In a stunning political development celebrated by LGBT rights advocates, Democrat Doug Jones defeated notorious homophobe Roy Moore in an Alabama special election Tuesday for a U.S. Senate seat.
According to New York Times estimates, Jones, a former U.S. prosecutor, won 50 percent of the vote over Moore, who has a long career as an attorney and judge and who captured about 48 percent of the vote. Major media outlets called the election for Jones at 10:25 p.m. EST.
Jones told supporters in Birmingham after his win he thinks he’s “been waiting for this all my life, and now I just don’t know what the hell to say.”
“I have always said that the people of Alabama have more in common than what divides,” Jones said. “We have shown the country the way that we can be unified.”
Jones gave thanks to the black community in Alabama, which had a large turnout widely seen as a major factor in his win, as well as Latinos. Jones also wished his Jewish friends a “happy Hanukkah.”
Concluding his remarks, Jones said Alabama has often been at the crossroads of U.S. history, but voters that night “took the right road.” The audience chanted “U-S-A! U-S-A!”
Jones pulled off a stunning win against Moore in a deep red state that President Trump won by a handy margin in 2016. Jones is the first Democrat to win statewide election in Alabama since 1992.
Endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign, Jones has expressed support for LGBT rights. The senator-elect was caught on camera telling a supporters the Trump administration was “wrong” to have rescinded Title IX guidance assuring transgender kids access to the school restrooms consistent with their gender identity. Further, Jones said Trump’s transgender military ban was “wrong.”
Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement the election demonstrates “attacking and demonizing the LGBTQ community is a sure-fire way to get yourself beat on Election Day.”
“Doug Jones’ victory in Alabama is monumental, and was made possible by the overwhelming and unprecedented, grassroots resistance of ordinary Alabamians against the politics of hate and division,” Griffin said. “From our victories in North Carolina, Virginia, and now in Alabama, equality voters have proven that LGBTQ people and our allies are a voting bloc to be respected, sought-after and feared by candidates on both sides of the aisle.”
Moore faced accusations of sexual misconduct from nine women over his campaign, including three accusations of sexual assault, which likely affected Alabama voters.
The most prominent accuser was 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 Moore sexually assaulted her. Other women accused of him pursuing inappropriate relationships with them when they were teenagers.
Moore was already well known in the LGBT community for his hostility toward LGBT rights, even when it meant abandoning the rule of law. Many LGBT observers predicted a Moore win would have been tantamount to a revival of late Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina, who championed homophobic policies during his tenure in Congress.
After he started his run for the 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.
On the day of the election, CNN reporter Jake Tapper questioned Moore spokesperson Ted Crockett if the candidate still believes homosexuality should be illegal. His response: “Probably.”
Asked what the punishment should be, Crockett replied, “It’s just a sin, OK? That’s what it is.” Pressed further, Crockett said, “It’s what my Bible tells me. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament.” (Although the Old Testament calls when a “man lies with a male as with a woman” an “abomination,” the admonitions in the New Testament on homosexuality are sometimes seen instead as prohibitions on male prostitutes and pederasty.)
“That’s what this is about,” Crockett added. “You people want to take the whole two or three thousand years of our history, and ya’ll just want to throw it out the window as if you’re just going to make your own rules, your own man-made rules, and do whatever you want in sin. And that’s part of the problem we’ve got in Washington, D.C., today.”
Lane Galbraith, a transgender activist in Mobile, Ala., said the election results were a step forward for his state.
“Alabamians can hold their heads high,” Galbraith said. “We overcame white supremacy, bigotry, ignorance and religious oppression.”
The most prominent part of Moore’s anti-LGBT record was his opposition to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling for same-sex marriage. 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 Commandments from the Alabama Judicial Building.)
Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, said the defeat of Moore is a “great day for Alabama.”
“We’ve seen through the demagoguery of a man who has been kicked out of office twice for putting his religious beliefs above the U.S. Constitution,” Cohen said. “We’ve seen through the hypocrisy of a man who has preyed on young girls while suggesting that gays and lesbians should be executed in order to protect children from them. It’s a great day for every person in Alabama who rejects bigotry and values the rule of law.”