Sen. Doug Jones is a political outlier, a Deep South advocate in the Senate for gay and lesbian people.
Nary a social progressive had emerged from conservative Alabama to represent the state in the U.S. Senate until Jones, a Democrat, pulled off a stunning upset in December over the GOP hard-line conservative nominee, Roy Moore.
On the federal level, Jones has followed through on his support during the campaign for gay and transgender rights. On Tuesday, he became the 46th Senate co-sponsor of a bill to codify protections for gay and transgender people into civil rights laws, including the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
“I’d like to see it happen this Congress,” Jones told the Washington Blade at an event for gay and transgender Senate staffers Wednesday. “I doubt it will.”
Jones, whose son Carson is gay, is realistic about what Democrats can accomplish on LGBT issues while Republicans control both chambers of Congress and the Oval Office.
Back home, he is discouraged by what he sees as a shift in Alabama toward even more stringent opposition to LGBT rights than before.
“Nope” Jones said when asked whether he had noticed signs in Alabama of progress on the issue. “There’s been some things that are just the opposite.”
That Jones won a statewide race in Alabama in open and strong support of LGBT rights and gay marriage renders the result of his election even more shocking.
“I wanted to make that front and center in the primary campaign and for that to be an issue in the general election,” Jones said. “We made clear where the Doug Jones campaign was on all issues involving equality.”
The state government is overwhelmingly Republican and overwhelmingly against extending marriage rights to gay couples.
After Jones was elected, Alabama state legislators passed a bill removing the state and its judges from governing marriage so that judges who were ideologically opposed to gay marriage would not have to issue licenses to gay couples. Under the bill’s provisions, the state would scrap the licensing process altogether, and couples would file marriage contracts with the probate office.
The bill has not been signed into law.