Tim James, a Republican candidate for governor of Alabama, is paying to air a campaign ad showing the faces of LGBTQ students. After the ad started airing, the minors have been targeted by strangers for hate speech.
The ad, called “Genesis,” attacks transgender rights by discussing University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas (who James calls a “man in a woman’s bathing suit) and Justice-designate Ketanji Brown Jackson refusing to define the word “woman.”
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Then the ad shows pictures of students at the Magic City Acceptance Academy (MCAA) in Birmingham holding a drag fundraiser. MCAA is a charter school that promises an “LGBTQ-affirming learning environment” for students who “have dropped out, are not thriving at traditional schools.”
James showed a picture of students’ faces at a drag show that students put together and called the school “the first transgender public school in the South” that is costing “millions of your tax dollars.” The school says that fewer than 10% of its students are transgender, and most students aren’t LGBTQ at all.
“Enough of this foolishness,” James says in the ad. “I’m Tim James. Male and female he created them. It’s time to fight back.”
LGBTQ Nation has viewed the ad in question but decided not to include it in this article because of its use of the images of minors.
Some people are trying to “fight back” against the students. MCAA Principal Michael Wilson said that he was “shocked” that a politician would show the faces of schoolchildren in a campaign ad.
“I just could not believe that someone would use a school and misrepresent it,” he told CBS 42. He said that when the ad was first released, he increased security at the school.
In the first week that the ad ran, someone drove by the school and shouted slurs. Later, a woman tried to enter the school to film students but was stopped by school staff.
Wilson said that the school has been providing counseling for students who have been hurt by the ad.
“They’re angry,” he said. “They’re angry, and they have a right to be.”
One of the parents of a student whose image was used in the ad sent a cease and desist letter to James’s campaign. The campaign edited out just that one child but continued to use the picture in question.
In a statement, the James campaign stated that if the parent was “truly concerned about her child, she would remove her from the Magic City Acceptance Academy period.”
“The principal said that the TV ad scared the children,” the statement said. “What should scare mothers and fathers of these children is what the faculty is doing by presenting this ungodly display through the drag show to which the children were subjected.”
The statement comes as Republicans have been appealing to “parents rights,” a phrase they have been using to support legislation like Florida’s Don’t Say Gay law, legislation banning lessons about the history of racism, and bills funding charter schools.
Support for the rights of parents to make decisions for their children’s best interests, though, does not appear to extend to all parents.