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The Flor-Ala

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The Flor-Ala

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Magic City Legal Center provides life-changing services


The Magic City Legal Center in Birmingham provides legal advocacy for LGBTQ+ Alabamians and Alabamians affected by HIV. 

Birmingham AIDS Outreach, Alabama’s first AIDS Service Organization, has been saving lives and helping those in the community since 1985. The organization was founded as a response to the calamitous and life-threatening impact that HIV and AIDS were having on the Birmingham community. 

MCLC is part of BAO, which contains other related programs including the Magic City Wellness Center, the Magic City Acceptance Center, the Magic City Research Institute and the Magic City Acceptance Academy. 

“The mission of BAO is to enhance the quality of life for people living with HIV / AIDS, at-risk, affected individuals and the LGBTQ community through outreach, age-appropriate prevention education and supportive services,” said BAO in a statement on their website.

MCLC seeks to carry out this mission through legal advocacy for these communities. 

MCLC provides a variety of services, including name and gender marker changes, adoptions, uncontested divorces and estate planning. They host clinics quarterly, such as name change clinics and estate planning clinics, and they also put on outreach events such as the name change clinic that was recently held in the Mitchell-West Center for Social Inclusion at the University of North Alabama on Oct. 24.

Most people who receive assistance from MCLC come from BAO or from word-of-mouth in the community. The Center has a contact form on their website, where individuals can reach out for assistance. From there, they are connected with an attorney who aids them in fulfilling their legal needs.

MCLC has three attorneys who work for the Center, and they are aided by volunteer attorneys and volunteer law students.

J.R. Thomas, a client attorney with MCLC, has been practicing for four years. Having come from private practice, where he practiced family law and domestic relations, Thomas has been at BAO and MCLC since August. He knew people who worked for BAO and began volunteering with the organizations at name change clinics. 

“I wanted to shift out of private practice, and there was an opportunity here,” said Thomas. “I still do very similar work. I handle domestic relations cases, probate cases, and I handle a lot of the cases for MCLC, like name changes and gender marker changes.”

Thomas is an advocate for MCLC’s name and gender marker change services because they can be both life-changing and life-saving. 

“With name changes and gender marker changes, I could go on and on about that,” Thomas said. “One of the reasons it’s so important to me is because of suicides. It’s about just supporting people and being an affirming environment.” 

An LGBTQ+ service that many might not think of is estate planning, where MCLC can help to create living wills.

“The will clinics that we do are important because, like an advanced directive, that is the living will,” Thomas said. “That is your medical wishes if you can’t speak for yourself. That is important because, before same-sex marriage was legal, you heard of gay couples where something happened to one of them, they ended up in the hospital, and then the family came in and kicked the other one out. It’s planning for your future.”

The adoption services the Center provides make sure that each parent receives equal rights when adopting a child, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. 

As the MCLC is one of the only legal centers providing services like these in the state, the Center caters to a population that is in need of representation in the legal system.

“It’s really just to put everyone on equal footing,” Thomas said. “The community we serve is underserved in so many areas, in legal areas specifically, and they’re targeted.”

Because of the lack of resources in Alabama, MCLC offers its services state-wide. At recent clinics that the Center has held, individuals came from as far as Mobile, illustrating the lack of accessible legal services. 

Those looking for access to the MCLC’s services can fill out the form on their website,

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About the Contributor
Kelley Peters
Kelley Peters, Managing Editor
Kelley is a junior from Tupelo, Miss. who is majoring in English literature with a minor in applied linguistics. She is currently Managing Editor for The Flor-Ala. She has loved reading for as long as she can remember, which developed her love of storytelling and the English language. Her career goal is to become an English professor at a university. She was previously a volunteer writer in the Fall of 2021, became a Staff Writer in January of 2022 and moved to being News Editor in January of 2023.

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