Yesterday voters in Alabama did something many thought impossible. They rejected Republican Roy Moore, left, a Christian fundamentalist, in favour of a pro-gay, abortion supporting Democrat, Doug Jones, right, for the US Senate.
The stunning result was nothing short of an embarrassment for President Donald Trump and a disaster for Republicans in Washington as the reliably red state of Alabama elected its first Democratic senator since the early 1990s.
According to the Guardian, Cal Zastrow, a friend of Moore who had come down from Michigan to volunteer for the campaign, tried to frame the results within a bigger picture.
I was cheering for him and supporting him but Jesus is wonderful whether Roy Moore wins or loses.
And, clearing lying, he added:
I’m not distressed. I’m not discouraged. Jesus is wonderful.
At Jones’ election night party hundreds of supporters, many waving signs, erupted in cheers at a hotel ballroom in Birmingham when, on giant TV screens, CNN declared the race for the Democrat. There were hugs, smiles, tears and chants of “We want Doug!” The raw emotion was evident.
John Parker, 26, a bartender, said:
I think it’s astounding and unprecedented in Alabama politics, and a response to what we’re seeing nationally. This is a direct response to President Trump. Roy Moore is unfit for any job, let alone [that of] a public servant. Alabama tonight voted for America.
Caitlin Barringer, 29, who works in healthcare, said:
We finally have a person who will represent all of Alabama. I can’t believe it’s taken this long for people to realise that Roy Moore is not what he says he is.
Looking at the media crews in the ballroom, she added:
I’m thankful everyone from all over the world is here and Alabama has shown we are so much more than closed-minded people.
LGBT communities in Alabama were especially jubilant over the Moore’s defeat. Last month, ahead of the election, Moore stood shoulder to shoulder with his staunchest religious allies at a rally in Birmingam, Alabama, to trash homosexuals.
This, from the Chicago Tribune:
Flanked by a huge sign for Moore’s Senate campaign, one supporter railed against the “LGBT mafia” and “homosexualist gay terrorism.” Another warned that “homosexual sodomy” destroys those who participate in it and the nations that allow it. And still another described same-sex marriage as “a mirage” because “it’s phony and fake.”
The gathering was designed to send a powerful message to the political world that religious conservatives across America remain committed to Moore, a Christian conservative and former judge whose Alabama Senate campaign has been rocked by mounting allegations of sexual misconduct.
The paper added:
The event also revealed an aggressive strain of homophobia rarely seen in mainstream politics — in recent years, at least.
Moore’s stand — combined with the fiery comments from his supporters – unnerved some in Birmingham’s relatively small LGBT community.
Said Mackenzie Gray, a 37-year-old who came out as transgender in 2010, said:
My fear with the religious leaders and the hateful rhetoric we’re hearing is that it’s going to start escalating into something even larger. It’s dangerous.
The state has been slow to embrace gay rights: 81 percent of voters supported a ban on same-sex marriage in 2006. Only neighboring Mississippi, with 86 percent, scored higher.
Patricia Todd, above, the state’s first openly gay state representative, says she has faced at least four death threats in recent years. One woman called Todd’s cell phone and vowed to kill her and her family, she said, noting that local LGBT leaders meet quarterly at the FBI office in Birmingham to help identify potential hate crimes.
It’s been brutal, but it’s gotten to the point where I just laugh at them.
But she’s wasn’t laughing at Moore.
It’s awful because he says the most hateful things.
In contrast to many conservative politicians with national ambitions, Moore made little attempt to change his tone on LGBT issues as equal rights for the gay community earned increasing acceptance among mainstream America.
Moore’s hero status among many Christian conservatives was cemented in 2016 when, as the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, he refused to comply with a Supreme Court ruling that legalised same-sex marriage nationwide. He was later suspended, the second time he was forcibly removed from the state Supreme Court.
Among those who supported Moore at the Birmingham rally was Rabbi Noson Leiter, above, who once called Hurricane Sandy’s destruction “divine justice” for same-sex marriage. He lashed out at:
Homosexualist gay terrorism. We need Judge Moore to stand up to the LGBT transgender mafia. We need someone with a proven record of facing off against the gay terrorists.
Another Moore supporter, Texas Christian activist Steven Hotze, warned in 2015 that children would be “encouraged to practice sodomy in kindergarten” as a result of same-sex marriage.
North Carolina-based Christian activist Flip Benham, who last year warned in a Charlotte City Council meeting that the policies that protect the civil rights of transgender people would trigger “bloodshed coursing down the corners of our streets”, said at the rally:
We’re praising everything that God says is wrong and will destroy you. Homosexual sodomy destroys those who participate in that behavior and nations that approve of it.
Benham then turned to Moore, who was sitting a few feet away with his wife and said:
You got the applause of heaven.
But, thankfully, this vile bigot did not get the what he and Trump wanted most: an endorsement for the Senate by Alabama voters.