Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Why GLBT Voters Should Be Very Careful in Their Choice for Mayor of Atlanta

This post shares the title of a joint letter released by concerned Atlantans today who support Mary Norwood for Atlanta Mayor. GLBTATL endorsed Mary Norwood last week.

The main text of the letter is below; view the original PDF version to see the list of all the community members who signed on.

To: All GLBT Voters in the City of Atlanta
Date: November 24, 2009

We are your friends, co-workers, and neighbors in the City of Atlanta, and we ask you to vote for Mary Norwood to be Atlanta’s next Mayor on December 1.

Please imagine the following actual encounter: Doug Brooks and Rusty Wolf, a couple together for 11 years who were married in 2005 in Massachusetts, took the opportunity to ask Kasim Reed about his position on marriage equality. On November 8, Doug, Rusty and their two young children were in Morningside’s Sidney Marcus Park. With their children in arms, Doug and Rusty politely asked Senator Reed why he did not believe their children were entitled to the benefits of having two married parents. Kasim Reed looked this family in the eye and said that his religious views did not allow him to recognize a civil marriage. This was a tough conversation to have in our own neighborhood with someone who might lead our City and its large gay and lesbian population.

Near the beginning of the race, Georgia Equality noted that 1 in 7 Atlanta voters – about 15% - is likely gay or lesbian, and intowners will tell you that estimate is near the mark. Since we comprise 15% of the tax base, and 15% of your neighbors, we deserve a Mayor who believes that we are full citizens, entitled to all benefits of our straight neighbors.

Marriage equality is important to us, and may be the most important issue to the average gay and lesbian voter in 2009, thus placing the issue front and center in this Mayor’s race. Municipal elections are about quality of life, and there are few quality of life issues anyone would consider more important than the right to get married.

We also typically vote for Democrats, and give money to Democratic candidates. This year, we are supporting Mary Norwood as an independent voice for a better Atlanta. Kasim Reed and the Democratic Party have used divisive, partisan politics in Atlanta’s non-partisan election. Senator Reed took the unprecedented and divisive step of interjecting partisan politics into the fray, accusing all opponents of being Republicans. The Democratic Party then fueled the fire with the unprecedented step of spending Party funds on direct mail pieces to proliferate the lie that Mary Norwood is a Republican. Finally, party line Democrats in droves endorsed Kasim Reed in a lock step effort to make partisan something that never was, and never should be.

Kasim Reed’s anti marriage equality position is not only an insult to the thousands of tax paying gay and lesbian Atlantans, his position represents a step backwards for a City which is currently led by Shirley Franklin, who favors marriage equality. Like many of you, we are disappointed in this year’s race, and not just for Senator Reed’s position, the party’s intervention, and the lock step support from party faithful. The Democratic Party of Georgia asks gays and lesbians to compromise on marriage equality in voting for Reed this year, while doing nothing elsewhere to improve the discriminatory treatment we feel from state government. No member of the Democratic caucus has introduced legislation to repeal the 2004 anti marriage equality amendment; nor to create a parallel structure of Civil Unions, nor domestic partnerships, nor any other advance. Is it any wonder gays and lesbians are – for the first time in memory – ignoring the party’s candidate endorsement to support the pro marriage equality, Mary Norwood?

A candidate’s capacity for empathy with his or her constituency is an important consideration in any election. Senator Reed is not married, and he has no children. While being unmarried and childless in no way disqualifies someone from serving effectively in office, it does prevent Senator Reed from empathizing with the families affected by his refusal to support equality. Were Senator Reed placed in a situation where his spouse or, even worse, his children were denied the rights enjoyed by others, and was told it was simply because the religious beliefs of those in power don't allow for an inclusive view of equality, he would be as offended and hurt and angry as we are.

This year, LGBT Atlantans have a rare opportunity: to (1) get a marriage equality candidate elected; (2) defeat, and perhaps end the career of, a political climber who is against marriage equality; (3) send a message to ALL candidates (particularly
Democrats) that they need to support us on this issue to get our votes; (4) all while doing no damage to the Democratic party in the General Assembly, Congress, the Governor's mansion, or the White House. We will not get another chance to send this message again. Please vote for Mary Norwood on December 1.


  1. I'm sorry to say it, but that man, Mary's opponent, he is rude and condescending. As we've all heard, you put your hand on the bible, and you swear to uphold the laws of the United States Constitution. You do NOT put your hand on the United States Constitution and swear to uphold the BIBLE.