Soon after a federal judge struck down Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban last Friday, Rep. Patricia Todd—the state’s first openly gay legislator—took to Facebook to criticize her conservative colleagues’ reaction to the ruling. Specifically, Todd expressed her disgust with anti-gay legislators who promote “family values” while they themselves conduct extramarital affairs, and suggested she would reveal the names of these cheating legislators if they continued to gay-bash. Todd quickly became a celebrity among marriage equality advocates and the center of a media frenzy. When I spoke to her on Wednesday, she had already given 30 interviews that day.
What inspired you to write the initial Facebook post?
Friday when we got the decision from the federal judge, I was ecstatic and none of us were prepared. As the news rolled out, a couple people made some disparaging comments about gay folks and gay families. That’s what inspired me to write the post. In hindsight, I should’ve worded it differently. My intent was to put them on notice: If you’re gonna get up there on the moral high horse and talk about family values, as if gay families don’t have any values, I’m gonna challenge you. The rumor mill of Montgomery is pretty strong about who’s having an affair with whom. This happens with every state capital. If I hear from multiple people about the same person having an affair, something must be there.
But in hindsight, I don’t want to out people like that in the public. First of all, they could sue me for libel. Second, think about the impact it would have on families. I’m sure that’s not how they want to hear about it. I guess that means I have better family values than my opponents do. [Laughs]
How many of your colleagues do you have dirt on?
Four or five.
Will you tell me their names?
Not unless they say something really derogatory. They’ve gotten the warning. Be careful what you say here. I don’t mind if you want to debate the issue on its merits. But if you start talking about morality, then I’m gonna start citing some examples of immoral behavior on the part of Republicans.
Have your constituents been supportive?
Oh yeah. I’ve gotten tons and tons of [supportive] emails. And I’ve probably gotten 200 friend requests on my Facebook page. Then I’ve gotten some really nasty comments. The [gay marriage opponents] never say, “I disagree with you on this issue.” They say I’m gonna go to hell, I’m gonna be the destruction of the world, blah, blah. They’ve been pretty nasty. I’ve posted a couple of them on my Facebook page. I’m saving them all. Overwhelmingly, though, it’s been supportive. People are tired of hypocrites.
Does any of the hate mail disturb you? Or piss you off?
None of it pisses me off. The crazier they are, the more they make me laugh. The ignorance of people who cannot argue the merits of the issue. They resort to attacking me. Someone called me an ugly, fat lesbian who couldn’t get a man. I’m like, Really, that’s all you got?
The federal court’s ruling is currently stayed, and may remain that way until the Supreme Court rules on the issue in June. If the justices rule in favor of marriage equality, do you think Alabama will bend willingly to the decision?
[Laughs] They won’t do it. There will be pushback. We’ll do the same thing as when blacks got the right to vote. They’ll try everything they possibly can to put up roadblocks.
And how will you fight back?
I’ll keep talking. The amount of people who really come out in support of [gay marriage] is amazing in this state. I think they’re ready to show their support. We’ll mobilize people. Get the vote out. Bombard [representatives] with phone calls and email. Some of them might actually learn there’s somebody in their family who’s gay.
Any last thoughts on the firestorm you’ve created?
It’s so interesting to me that there’s been a media frenzy over this comment. I think it’s about time somebody stood up and said—Now wait a minute, I’m not gonna take this any more.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed.
Want to hang out with Outward? If you’ll be in or near New York City on Feb. 3, join June Thomas, J. Bryan Lowder, and Mark Joseph Stern—and special guest Lea DeLaria of Orange Is the New Black fame!—for a queer kiki at the first ever Outward LIVE show, hosted by City Winery. Details and tickets can be found here.