U.S. Sen. Doug Jones told Senate staffers Wednesday that having a gay son has influenced his views on LGBT rights, reports the Washington Blade. Jones, a Democrat who is best known for beating Roy Moore in the special election for senator from Alabama, had left LGBT constituents happy that one of the nation's worst homophobes was not in Congress.
At an event hosted by the Gays, Lesbians & Allies Senate Staff, when asked about his son Carson's out and proud Instagram account, Jones said, "We've all seen it," adding that "it would be misleading" if he said it had no impact on his beliefs, because "at the end of the day, a lot of this is so personal."
"Has it affected me? Absolutely," Jones said. "Did my representation ... of a probate judge in Jefferson County whom we defended when Roy Moore tried to shut him down giving marriage licenses? That affected me too." Moore, as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, had urged state officials to ignore federal courts' marriage equality rulings and had taken many other anti-LGBT stances.
Although Jones didn't emphasize LGBT rights in his campaign to represent a conservative state, he has defended transgender rights. "Everything affects you, but obviously a child affects you more than anything else," Jones said at the event. "I'm happy to do that, I'm happy to be there to defend him -- when he can be defended, as we always say, when he can be defended."
In this case, he defended his child against Roy Moore's bigotry. "Ultimately we were going to be running against someone in Alabama who was as far from equality as you could possibly get," said Jones. "I wanted to make that front and center in the primary campaign and for that to be an issue in the general election. We made clear where the Doug Jones campaign was on all issues involving equality."
Jones had come under fire by conservative Alabamians for a video of him expressing support for transgender rights, in opposition to Donald Trump revoking the Obama administration guidelines that protected transgender students from being forced to use restrooms that did not match their gender identity. He also spoke out against banning transgender people from serving in the military.
"We had the campaign trolls, or whatever it is, get me on camera, video," Jones said. "Some people got a little bit concerned about how it's used, and I said, 'Why? I answered the question about transgender people in the military honestly, the way I think, and so, what the hell? We shouldn't be worried about that.' And so we never pulled back, we never backed off."
Jones promised the staffers that he will seek to advance LGBT rights by fighting to institute nondiscrimination protectsion for queer people in federal law through the Equality Act. "That will be a challenge," Jones explained. "If that will happen, it will rank right up there with the Obergefell [marriage equality] decision. I'm a cosponsor of that. I'd like to see it happen this Congress. I doubt it will."
He also plans to encourage data collection on homophobic and transphobic hate crimes. The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act allows the Justice Department to collect data on acts of that nature, but Jones believes that on the state and local level, governments are hestitant to do so out of "fear of social backlash, political backlash."
"I think the challenge is going to be keeping people energized and motivated," Jones emphasized. "There is an incredible amount of energy out there. I think it started with women; I think my race had generally a lot of enthusiasm of many folks, including African-Americans. All of a sudden, people realized elections have consequences and every vote can count, every vote can count."