In May 2008, Birmingham’s then-Mayor Larry Langford stepped in it bigtime. He refused to sign a parade permit for Central Alabama Pride’s annual gay pride parade and refused to allow city workers to hang banners for the parade, things that Birmingham’s mayors had done happily for years. CAP sued, and Lambda Legal, a national lesbian and gay rights legal organization, intervened, and the city settled when a judge refused to throw out the suit against Birmingham. Even before the suit, Langford backed off the permit issue, saying his office didn’t deal with parade permits. After the settlement, the city agreed to develop fair rules for allowing city workers to hang banners.
“People that ask me, from outside of Alabama and outside of Birmingham, ask what its like being gay in Birmingham,” Don Mills, the first president of CAP and current events chair, told Weld last week. “Frankly, it’s never been a big deal. You are who you are and people are cool about that in Birmingham, for some reason.”
Gil Mobley, the current president of CAP, agreed with Mills.
“They are very supportive,” Mobley said. “We have no issues with the city whatsoever. We did before, but that doesn’t exist anymore.”
“With the exception of one mayor, we’ve had a great relationship with the city,” Mills said. “I think it’s just important that we get out there at least once a year and really remind people that we’re here and there’s still issues that need to be dealt with, because most of the time it’s pretty comfortable.”
Pride Week returns again in 2012, and the events this year are similar to past years. “We haven’t changed the schedule because people seem to like it,” Mobley said. However, Pride Week 2012 is spread over eight days — from Sunday, June 3 to Sunday, June 10 — rather than 10 days as it has been in recent years.
On Sunday, June 3, all previous Pride title holders are invited to participate in the Pride Title Holder’s Reunion show at Al’s on Seventh at 7 p.m. On Monday, CAP will host Birmingham AIDS Outreach’s monthly bingo game at BAO headquarters (205 32nd St. South) at 7 p.m. That event benefits BAO, and Mills said the event brings in a huge crowd for BAO.
CAP’s annual Cosmic Bowling Night is on Tuesday night at 9 p.m. at Brunswick Riverview Lanes.
“What we do is we actually rent the whole bowling alley from nine until 12,” Mobley said. “We usually pack it out. It’s been great.”
On Wednesday night, Parents, Friends and Families of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) of Birmingham will screen Love Free or Die, a documentary on Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church. That showing is at Edge Theater at 7:30 p.m. (wine and hors d’oeuvres at 6:45 p.m.) and tickets cost $23 ($20 in advance). That event will raise money for PFLAG.
Pride Skate is on Thursday at Skate280 at 7 p.m. In addition to the VIP party on Friday, Pride Week will also feature a Pride Dance at Covenant Community Church (2205 3rd St. NE, Center Point) at 7 p.m.
“The bowling event and the skating event are two events that everyone can come to,” Mills said. “It’s not just for adults,” Mobley said. The Pride Dance is also all ages, and no alcohol is allowed.
This year Pride Week will also feature a VIP party Friday night for sponsors (those who donate $100 or more) at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. BCRI was chosen for the reception because the institute is currently featuring an exhibition called Living in Limbo featuring photos of lesbian families in the South. That exhibition runs through June 10.
The week is capped off with two main events, a parade through Five Points South on Saturday evening and Pridefest, an all day celebration of gay pride at Sloss Furnaces.
The parade on Saturday starts on Highland Ave. at Temple Emanuel and runs about a mile, to the corner of 7th Ave. South and 24th St. South. It starts at 8:30 p.m. and lasts about an hour.
“There’s a lot of people that come out—we’ve had huge crowds for the parade every year,” Mills said.
Pridefest, on Sunday June 10, will feature performances by the Magic City Choral Society and the choir from the Covenant Community Church and local entertainment from a women’s band called Sudden Impact. The event is rounded out with shows from various bars in Birmingham, introductions of various community supporters and introductions of the kings and queens of local krewes. The Sunday event often draws around 3,000 people, according to Mobley and Mills.
“We’re going to try and keep Sunday as PG as we actually can,” Mobley said.
Central Alabama Pride is an all-volunteer non-profit organizaton, and they manage to put together eight days worth of events with no paid staffers. I asked Mills and Mobley why Pride Week was important to them and to the community.
“I think it’s important to carry on the tradition that started back when the struggle was really hard,” Mills said. “It’s still a struggle, but back in the early days there were people that started a tradition here, and I think it’s important to carry on the tradition and to try to keep moving the work forward. It’s a time when we can come out and celebrate without any kind of fears.”
“Pride Week is one that’s just for our community,” Mobley said. “Everything that we do for that is just for us, it brings us all together—the GLBT community. At no other single time during the year does that occur.”
“It’s a celebration, is what it is.”
If you’d like to celebrate with CAP, check out the organization’s website at centralalabamapride.org.