HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – When accepting the nomination for the democrat gubernatorial candidacy Tuesday night in Huntsville, Parker Griffith made a point to distinguish himself from his opponent.
Of incumbent republican Robert Bentley, Griffith said “The playing field is level, except for our ideas. The public has a real, real clear choice. I’m for Medicaid expansion; I’m for a lottery for education; I’m for creating jobs – he’s not.”
After announcing his first order of business as governor would be to hold a special session to expand, reform and retool Medicaid, Griffith delved into Alabama’s need for an image and ideology makeover.
“We have got an administration right now that’s interested in turning the clock back. It’s about nostalgia politics: ‘can’t we go back to the good old days when everybody knew their place?’,” Griffith chided.
“Alabama is presenting an image to the rest of the nation that they are anti-women, anti-hispanic, anti-blacks and anti-business.”
As he spouted off a list a groups he says are marginalized in Alabama by default – there was one group not mentioned out loud by Griffith – but certainly implied.
Implied by way of the man standing directly to the right of Parker as he addressed supporters.
The man who before his address, Parker pulled up to the mic stand saying, “I want him up here.”
A gay man. A local gay activist and advocate, in fact.
The man standing next to Griffith wearing a rainbow-colored Alabama lapel pin aside his ‘I Voted’ sticker: James Robinson, founder and executive director of Huntsville’s GLBT Advocacy & Youth Services, Inc.
The question, naturally, is why? And maybe, what Alabama public figure in his right mind – given our state’s social political climate and stance on issues like gay marriage – would align himself with a GLBT advocate in the midst of a gubernatorial bid?
Well – it seems Parker Griffith would.
“It’s a very new relationship,” explains Robinson. “I was interested and I approached Dr. Griffith, sat down with him and had a very open conversation with him about my activism and the fact that I work for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer community. I talked to him about the fact that the Alabama that he is going to be governor of is going to be a different Alabama than it is today.”
Griffith told Robinson he wanted to be the governor of all Alabamians. Robinson then asked if he could join Griffith’s team to which the candidate responded in the affirmative. Robinson was recognized for his work fighting bullying during the February 19, 2012 14th Annual Vigil for Victims of Hate & Violence in Montgomery. He’s now taken his advocacy to a new, more visible level in an alliance with Griffith.
“I was very honored when he pulled me aside and had me stand beside him as he did that interview – it was amazing,” says Robinson.
Robinson was brought on as a Constituency Director for the Griffith campaign – specifically for the GLBT community.
“It means that I will be helping Dr. Griffith understand issues that are important to this community and other often overlooked minority communities that we don’t always think about,” Robinson said of his new role.
Robinson want to help ensure all Alabamians have a voice at the table, so to speak
“Dr. Griffith is someone who will listen to you,” Robinson ensures. “He will listen to your concerns, he will have the conversations with you – and that is much more than has happened in Alabama in the past and it has to be the Alabama of the future.”
So, looks like in addition to espousing sweeping changes in Alabama’s approach to healthcare, education funding and job creation – Parker Griffith is making a concerted effort to show he concerns himself with the way we treat people in this state. From women, to Hispanics, to blacks – and even the gay community.
“I was respected,” Robinson finishes, “I don’t believe for a moment that we will all agree on every issue in any way whatsoever but this is the future of Alabama and it is our hope – it is Dr. Griffith.”