University of Alabama Alumni Couple Says They No Longer Plan on Donating Millions to University

March 18th 2015

Laura Donovan

The University of Alabama could have gotten up to $18 million from two generous alumni, but because of the state's increasingly outdated stance on gay marriage, the former students will be putting their money elsewhere.

Elliot Mitchell and Clark West share fond memories of meeting in college, and because of their positive experiences at Alabama, they planned on leaving their entire estate, which is worth up to $18 million, to the school. They've even donated $1 million before, according to AL.com, including $400,000 in donations to Alabama's liberal arts college and its business college. They've also been Alabama football season ticket holders.

But because the southern state hasn't been generous to the gay rights movement, the Florida residents just don't want to support a state institution in Alabama. Even if the Supreme Court strikes down Alabama's gay marriage ban in a few months time, gay couples still won't have an easy time going about their lives in the state. According to Mitchell and West, they've approached university officials about funding an LGBT student center on campus, but there was little interest.

"They are going to contend every single right that inherently comes with that decision of the Supreme Court," Mitchell said to AL.com. "If they can find a sufficient reason to delay those benefits, they're going to do it."

Earlier this month, the state of Alabama forbade probate judges from issuing same-sex marriage licenses to gay couples. Gov. Robert Bentley proceeded to condemn gay marriage for taking away the "rights of children to be connected to their biological parents." It's consistent with Alabama's 2006 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Eric Johnston, an attorney for the Alabama Citizen's Action Program (ALCAP), told AL.com that Alabama has a right to decide how the state should run, "We have a right in Alabama to define marriage." Similarly, wealthy alumni such as West and Mitchell have a right not to give their funds to public universities in states where their rights as a gay couple aren't as evolved as they could be.