Officials with a national group advocating for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people announced at Birmingham’s Vulcan Park Wednesday the organization’s first state director for Alabama.
The position is part of the Human Rights Campaign’s Project One America, which seeks to expand LGBT equality throughout three Southern states — Mississippi, Arkansas and Alabama.
HRC officials say the three states were chosen because they were least served. Each of the three states have no state protections for LGBT people concerning employment, housing or public accommodations, they said, and voters in each state passed a constitutional amendment prohibiting gay marriage.
Leaders of the Human Rights Campaign say Project One’s 20 staff members will advocate for more inclusive workplaces, more legal protections and more accepting communities for LGBT residents.
“We can't allow the rising tide of equality to leave anyone behind,” said Brad Clark, director for Project One America, at the press conference.
According to an HRC release, the project will have 20 staff members and an $8.5 million budget over the next three years.
Taking the state director position for Alabama is Ashley Jackson, who until recently served as an LGBT liaison at the Montgomery-based Southern Poverty Law Center, a national civil rights organization.
Jackson, originally from Brandon, Miss., co-founded the Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition. The youth-led nonprofit group holds training sessions for students and faculty concerning the best ways to make schools safer for children and teens perceived to be gay or lesbian.
Jackson’s new office will be based in Montgomery and will have two full-time staff members, a field organizer and a faith and religion field organizer.
Jackson said the staff’s first goal will be to connect with people already serving in the community. She said they plan to meet with community leaders as well as churches and organizations throughout the state to discuss how HRC can accomplish its goals in Alabama.
HRC officials on Wednesday also announced the results of an online survey of LGBT Alabamians, with more than 1,100 participants. The survey, conducted by the progressive firm Anzalone Liszt Grove Research, found many respondents reported experiencing discrimination at their workplaces, schools, churches and public establishments.
“I can be kicked out of a restaurant because I'm a lesbian,” Jackson said. “Or my gay friend can be fired from his job, or a transgender person can be kicked out of their apartment for being who they are or for whom they love. That is not right, and that is not the Alabama I love. But life doesn't have to be that way here, for anyone in our community.”