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Libertee Belle, early Alabama LGBTQ activist, dies

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) – A drag queen who was an early advocate of LGBTQ rights in Alabama has died.

The performer known as Libertee Belle was among the organizers of Central Alabama Pride in the 1980s and served as grand marshal of Birmingham’s gay pride parade at least once.

She often performed at shows to benefit gay rights organizations and was among the highest-profile members of the state’s LGBTQ community.

The activist was born Ronald Norman Simoneau Jr. His sister, Debi Simoneau, says he was 61.

Simoneau says the Navy veteran first performed in drag in Massachusetts and later got active in the gay community in Alabama.

Simoneau was found dead in his apartment on Thursday. A cause of death hasn’t been released.

His sister says a memorial service is being planned for November.