Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Alabama Lesbian Attacked by a Dozen, But She Alone Was Arrested

Laura Gilbert, lesbian injured in bar attack

Opelika, Alabama – A 25-year-old lesbian was assaulted by a dozen assailants outside a local bar after a birthday party last week in an alleged hate crime, but law enforcement officers arrested only her.  Laura Gilbert asserts that from the moment she went into The Villa, a bar on the outskirts of Opelika in Lee County, she felt uneasy. On February 2, Gilbert accompanied her friend from high school days, Sheila Siddall, to celebrate her birthday by singing karaoke.  Gilbert told WRBL News, “As soon as we walked in the bar, I felt uncomfortable, I felt everybody staring at us, but you know, it was her birthday, I didn’t want to ruin it for her.”  The victim says she had never been to the bar before, but had concerns that, as a lesbian, she would not be welcome there. Her fears were confirmed as the two women left the premises.  According to Gilbert and Sidall, a woman approached them and started a fight. The altercation grew to include a gang of ten women and two men.  One of the men shouted at Gilbert, “If you want to look like a man, you can get hit like a man!” Rather than being punched to the ground, Gilbert fought back to defend herself. Siddall immediately called 911, but the Lee County Sheriff’s Deputies who responded to the emergency call after the fight was over singled Gilbert out, arresting her for public intoxication and disorderly conduct. No one else has been charged or arrested. “They didn’t take our side of the story,” Gilbert told WRBL. “They took their side of the story, and then all of a sudden, they come up behind me and tell me to put my hands behind my back, that I’m going to jail.”  Though witnesses reported that many other participants in the attack were just as intoxicated as Gilbert, she was the only person charged and taken off to jail. The victim was badly bruised, and her eye was severely blackened in the assault, as photographs taken at the time attest. Now Gilbert and Siddall are pushing back, saying that the attack was motivated by anti-lesbian bias, and that this prejudice against Gilbert’s sexual orientation is the motive for law enforcement siding with the attackers.  Sidall, who is heterosexual, says that not only did the Lee County Sheriff’s Deputies neglect to take statements from her and her lesbian friend–the deputies were “laughing and cutting up” with the drunken perpetrators.  Sheriff Jay Jones says that the “hate crime box” was not checked off at the time of the incident, so that must mean that no hate crime occurred. Alabama, however, is one of only five states in the nation that has no hate crimes protections for LGBTQ people.  The Alabama hate crimes statute only recognizes bias against race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, or physical or mental disability.  Sexual orientation and gender identity and expression are not protected under Alabama law, so it is doubtful that law enforcement officers would have acknowledged an anti-gay or lesbian hate crime that would not count in the state.  Sheriff Jones, when questioned by WRBL reporters said that it was clear “something” had happened to the lesbian at The Villa, and belatedly offered to investigate further and issue warrants if he deems they are due. The Dallas Voice reports that both Siddall and Gilbert have since filed separate reports on the attack, but that no one in law enforcement has bothered to interview them. Gilbert,who is recovering from her injuries, summed up her situation to WRBL reporters: “I’m an American just like the rest of us are. I have rights. I have the same rights as y’all do, supposedly, but people from here don’t look at it that way.”  States without protections for LGBTQ people typically report far fewer hate crimes incidents than those that do have such hate crimes laws. Comparable states in population like Alabama and Connecticut illustrate the point.  In 2009, Alabama reported only nine hate crimes statewide. Connecticut, during the same period, recorded over 200.  The Opelika bar attack is stirring debate on the need for “Sweet Home Alabama” to expand its hate crimes protections so that its residents may be justly treated–finally.

February 8, 2011 - Posted by | Alabama, Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, Blame the victim, gay bashing, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Legislation, Lesbian women, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Slurs and epithets | , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. “States without protections for LGBTQ people typically report far fewer hate crimes incidents than those that do have such hate crimes laws.”

    Has the state of Alabama considered that this statement COULD be because there is NO law protecting LGBTQ individuals, which in turn means that NO statistic is COLLECTED for EVERY crime that is intentional because of sexual orientation or gender identity? Add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list and acknowledge those crimes and include them into the statistics and I can guarantee the state of Alabama will have a rising hate crime rate.

    Comment by Christopher Perkins | February 8, 2011

    • You do realize that was the writer who wrote that and not the state of Alabama, right? Also, that’s what they were saying. You’re not much on context clues, I guess.

      Comment by Brian Sclap | November 15, 2013

    • I think that was their point. Duh.

      Comment by C | November 16, 2013

  2. I’m not surprised by such a state as Alabama where ignorance is bliss for some that are closed mind and very ugly and old fashioned about a lot of things. Really this kind of hate is merely a scapegoat to hide one’s own inadequacies. And it’s clearly FEAR based as well.

    Then again, maybe that’s not the real issue in many of them small towns in Alabama where incestuous relationships are prevalent, heard and known, yet not spoken about publicly for the most part.

    This incident probably would not have went down like that where I reside in Long Beach, CA where there is a thriving political and gay friendly environment for the most part.

    I don’t think there are laws that protect just LGBQT persons, rather many states have “hate crime” laws on the books to some degree.

    Getting it enforced as well as trying to prove it is the challenge.

    Comment by JM | February 9, 2011

    • Google the string of attacks on gay males in Long Beach. I believe it says 5 in 10 days. I don’t appreciate your stupid Comments about Alabamians. Hate speech is hate speech, no matter who it is directed at. There is a strong LGBT population down here too!

      Comment by Liz | June 9, 2012

      • As a lifelong resident of Alabama, I take issue with your statements. The fact is many of us here, most people I know, wholeheartedly support LGBTQ rights, and I personally found this incident to be reprehensible upon reading about it. Unfortunately, legislation can be, and often is, behind the times when compared to other states, but I fail to see how that is an indication of state-wide ignorance, and certainly not of ubiquitous incestuous relationships. I would not be so foolish as to assert that ignorance and misguided viewpoints are non-existant in the state of Alabama, as I’m sure you would pay me the same courtesy regarding the great state of California. However, the generalizations made in your comment are simply unfair, unfounded, and untrue.

        Comment by Kyle | November 15, 2013

    • How do you have so much intimate knowledge about incest in Alabama? From movies?

      Comment by Elizabeth Potter Graham | November 16, 2013

    • I agree…this makes me embarrassed to live in alabama. Things like this make the term “trailer-trash” come to peoples minds when they think of alabama.

      Comment by killer1297 | November 17, 2013

  3. Uh, hello? Why does a state need a separate category of ‘hate crime’ to prosecute this? This is aggravated assault, pure and simple. Add to that abdication of duty by police officers – which applies whether the victim is LGBTQ or anything else. As far as I know, assault, perjury, and perverting the course of justice are pretty much universally recognised as crime whatever state, or country you happen to be in, and whatever the motive.

    I hope this woman seeks, and finds, justice.

    Comment by Maxine | February 10, 2011

  4. Wow, comment 2 illustrated the ignorance and unfounded assumptions of any type of bias, including the cultural and regional bias they were expressing. I’m a proud Alabamian and I’ve yet to meet an ‘incestuous’ couple. I have read headlines about pedaphilic fathers and mothers, but that is happening everywhere. So are beatings of LGBT citizens outside bars.

    California is a beatiful state. I have walked by the park just before you hit Santa Monica Blvd. and I’ve seen the filthy, hungry and homeless people laying there. Every state in this country is beautiful, and there are ugly people and events in each state. You are really not proving a point about unfounded hatred when you peel back your tan little California skin and reveal your own.

    Comment by Liz | June 9, 2012

    • Thank you for that Liz. :;)

      Comment by Daphne | November 16, 2013

  5. Not everyone in Alabama is closed minded I am a bisexual female in the state of Alabama yes there are ppl that live by the Bible and believe man and wife is the way to live then u have some that are complete assholes and start bar fights b/c they can and their town is so small they know every police officer old person and baby so they get away with stupid shit like this. Then u have the open-minded if that’s what u wanna do I support u type group which is who I place myself around I don’t live in small towns deep in Alabama I stay in the Birmingham area were if ur gay str8 or taken is fine…. some ppl should take a trip here we are not stuck in the 60’s it’s 2013 here just like the rest of the world….. as far as this story goes I hope she hits the bar and the city of opelika for every penny they have if u don’t agree with someone’s life style remember u don’t have to sleep with them! praying for her.

    Comment by kee | November 16, 2013

  6. I am from Alabama and yes the justice system Is corrupted from where im from I got ran over by a ambulance company they were at fault had to hire a lawyer who would not take it in front of the judge and jurers because he said im gay then my home burned not once but twice and the adjuster made slander gay slurs at me and the insurance company wasn’t going to fix my home then when it burned the second time the lawyer I had pretty much told me to take there offer which was not right with what I went through but my lawyer advice was take it because I was gay and if I went infront of the judge and juryers I would loose because in gay I recorded every conversation I had with him and the insurance company so they couldn’t deny it I was not treated like other tax paying people at all I was humiliated and everything was just taken from me as a person…

    Comment by Debbie | November 17, 2013

  7. why do we even need to categorize hate crimes? Is it so that people can feel special when they get are assaulted. When we as a nation look at crime for what it is, “a crime”. Whether it’s one man assaulting another man of another race or a man assaulting another man of another sexuality, it’s assault and should not hold anymore penalty.

    Another note: I read the entire article and felt it was extremely biased. We have the victim and her friend’s statements but nothing was posted or mentioned of statements by the attackers. Does anyone have an article claiming what may have occurred before their exiting the bar to cause them to want to assault her.

    Comment by Christopher Kimble | November 20, 2013

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