Sen. Doug Jones officially announced that he plans to seek re-election to the United States Senate in Birmingham last Sunday, Sept. 8.
Rep. Terri Sewell, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin, actor Michael O’Neill and Jones’ wife Louise Jones took the stage as guest speakers prior to the Senator’s appearance.
“I am still as convinced today as I was in 2017 when I announced my candidacy for the Senate that the people of Alabama have more in common than divides us,” said Jones to a crowded room in the B&A Warehouse.
Jones touted his efforts to “bridge the partisan divide”, citing his work to include protections for farmers impacted by the Chinese trade war in last year’s farm bill, secure more funding for historically black colleges and universities and provide more funding for rural broadband.
“All of that could not have been possible without bipartisan efforts and reaching across the aisle,” said Jones.
Jones garnered national attention for his victory in the 2017 Alabama Senate special election against Republican challenger Roy Moore, winning 50 percent to Moore’s 48.3 percent.
The race is expected to be in the spotlight as Democrats seek to win a majority in the Senate. Some credit Jones’ victory to the sexual abuse allegations made against Moore in November 2017. These allegations cited sexual abuse against several women in the 70s.
Moore announced in June that he would again challenge Doug Jones for the Senate in 2020, claiming that “false tactics” used by “Democratic operatives” led to the demise of his last campaign.
Other Republican candidates that have announced include Rep. Bradley Byrne, Secretary of State John Merrill, State Rep. Arnold Mooney and former Auburn University football head coach Tommy Tuberville.
The JSU College Republicans hosted Roy Moore, the Republican candidate for Alabama Senator, on Sunday, September 24 at Houston Cole Library as part of his campaign. The speech came two days prior to his victory over President Trump’s endorsed candidate Luther Strange in Tuesday’s Republican primary run-off election. The Senate seat was left vacant by Jeff Sessions after Trump appointed him to the position of U.S. Attorney General.
Moore stated that “Washington is watching this election and attempting to control the vote in Alabama” and said that he believes the opposition against him is because he is “not part of the establishment.” Moore claimed that there is “a lot of fighting between parties” and that “nothing is getting done.” He stated that Trump’s agenda has stagnated but that with his victory, he could help repeal the Affordable Care Act and help the fight against “illegal aliens” coming to the country.
Moore said that despite threats against him and his family and slanderous ads paid for by the Luther Strange campaign he has run no negative ads against his former opponent.
In his speech, Moore stressed the importance of the limits of the Supreme Court and other governing bodies imposed by the Constitution and argued for smaller government. He claimed that the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage changed the definition of marriage and that is was not within the Court’s right to do so. Moore went on to compare the Supreme Court and its interference with “God-given law” to the genocide of people who wore eye-glasses during the reign of Pol-Pot and the Khmr Rouge in Cambodia.
“The government is out of control” said Moore. His promise is to keep the government restricted to their powers given by the Constitution and preserve the Christian ideals this nation was founded on.
Moore stated that the government is trying to “flip the 1st Amendment so that God has nothing to do with it.” He claimed that “God gives you the right to disbelieve” and that without a Christian government we could have an alternative like an “Islamic form of government.” According to Moore, there is “no law against free exercise of religion and fulfillment of our duty to the Creator.”
The JSU College Republicans are a “fast growing political group dedicated to giving conservative students on campus a greater voice.”
According to the group’s vice president, Coleman Amason, the group contains “many different beliefs, just like any political organization should.”
Amason said the group does not endorse any one faction of the Republican Party.
“We stand for the obvious intentions this nation was founded on, like personal liberties, freedom from despotism and tyranny, government accountability, fiscal conservatism, freedom of speech and a much smaller government,” Amason said.
The group does not take public stances on issues that the party may be split on due to the differences of opinions within the group. The College Republicans meet every second and fourth Tuesday in Brewer Hall room 213 at 7:00 p.m.
“It wasn’t easy getting Roy Moore to come speak at JSU,” said Amason. “Our president, Jesse Battles, did a great job making sure every precaution was in place for the event.”
Amason’s personal response to the speech was that it was “one of the best he’s ever given.”
“Judge Moore consistently recited historical documents from America’s founding from memory, all while tying those documents into his unwavering faith in the U.S. Constitution,” Amason said.
Wesley Brewer, a 21-year-old sophomore at JSU who attended the speech said, “I did not appreciate the repetitive moral stance he took on almost every issue.”
Brewer agreed with parts of Moore’s speech, too: “I agreed with his ideals on the Constitution and its goal on limiting power to the three branches.”
Brewer appeared to have a moderate stance stating that he has mixed feelings if Moore is elected to the Senate.
“Although he stands for limited power,” said Brewer, “his moral stance may be a conflict of interest while in the Senate.”
Other students disagreed with Moore, such as Noah Davis, a sophomore and president of the Secular Student Alliance.
“The thing I disliked most about Moore’s speech was his reasoning behind his claim that America is a Christian nation,” Davis said. “He cites the parts of the Constitution where God is mentioned but does not recognize that all references to a creator are made to define the freedoms of individuals as rights given at birth and not to define the law.”
“The thing I took away from the speech was that his arguments were fallacious,” Davis continued. “He claimed that the Constitution is often misinterpreted by people, especially the Supreme Court justices, but his interpretation is right based on the sole interpretation of someone that agrees with him.”
The Secular Student Alliance is dedicated to secular advocacy on campus and in the community as well as a support system for atheists, agnostics, and skeptics. The group meets on Monday night in Martin Hall room 202 at 6:30 p.m.
Roy Moore, also known as “The Ten Commandments Judge,” has been the subject of controversy since he was ousted from his position as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.
In 2003, Moore was removed from office by a judicial ethics panel after refusing to remove a 5,000-pound monument of the Ten Commandments from the Supreme Court building. He ran again and won in 2012 but was again under scrutiny of the same ethics panel after defying a federal court ruling on same-sex marriage. He resigned in April of this year to focus on Sessions’ vacant Senate position.
Moore sparked controversy days before his JSU appearance with this quote: “Now we have blacks and whites fighting, reds and yellows fighting, Democrats and Republicans fighting, men and women fighting. Who’s going to unite us? What’s going to bring us back together? A president? A congress? No. It’s going to be God.”
This quote sparked backlash as his use of the terms “reds and yellows” was seen as racially insensitive to Native Americans and Asians.
Moore’s Democratic opponent in the December 12th general election is Doug Jones, a lawyer and politician who has been involved in prominent court cases such as the Monsanto case in Anniston and the last trial of those the bombers of 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham.
I was a student at Jacksonville State in the early eighties. While at JSU, I wrote for “The Chanticleer,” joined Sigma Nu Fraternity, appeared in three plays, and bartended at The Red Rooster Pub. Despite all this activity, it was a lonely time for a young person trying to come to terms with his identity as a gay man. Because people assumed I was straight, they often aired their worst prejudices about gay people through vulgar jokes and hateful statements. Luckily for me, I found pockets of support even in those dark times.
When my fraternity brothers found out that I was gay, they were supportive even though the previous year, they refused to let someone else join when they discovered that he was gay. I also found support from teachers at the school. When one of my friends went trembling to Opal Lovett, the sponsor of “The Chanticleer,” to tell her that he was gay, her simple reply was, “I kind of thought you were.” Dr. Steve Whitton offered support though the diversity of assignments offered in his class. It was in one of his courses that I read “Boys in the Band” for the first time. My first trip to a gay bar was as part of a field trip organized by some of the sociology professors.
Through my friends in the drama department, I was lucky enough to meet Steve Hightower, a.k.a. Stephanie Towers. As Stephanie, Steve was probably one of the most famous drag queens in all of Alabama and was also a student at JSU. With Steve’s help, I gradually formed an entire group of gay friends who supported each other in what was often a very hostile environment.
Recently, I have seen positive changes for LGBTQ people with regards to the climate at JSU. I noticed that sexual orientation and sexual identity are now included in the school’s non-discrimination policy. I saw with amazement the lights of the school library light up in rainbow colors in honor of Gay Pride Month. I read that the JSU Democrats joined in celebrating Gay Pride through a statement of support. I discovered the formation of a LGBTQ alumni association and the creation of JSU Students for Equality.
With all of these positive changes, I was even more dismayed when I saw that the JSU Republicans invited gubernatorial candidate Roy Moore to speak. I believe fervently in free speech, and the Republicans have every right to invite anyone they want to appear before their group. However, the choice of Moore, while certainly attention grabbing, will only serve to show that this group is on the wrong side of history.
CNN recently reported that Moore “has appeared multiple times on a radio show hosted by a controversial pastor who preaches that the biblical punishment for homosexuality is death.” If this pastor, Kevin Swanson, were just perpetuating the negative stereotypes of the past, that would be bad enough, but instead Swanson is fostering a climate of hate and putting LGBT people in harm’s way by encouraging violence against them. By appearing on Swanson’s radio show, Moore is endorsing this hatred and violence. Even without the controversy involving Swanson, Moore’s own past statements violate the non-discrimination policy of JSU.
I can certainly understand the dilemma for administrators at JSU who are forced to choose between an opportunity for students to hear from one of the leading contenders for governor and the need to ensure that all of JSU’s students are provided with a safe environment free from hate and violence. In my opinion, more speech is always better. I believe that nothing moved the LGBTQ movement forward more than the awful hate speech of the now deceased Baptist preacher, Fred Phelps. When straight people saw their own homophobia reflected in the horrible words and deeds of Phelps, they immediately began to change. This is all easy for me to say because I won’t be in danger at JSU from people on campus who hear Moore and feel justified in their bigotry and prejudice.
In the end, the invitation to Moore can only serve to portray the Republicans of JSU in a negative light. This invitation will place this group in the same category of other misguided, Alabama political movements. Unfortunately, we only have to look at the example of George Wallace. Even though he apologized for his prejudice and hatred before his death, he will always be remembered as the racist governor of Alabama. By inviting Moore, the college Republicans run the risk of always being remembered as the group that supported homophobia.
Editor’s Note: Randall Fair is originally from Weaver, Alabama. He attended undergraduate school at Jacksonville State University earning a Bachelor of Science in Education with a concentration in Language Arts. He later got his Masters of Education in English at Georgia State University, then got a Specialist of Education Degree and Doctorate in the Philosophy of Teaching and Learning. He has been teaching English in the Fulton County School System for 26 years. – Bio courtesy of Emory University and Randall Fair
Since last Monday, same-sex couples in Alabama have seen their hopes and dreams realized by being able to receive marriage licenses in their home state. However, Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore has taken his stance against the issue by theoretically standing in the courthouse door.
As the state prepared over the weekend for a stay on a federal ruling against Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban to be lifted, Chief Justice Moore was preparing a decree for probate judges around the state to stand up against the ruling. Late Sunday night he announced his order to judges and media around the state.
Judge Moore ordered probate judges to refrain from issuing marriage licenses to samesex couples based on the fact that they are responsible for adhering to state law, not federal law.
Unfortunately Judge Moore’s order disregarded the U.S. Constitution, which explicitly places federal rulings as the law of the land.
Yet, his plea was adhered to by a handful of probate judges around the state. Early on Monday, most probate judges were denying same sex marriage licenses based on Judge Moore’s order.
By the end of the day, most probate judges had been pressured to begin issuing the licenses. In Calhoun County, the probate court denied couples their licenses citing and even handing out copies of Judge Moore’s order.
However, by Tuesday, Calhoun County’s probate court and others were issuing the licenses. Even in Etowah County, Moore’s home county, the probate courts were issuing licenses to samesex couples without question.
Moore has uniquely positioned himself at the center of this debate in Alabama. In fact, he is being compared to Alabama Governor George Wallace who stood in the schoolhouse door at University of Alabama in the 1950s in an attempt to block integration of state schools.
Now, looking back most Alabamians have realized the reality of Wallace’s actions at the time, and changed their minds. It is safe to say that in decades to come, history will look back on Moore’s attempt to defy federal rulings equally as out-of-touch with the scope of the realities of federalism.
Moore’s argument has been that the federal judge operated outside the extent of her authority when ruling against state law. However, as a constitutional judge she is tasked with making sure state laws adhere to the U.S. Constitution.
Many, including Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, wished the U.S. Supreme Court would rule on the issue and extend the stay on the federal judge’s ruling. However, on the same day that the stay was lifted, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the state’s request to extend it.
This, in effect, made the federal judge’s ruling the law of the land. As the highest court in the United States, the Supreme Court effectively said the ruling was fair based on their interpretation of the U.S. Constitution.
In Moore’s defense, I am sure he believes that he is operating on the right side of the law, or at least of morality – and that argument can be made. However, in this nation, federal law always trumps state law, and Moore is limited in his ability to change that effect.
This Monday, February 9, many same-sex couples were lined up outside probate offices all across Alabama, with the hopes of finally being able to be wed. In Calhoun County (and many other counties) however, those hopes were crushed—temporarily.
U.S. District Judge Callie Granade overturned Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban on January 23, ruling it unconstitutional. Two days later, she placed a stay on the ban, giving state legislatures the chance to take the issue to the circuit court, which took no action regarding the matter.
The U.S. Supreme Court then denied a request that would have extended the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. Sunday night, Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore ordered probate officers around the state to refuse to issue or recognize same-sex marriage licenses. For many, it is unsurprising that Moore voiced his biblical views again after the dispute about the Ten Commandments display forced him to leave his post.
On Monday morning in Calhoun County, Probate Judge Alice K. Martin upheld Moore’s orders.
“We were prepared to give licenses this morning… We will follow court orders, but this is a direct order to me, and I am just trying to follow the law. We will be prepared to give licenses as soon as we hear from the next court order,” she said to all the same-sex couples, supporters, and those opposed.
This, of course, disappointed Calhoun County residents Vicky Miles and Melissa Angle, who were at the probate office two weeks ago hoping to get a license.
Miles said, “We are still going to try here in our county—this is our home.”
Another couple expressed similar feelings; Alisha Gordon and Teresa Smith were also in line to receive a marriage license.
Gordon, dressed in a bridal veil said, “I’m very disappointed, and a little angry! We’ve been together eleven years. We feel like since this is a federal law, we should be following it.”
The couple, along with at least five other couples, then left the Calhoun County probate office to travel to Bessemer, where they were wed.
There were several others who were happy about Judge Martin’s decision to uphold Justice Moore’s order.
Josh Weldon stood at the probate office in support of marriage being defined as one man and one woman.
“We are not here out of hate; we are here out of love. If this were hate, we wouldn’t be telling them this is wrong,” said Weldon.
Brett Skinner, another supporter of traditional marriage, said, “God bless Alabama for what just happened.”
Cassidy McDougale and her girlfriend Shelby Youngblood were among the group of JSU students that attended this event in support of same-sex marriage.
“A lot of change is gonna be with our generation, so it is important for us to be here to show that. But, it is also important for older generations to be here supporting this cause as well. This is a human rights issue, so everyone should be involved,” said McDougale.
Jessica Forbus also attended and she was happy to support the same-sex couples that were here.
“Especially in this county, it is important for people to be here supporting. It is important to show that there are gay people and they are here. They aren’t out hiding in the dark, and we need to support them,” Forbus said.
Forbus returned on Wednesday after Alabama Governor Robert Bentley stated that probate judges across the state would not face punishment for issuing same sex marriage licenses.
Judge Martin personally called Miles and Angle Tuesday evening and told them that they could come back to the probate office in the morning and get a legal marriage license. Martin had a written statement prepared for those who came back to the probate office Wednesday morning.
“While I am of the opinion an Order with further instruction to the Probate Judges is necessary,” Martin wrote, “that has not been forthcoming, and the Supreme Court’s decision, by a 7 to 2 majority, has been the ultimate deciding factor in my decision today to issue marriage licenses to same-sex applicants.”
Calhoun County joined one of about twenty counties across the state of Alabama to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. It is expected that an official decision regarding the state as a whole will be made over the course of the next few weeks.