By MALLORY MOENCH
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama’s first openly gay lawmaker will head an LGBTQ coalition in Florida after her retirement this year.
Democratic Rep. Patricia Todd from Birmingham has accepted a job as the executive director of One Orlando Alliance, a coalition of LGBTQ organizations formed after the PULSE gay nightclub shooting in 2016.
“It’s the perfect match,” Todd told The Associated Press. “I love Alabama. Only an experience like this would take me away from here.”
In her new role, Todd will coordinate the 30 organizations in the coalition and train advocates based on her 12 years working as a lawmaker in the Alabama House of Representatives.
She said her main purpose will be to “continue to work to make sure we never have a PULSE tragedy again, that the queer community knows that we work to make sure every space is safe.”
A native of Kentucky, Todd has lived in Alabama since 1984. She built a career in activism before joining the legislature, heading human rights campaigns and organizations fighting against AIDs.
Over her 12 years as a legislator, Todd helped to pass a law to allow marijuana-derived medication for treating severe seizures. She unsuccessfully pushed to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, fully legalize medical marijuana and add sexual orientation as a protected category under the state’s hate crime law.
Todd said that she has told gay political candidates around the country that she was treated like anyone else in the Alabama legislature. Her colleagues gave her a standing ovation at the end of this year’s session.
“I have learned so much by being in the legislature,” Todd said. “It has made me a better advocate. I hope I’ve opened up some hearts and minds here and I look forward to the next adventure.”
Todd is supporting two other openly gay candidates running for the Alabama Legislature in 2018. Neil Rafferty, a gay former Marine who works with Birmingham AIDS Outreach, is one of three Democrats who are running for Todd’s seat. Todd is also supporting gay Democratic businesswoman Felicia Stewart, who is running against incumbent Rep. David Faulkner, a Republican, in one of the state’s wealthiest suburbs.
Todd retires in November, when her term ends. She will move with her wife to Orlando in a couple months.