The special election on Tuesday for a seat to represent Alabama in the U.S. Senate has risen to national attention amid allegations of sexual misconduct by Roy Moore — and many in the LGBT community see an opportunity to defeat him after enduring his anti-LGBT hostility over the years.
Moore, who has a long career as an attorney and judge in Alabama, has faced accusations of sexual misconduct from nine women since he secured the Republican nomination to run for Senate.
The most prominent is Leigh Corfman, who said Moore sexually assaulted her in 1979, when she was 14 and he was 32. Another, Beverly Young Nelson, said when she was 15 in 1977 she received unwelcome attention from Moore. Nelson said one year later Nelson, sexually assaulted her.
Moore has denied engaging in sexual misconduct, but offered contradictory responses on whether he knows the accusers and didn’t dispute dating teenagers who were above the age of consent.
The allegations of sexual misconduct have made a seat in deep red Alabama competitive. Although polls have produced different results, Democratic nominee Doug Jones has a shot at winning the election. A former U.S. prosecutor, Jones gained notoriety by leading the government’s case against two perpetrators of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing.
These accusations have propelled Moore to the national spotlight and shaken up the special election, but Moore is already well known in the LGBT community for his hostility toward LGBT rights, even at the expense of abandoning the rule of law.
Upon the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of marriage equality in 2015, Moore called the decision “an immoral, unconstitutional and tyrannical opinion” and instructed Alabama state judges to ignore federal rulings in favor of marriage equality.
Last year, Moore issued a directive saying despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision for same-sex marriage, probate judges should still deny marriage licenses to gay couples because the Alabama Supreme Court never withheld its 2015 ruling upholding the state law against gay nuptials.
For encouraging state officials to defy federal courts, the Alabama judicial court suspended Moore for the remainder of his term from the Alabama Supreme Court, determining Moore “failed to uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary.” (It wasn’t the first time Moore was suspended from the bench. It happened in 2003 when he refused to remove a monument of the Ten Commandants from the Alabama Judicial Building.)
After he started his run for U.S. Senate, a tape emerged from 2005 in which Moore said same-sex relationships, which were illegal in many states just two years earlier before the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Lawrence v. Texas, should be criminalized.
“What I think is that it was illegal under the law, that the Supreme Court usurped the role of the legislature and ruled something about our moral law that is improper, and that’s what we’re finding the Supreme Court and the federal district courts are doing today,” Moore said at the time.
As such the Democratic Party — along with LGBT advocates — see the competitive race as an opportunity to pick up a seat and to take a stand for LGBT rights.
Lane Galbraith, a transgender activist in Mobile, Ala., said he sees the connection between those who continue to support Roy Moore amid the allegations and opponents of LGBT rights.
“The people who are supporting Moore are the very same people who were attacking transgender men and women on the bathroom issue,” Galbraith said. “This is the sad, brainwashed thinking of many Alabamians. And even more sad that the backwards justification of supporting Moore comes from religious false teachings of God’s word. It is a very sad and disgusting state of affairs that Alabama has a pedophile running for a Senate seat in 2017.”
But Galbraith demurred when asked if he thinks Moore will lose the race as a result of the sexual allegations against him.
“If Roy Moore wins it will be damaging to Alabama,” Galbraith said. “Let’s just say we’re praying for a miracle.”
Many LGBT observers predict that a win for Moore in the U.S. Senate will be tantamount to a revival of late Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina, who endorsed homophobic policies during his tenure in Congress.
Amid sexual assault allegations, Moore has sought to rehabilitate his image by bolstering his anti-LGBT bonafides in a state that remains in many places hostile to LGBT rights amid growing acceptance nationwide.
Late last month, Moore spoke at the Magnolia Springs Baptist Church and blamed the sexual assault allegations against him on LGBT people, according to a Buzzfeed report.
“They’re liberals. They don’t hold conservative values. They are the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender who want to change our culture,” Moore is quoted saying. “They are socialists who want to change our way of life and put man above God and the government is our God. They’re the Washington establishment…who don’t want to lose their power.”
When a federal judge ruled against President Trump’s transgender military ban, Moore called for impeachment on the grounds she exceeded her authority.
“To say that President Trump cannot prohibit transgenderism in the military is a clear example of judicial activism,” Moore was quoted as saying in the Washington Post. “Even the United States Supreme Court has never declared transgenderism to be a right under the Constitution.”
At a rally in Birmingham last month, Moore stood nearby supporters who hailed him for seeking to undermine LGBT rights, according to the Associated Press.
One supporter reportedly decried the “LGBT mafia” and “homosexualist gay terrorism.” Another admonished “homosexual sodomy” as destructive and another called same-sex marriage “a mirage” because “it’s phony and fake,” according to the report.
Fearing the loss of a Republican seat would undermine his legislative agenda, Trump endorsed Moore this week in a series of tweets on Monday after initially only hinting at support for the candidate by denigrating his opponent Jones. (Although White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was all over the place on Trump’s position on Monday, saying Trump endorsed because Jones “opposes his agenda every step of the way” and the race will “come down to the people of Alabama.”)
Among those who’ve endorsed Jones is the Human Rights Campaign, which has organized in Alabama on behalf of Jones. HRC President Chad Griffin took part in mobilization efforts in Alabama last month, estimating 60,000 LGBT people are in the state and could influence the election.
Nick Morrow, a spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, said his organization “was proud” to endorse Jones in this race and “to campaign and canvass for his pro-equality agenda and against Roy Moore’s dangerous, hateful policies and rhetoric.”
“Throughout this campaign, HRC organized phone banks, canvasses and community events to encourage Alabamians to make their voices heard and defeat Roy Moore, arguably the most anti-LGBTQ Senate candidate in modern history,” Morrow said. “HRC also ramped up a public education campaign that included yard signs, online ads, direct mail to educate voters about their choices in this year’s election.”