that reverberated in the LGBTQ community as “just phenomenal.”
But having a family member whose life was impacted by the ruling meant the issue hit home.
“Everything affects you, but obviously a child affects you more than anything else,” Jones continued. “I’m happy to do that, I’m happy to be there to defend himwhen he can be defended, as we always say, when he can be defended.”
Many have hailed Jones’ victory as a rejection of bigotry in one of the nation’s most deeply conservative states.
Moore has mounted his career on opposing basic equality for LGBTQ people. The former Alabama Supreme Court justice, who was ousted for attempting to block same-sex marriages, called for homosexuality to be criminalized, claimed transgender people don’t have rights, and compared marriage equality to slavery.
After losing the November race, Moore posted a link to an article in The Advocate on Carson Jones’ coming out, and the Republicans followers proceeded to attack him.
Although INTO spoke to Senate hopeful Neil Rafferty on Wednesday about how Alabama is evolving on LGBTQ rights, the elder Jones believes his former opponent is a reminder that the state has a lot of work left to do.
“There’s been some things that are just the opposite,” he said when asked if Alabama is progressing.
The Yellowhammer State has been able to stave off an HB 2-style bathroom bill, which stalled in the legislature last year. But Republican Gov. Kay Ivey signed a law into effect last year allowing religiously based adoption and foster care agencies to discriminate against gay couples if placing a child in their home would conflict with their faith beliefs.
But one issue that’s close to Jones’ heart is federal data collection on hate crimes against members of the LGBTQ community. He claimed that local law enforcement agencies often don’t survey this information due to “fear of social backlash.”
“It’s an issue that I think needs to be addressed,” Jones said.
The politician claimed that he hopes the issue of hate crime reporting gets greater attention as LGBTQ rights become more accepted in the Deep South.
But as to whether the increased media attention on his son’s sexual orientation has impacted their family, Jones assured they are doing just fine. Since the INTO interview with Carson Jones was published in November, he now counts 35,000 followers on his Instagram account. Carson recently posted a photo with gay Olympian Gus Kenworthy.
The Senator joked he’s “oftentimes more widely known as the father of Carson Jones,” saying his son is “rapidly becoming a legend in his own mind.”