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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

City Council OKs resolution supporting gay marriage

Atlanta City Councilman Alex Wan
The Atlanta City Council on Monday voted 11-2 to pass a resolution endorsing marriage equality.

Atlanta City Councilman Alex Wan, who represents gay friendly Midtown, Virginia-Highland, and Morningside, introduced the legislation after several weeks of consideration and conversations with his colleagues about the resolution.

"For some folks it was a slam dunk, no-brainer, 'what can I do to help?" Wan, Council's only openly gay member, told CL last night. "Others had questions, understandably, but knew why this was important to me... It's been something I've been wanting to do for a while and it was just a matter of finding the right time and having the conversations I wanted to have with my colleagues."

Since the city has no say so over marriage, the resolution was largely a symbolic gesture that lacks teeth. But it isn't the first time Council's taken a stand on LGBT issues outside the legislative body's purview. In 2004, the Atlanta City Council voted 13-1 to state its opposition to the Georgia constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. And in 2006, Council voted 11-2 to support the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

Councilmembers Howard Shook, who represents parts of Buckhead, and C.T. Martin, who represents parts of west Atlanta, voted against the resolution.

"I don't want to talk about it because I have a choice," Martin told CL when asked why he voted "no." "And that's what it's about - choices. And I had a choice of voting 'no.'"

We sent Shook an email last night and will update if we hear back. UPDATE, 3:04 p.m. Shook says in an email:

While I understand there are many heartfelt opinions regarding this issue, my duty is to represent 7th District voters who, like it or not, overwhelmingly opposed amending Georgia's constitution so as to allow gay marriage.

Mayor Kasim Reed has faced criticism from LGBT activists and progressives for not supporting gay marriage. Wan says the resolution wasn't directed at Reed and that he spoke with the mayor before introducing the resolution. Wan says he respects the mayor's position.

"At the end of the day, the mayor will do what he wants to do," Wan said. "But he understood my position and that I wanted to take a position on this."

Lest you think Wan, who's seeking another term on Council, introduced the resolution for publicity purposes, he says that's not the case. He told the Georgia Voice last night:

"[Publicity] was not the motivation. This is just the city council taking a position because it was the right thing to do. It was more important to me to reach this kind of consensus with the council without outside pressure," he said.

"If the council were to feel pressured, it would be very different than had they arrived at this support on their own. This was council acting independently - because it was the right thing to do," he said.

Text of the resolution follows after the jump.

A RESOLUTION BY COUNCILMEMBERS ALEX WAN, CARLA SMITH, FELICIA MOORE, MICHAEL JULIAN BOND, H. LAMAR WILLIS, KWANZA HALL, AARON WATSON

A RESOLUTION DECLARING THE SUPPORT OF THE ATLANTA CITY COUNCIL FOR MARRIAGE EQUALITY; AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.

WHEREAS, the United States Supreme Court has ruled that marriage is one of the basic civil rights of the American people, fundamental to our very existence and survival1; and

WHEREAS, in 1974, the Supreme Court declared that: "This court has long recognized that freedom of personal choice in matters of marriage and family life is one of the liberties protected by the [Constitution]"2; and

WHEREAS, marriages that are deemed legally valid by the federal and state governments provide the married couple with more than 1,138 federal rights, privileges, economic advantages and legal protections; and

WHEREAS, these rights include access to health care, inheritance of social security benefits and eligibility for significant taxation advantages. Protections afforded to each spouse in a legal marriage include protection of their parental relationship with their children, protection of the inheritance rights of their spouse and children, ensuring hospital visitation rights and the ability to make medical decisions for their spouse, and protection of property rights; and

WHEREAS, without being declared legally valid, the spouses of same-sex marriages cannot receive these rights, privileges, advantages and protections; and

WHEREAS, recent national polls show that a majority of Americans now believe same-sex marriage should be recognized by law as valid; and

WHEREAS, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, the District of Columbia, New Hampshire, New York, Washington, Maryland and Maine have legalized marriage for same-sex couples; and

WHEREAS, on February 23, 2011, the Barack Obama administration announced that the US Justice Department would no longer defend in federal court the 1996 federal law entitled the Defense of Marriage Act ("DOMA") and its denial of federal recognition to married same-sex couples; and

WHEREAS, the City of Atlanta ("City") has a rich history in the civil rights movement and and is rightfully considered one of the most progressive cities in the country regarding its policies protecting equal rights for all citizens; and

WHEREAS, the City Atlanta has one of the highest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender ("LGBT") populations per capita, ranking third among major American cities; and

WHEREAS, the Atlanta Code of Ordinances ("Code") has numerous non-discrimination provisions that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation by Atlanta businesses, (Code Section 94-112), in housing sales and rentals (Code Section 94-94), and by stores, hotels, restaurants and other public accommodations (Code Section 94-68); and

WHEREAS, City law also prohibits sexual orientation discrimination in the City's own employment decisions (Code Section 3-502). The City offers its employees the ability to enroll a domestic partner for coverage under the employee's health insurance plan, and to name a domestic partner as the recipient of the employee's pension benefits; and

WHEREAS, in 2004, the City passed resolution 04-R-0183, opposing an amendment to the Georgia Constitution that would ban same-sex marriages in Georgia; and

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF ATLANTA that the Atlanta City Council supports marriage equality for same-sex couples.

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