The Agenda

Out lawmaker Patricia Todd helps pass pro-gay bills in Alabama

Openly lesbian Alabama state Rep. Patricia Todd helped usher two pro-gay bills through the Alabama House of Representatives on the same day earlier this month. While Todd’s presence in the legislature has been called “transformative” by Equality Alabama Executive Director Danny Upton, the legislation now moves to the state’s Senate where one of the bills is scheduled to be voted on today.

The bill scheduled to go to a vote today would add sexual orientation to the state’s hate crimes law. The other bill, which passed unanimously, aimed to reduce bullying in schools.

The hate crimes law passed by a vote of 46-44, with a pivotal vote being cast by Republican Rep. Pat Moore. Moore sits behind Todd in the House chamber and broke party lines to pass the bill.

“She’s very open-minded and is not someone who always votes along party lines, and I don’t either,” Todd told the Southern Voice. Todd called Moore a friend but said she wasn’t sure if their friendship influenced her vote.

The Southern Voice reported that a quiet campaign to pass the bills was effective. The paper reports:

Todd and gay activists conducted a mostly stealth campaign to pass both bills, “depending on the relationships we’ve built in the legislature the last couple of years,” said Todd, who was elected in 2006.

“When [the hate crimes bill] came up in the House, nobody spoke,” Todd said. The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Alvin Holmes (D-Montgomery), waited until just before the bill was introduced to alert his key supporters that it was pending with the hopes of preventing conservatives from rallying against the bill, Todd said.

Opting for a quiet strategy over media campaigns and constituent mobilization allows gay rights proponents to make progress without conservative lawmakers enduring serious political pressure in their districts, Todd said.

“I think most lawmakers are not strongly opposed to [the hate crimes] bill — they just don’t want to be called out on it,” Todd said. “I hope the national groups will step back and take a look at how we’re operating, and be open to having a little bit more ammunition in our arsenal.”