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Opinion | What’s love got to do with it? Everything

At election time the bigotry really surfaces, becomes part of million-dollar ad campaigns, and stirs even more hate into Alabama’s long-broken political and moral systems.


My “daughters” live in San Diego, Calif. They are not literally my daughters. My wife and I call them our “dajas.” It’s a long story, and I won’t tell it all here. But it started after Nicole “adopted” us when she was a scholarship volleyball player at UAB back in 2004.

Nicole got a marketing degree, lived and worked in Birmingham for several years, then moved back to her home state of California. She and Sara Kate met each other, fell in love, and they’ve been married since 2018.

But if Veronica and I had daughters, I’d want them to be just like Nicole and Sara Kate. Both are educated, fiercely independent women, successful, and living their best life in the nation’s eighth-largest city. They have a huge support network through their friends and, at least on Sara Kate’s side, understanding and full acceptance from family.

They live in the Hillcrest neighborhood of San Diego; one they call the “Gayborhood.” Lots of homeless folks stroll through the streets. Some make camps right on a corner, until San Diego’s finest move them along in a few days. Like most cities, San Diego has a homeless challenge and crime.

And, like many neighborhoods, they also have supermarkets and restaurants, ethnic and otherwise. Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, McDonald’s, brew pubs, and 7-Elevens are nearby. Schools are in the mix as are auto shops and daycare centers and banks and law offices. Single-family homes and apartment-condominium complexes are knitted together into a vibrant, diverse community.

Prices are high, even without the inflation we’re seeing today across the country. Yet, there is hardly a better place to live from my perspective, if you want to have lots of amenities, an active nightlife within walking distance – and you can afford it.

Not only is Hillcrest home to a significant number of gay and lesbian men and women, but also an unusually large number of LGBTQ+-owned businesses that cater to everybody.

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Birmingham’s Five Points South neighborhood is the closest we’re likely to see in Alabama, and it’s not even close.

I was in San Diego last week because my dajas are having a baby, and I was invited to a baby shower. Sara Kate is carrying Isla Ray, a baby girl due on Aug. 18. It’s all very normal, like any two people establishing their lives, falling in love, growing their family. Veronica and I will be one set of Isla’s grandparents.

There was an election primary in California last Tuesday, so of course the television was full of political ads. Not once did I see a commercial, even from the most conservative, far-right Neanderthal, bashing the “Gayborhood” of Hillcrest San Diego. Not once were my daughters and their friends the target of derisive attack-ads designed to belittle their lives to boost some closed-minded, pompous politician’s hate-filled agenda.

On the Republican side in the big races in Alabama, gay, lesbian, and transgender people were open targets for bullies like Tim James and Lindy Blanchard (both big vote losers, by the way). But even more “reasonable” Republicans – or, at least, who some of us at first believed to be more reasonable, like Kay Ivey and Katie Britt – couldn’t help themselves picking on people different than they are. To be certain, immigrants and the LGBTQ+ community were their targets.

Britt not only jumped on the kick-the-gays-while-they’re-down bandwagon, but she also runs sappy (awful) commercials announcing she doesn’t want control over her own body. Imagine, a woman – any woman – not believing she should have the same rights as, say, me.

Britt would prefer some man, who wrote some law, to tell her what decisions she can make about her own health. She has no respect for the reproductive rights of women. She says “life begins at conception,” but even the Bible she and other Republicans regularly thump has different perspectives on that.

And the Bible is a faith document, remember, not evidence; it offers as “proof” only itself (and maybe the greedy pleas from some wealthy evangelical cult-overlord with a private jet and a million-dollar mansion).

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We can’t get over the hate in Alabama. Our history is full of it. And not just from uninformed, ignorant individuals who are going to hate something, no matter what. Including themselves. You see, hate for others always starts with hate for self.

Our government has time and again codified such hate. Most every time, after long, expensive battles in the courts, Alabama loses badly. And looks even more ugly.

We know many Alabamians aren’t like this. They don’t care who is having a baby, who might need to interrupt a pregnancy, who has access to a public school they can attend where they won’t be ostracized for who they are. They’re not concerned with who loves whom, and they generally dislike the bullies.

At election time, though, the bigotry really surfaces, becomes part of million-dollar ad campaigns, and stirs even more hate into Alabama’s long-broken political and moral systems.

I wonder (not really) what Britt, Mo Brooks, Ivey, Blanchard, James, and so many other Republican think-a-likes would say about my daughters’ profound love, of their being married, and, now, having a baby.

I’m sure in their bibles, it’s an abomination. You know, like eating shellfish and pork and wearing particular styles of clothes.

I’m certain to my God, though, it is love. Only love.

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Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column each week for the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.



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