Alabama's Homophobia Costs a University $15 Million


A gay couple who are both devoted alumni of the University of Alabama have scrapped their plans to bequeath their multimillion dollar estate to the school. Elliott Mitchell and Clark West, who donated $1 million to the school a decade ago, say they can’t support a state institution while a same-sex marriage ban remains in place.

A federal judge recently affirmed that Alabama’s ban on gay marriage—like every other ban on gay marriage—is unconstitutional, but some local judges are still declining to issue marriage licenses. The state’s Supreme Court has insisted the ban is constitutional.

In an interview with, which we saw via Raw Story, Mitchell and West said they had planned to give their estate, worth an estimated $15 million to $18 million, to Bama when they both die. A few years ago, they told AL, they’d reached out to the university about creating a community outreach center partly for LGBT students and got “little response.” In 2013, they say, they wrote a letter to Bama president Judy Bonner and the school’s Board of Trustees explaining that they were withdrawing their estate bequest.

Not only are the state’s politics unfriendly to LGBT people, they wrote, but the university had done little to even advocate for a better dialogue about LGBT issues:

We understand the conflict of well-intended people struggling to find balance with this issue. But, we also realize there is no support in the legislature or initiatives at the University to create a dialogue. Instead, there is a very strong and continued effort by the state and the majority of its citizens to exclude this group in every way possible.

They added:

You are welcome to share our situation with anyone you believe will be helpful in encouraging Alabama to provide equality to all its citizens. You have done it before and you can do it again. We do not want anything from you, just a recognition that all decisions have consequences.

Mitchell and West said they didn’t get a response from the school about their letter either. And in light of the recent tussling over marriage rights, they say they’re standing by their decision. In a statement to today, Alabama’s President Bonner thanked the couple for their loyalty and generosity to the school and said she’d “enjoyed several opportunities to talk with them, especially about the progress we have made regarding issues that are important to them.”

The couple, who now live in Florida, say they’re not sure they’ll ever spend another night in Alabama.

Shanté Wolfe, left, and Tori Sisson, right, wait in February 2015 for their marriage license to be processed before becoming the first couple to file their marriage license in Montgomery, Ala. On Tuesday, March 3, 2015 the Alabama State Supreme Court ordered the state’s probate judges to stop issuing marriage licenses to gay couples. Image via AP.

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