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Alabama Senate votes to change archives oversight after LGBTQ+ lecture

Feb 14, 2024, 5:15 PM

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The Alabama Senate voted Wednesday to put a politically appointed board in control of the Alabama Department of Archives and History, a change proposed after some lawmakers were upset about the department hosting a lecture on LGBTQ+ history.

State senators also approved legislation that would allow local government officials to dismiss library board members they appointed if they become displeased with their performance. Both bills now move to the Alabama House of Representatives.

The Archives’ monthly lunchtime lecture series last year included a June presentation titled “Invisible No More: Alabama’s LGBTQ+ History.” The lecture discussed topics ranging from the state’s first Pride march to the contributions of gay Alabamians.

Sen. Chris Elliott, the sponsor of the bills approved Wednesday, said a dozen lawmakers called the Archives urging them to cancel the lecture but the department went forward with it.

“This isn’t history. This is indoctrination,” Elliott said during debate. He said the change would ensure board members are responsive to elected officials. “I’m making sure that there is some accountability,” Elliott said.

Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton told Elliott that his bill appeared to be retribution because department officials didn’t change course when “big bad senator” called.

“I let history be history,” Singleton said.

The board currently has two members from each congressional district, two at-large members, and the governor. Board members are selected by a vote of the trustees and confirmed by the Alabama Senate. Current board members include famed civil rights lawyer Fred Gray, who is perhaps best known for representing Rosa Parks after she refused to give up her seat on a segregated Montgomery city bus in 1955.

Under the legislation, the board would be appointed by the governor, lieutenant governor and legislative leaders. The bill dealing with the Archives was approved on a 25-8 vote.

The bill related to local libraries is being debated as conservative groups in several states have tried to remove or restrict access to children’s books with LGBTQ content. Elliott said existing state law gives city councils the ability to appoint library board members but currently gives no mechanism for removal. The bill was approved on a 26-7 vote.

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Alabama Senate votes to change archives oversight after LGBTQ+ lecture