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Alabama LGBTQ+ Groups Plan March at State Capitol to Support ‘Freedom of Expression’

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By Ryan Michaels

The Birmingham Times

Central Alabama Pride (CAP), a non-profit organization advocating for LGBTQ rights will march with a number of other groups Tuesday in Montgomery to protest bills proposed by Republican-majority Legislature that CAP says criminalizes freedom of expression.

“Drag Me to the Capitol” will take place at the Alabama Capitol Building located at 600 Dexter Avenue in Montgomery on Tuesday, May 16 at 11 a.m.

Gina Mallisham, vice president of CAP, said legislators are attacking Alabama’s transgender community in sports, education, training, public conversations, and spaces; and now through Drag Bans “as a means to criminalize freedom of expression.”

HB401, introduced on April 27, would ban drag and gender-oriented materials in K-12 public schools, libraries and public places where minors are present. It would also make it a misdemeanor to expose minors to drag and gender-oriented materials in other venues with fines of up to $10,000 or up to one year in jail.

“Provocative and controversial art and entertainment has always been a test of our commitment to free speech in this country,” said Mallisham, “…we have to oppose any type of censorship …[for] the same reason why we can’t allow the majority’s morality and taste to dictate what others can look at or listen to or talk about or teach.”

Josh Coleman, President of Central Alabama Pride, said HB401 “is an outrageous attack on freedom of expression and the vibrant culture of the LGBTQ community in Alabama. Drag performances have long been a source of empowerment, resilience, and unity for our community, and banning them is an affront to our fundamental rights,” Coleman said. “Additionally, in its haste to assault the LGBTQ community, the Alabama Legislature has drafted a bill so broad that it could criminalize a day at the beach. This crusade to legislate subjective notions of morality threatens the liberty of every Alabamian.”

Coleman added that “passage of HB401 would send a dangerous message to our community that our rights and dignity are disposable. It is our duty as a society to stand up for the rights of all citizens, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation. We must reject this bill and work towards a more inclusive Alabama.”

Mallisham also pointed to HB261 which the CAP official referred to as the “anti-trans collegiate sports ban”, the bill relating to two and four-year higher education institutions, that would require trans athletes to participate only on teams that align with their sex assigned at birth.

The march is about more than gathering in Montgomery, Mallisham said. “It’s about actually addressing our elected officials and letting them know who they represent…there’s definitely a lot of young people who feel like they’re not being heard, but they are, and we are going to lead them into a future where they can feel comfortable as leaders, so we can stop this generational curse of the elders’ unwillingness to pass the baton.”

For more information on Central Alabama Pride, visit www.centralalabamapride.org.