Friday, August 25, 2006

Alabama Democrats defy democracy by moving to overturn lesbian's election victory

By Diane Silver

I want to write about my outrage over the effort to overturn the vote that should have put out-lesbian Patricia Todd in the Alabama Statehouse. This would have made her the first out gay person to serve in the that state's Legislature.

Saturday at 10 a.m. the Alabama State Democratic Executive Committee will meet to consider a party subcommittee's decision that took the first step to throw out that vote. The subcommittee said Todd's election should be overturned. It also decided to disqualify her challenger Gaynelle Hendricks.

As the national media like the New York Times, and the blogosphere enters the argument, I want to add my fury to the debate.

I want to write about my outrage over anti-gay bigotry, I want to scream about it, I want to get righteously angry. But that wouldn't be the right thing to do.

Anti-gay bigotry does appear to be part of the story, but not necessarily all of it.

I also want to write about how race entered into the effort to overturn the 59-vote victory of Todd, who is white, over her black opponent. I want to rail about how racial slurs may have entered the campaign in anonymously distributed fliers. I want to yell about how a variety of factors from legal to financial can keep blacks from facing a level playing field when they run for office.

But if I did that, it wouldn't be fair because that, apparently, isn't the whole story. It certainly doesn't take into account the anonymous fliers that called Todd a "confessed lesbian" -- as if being out is like being a murderer who confesses his crime.

What's really happening in Montgomery?

I think Pam over at Pam's House Blend may have put her finger on it today.
It's about party kingmakers, sore losers and race, with the added spice of gay demonization.
In a nutshell, she says the once predominantly black and poor district is undergoing gentrification, which is changing the demographics of the area. That is taking power away from folks like party vice chairman Joe Reed, who appears to be driving the challenge to Todd's victory.

I agree with Pam when she argues that gentrification and the displacement of the urban poor are vital issues to debate. However, I also agree that none of that is an excuse to overturn what is clearly a fair election.

The subcommittee spearheaded by Reed has trumped up charges against both Todd and her opponent. Reed allegedly did this despite the fact that the subcommittee's decision goes against state law. He allegedly did this the fact that subcommittee members making the decision have also violated the same rule.

Such a decision makes a joke of democracy. It makes a joke of the real issues concerning race, sexual orientation, poverty and gentrification. Most of all, such a decision is an insult to the voters of the district. This is the true outrage of this absurd situation.

I can only hope that tomorrow saner voices on the Democratic executive committee will prevail and throw out this ridiculous subcommittee decision.

For the best up to date coverage on the issue, see the Birmingham Blues blog.

If you don't live in Alabama and want to take action, see the Victory Fund.

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