A press conference is scheduled later this afternoon at City Hall to celebrate the occasion. The HRC and Georgia Equality will recognize Mayor Kasim Reed, Atlanta City Councilman Alex Wan, and other city officials for the policies that helped Atlanta earn the recognition.
The HRC's report, which we've included after the jump, devotes a full page to Atlanta's "success story." Reed picked up his pen to discuss what he's accomplished on the LGBT front throughout his political career:
LGBT equality has been an important issue for me throughout my career. As a member of Georgia's House of Representatives, I was the chief sponsor of Georgia's first and only Hate Crimes Bill that protected LGBT individuals. As a State Senator, I led the effort to oppose a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. I consistently helped defeat state bills that would ban gay adoption. On the national level, I was a vocal advocate for the repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" and for allowing LGBT individuals to serve openly in the military.
My commitment to LGBT rights continues as Atlanta's Mayor. In 2012, I expressed my support of marriage equality for same-sex couples; marriage is a fundamental right for all loving couples regardless of their sexual orientation. I recently appointed Robin Shahar as my Mayoral Advisor on LGBT issues. She will identify and provide counsel on areas of community concern, and will recommend strategies for advancing LGBT equality citywide. In July, I proudly signed a bill updating the Atlanta Code to ensure that all non-discrimination provisions include gender identity as a protected class. This September, I signed on as a co-chair of the national Mayors for the Freedom to Marry campaign.
Atlanta's history of civil rights leadership is rooted in the belief that our diversity makes our city stronger. As a result, Atlanta is home to one of the largest and most vibrant LGBT communities in the country. As Mayor, I will continue my efforts to achieve equal protection and equal treatment of Atlanta's LGBT residents, workers and visitors.
Left unmentioned: that Reed supported civil unions, but not same-sex marriage until late 2012. The move earned him a dreaded "flip flop" ranking from the AJC's Politifact, an honor that he didn't enjoy so much.
You can read the full report after the jump:
Major League Baseball teams today have been spreading the word about GLAAD Spirit Day in hopes of shining light on LGBT youth and bullying issues. But a vocal group of Atlanta Braves fans aren't entirely thrilled with the effort.
Earlier this morning, the Braves organization posted a message on Facebook that encouraged Atlantans to wear purple for the cause. As Deadspin points out, there's been hundreds of negative comments left in response. Some people told the team to keep its posts baseball-related, while a handful had publicly declared that they're no longer fans. We've included a sample of what's being said after the jump:
The Democratic Party of Georgia's new chairman says he's changed his views on gay marriage.
Former House Minority Leader DuBose Porter, who was elected this month as the state party's leader, told the Democratic LGBT Caucus this weekend that his position toward same-sex marriage has evolved following a tumultuous divorce and a gay cousin's marriage. According to a report and video shot by the Georgia Voice, Porter's views have changed since he fought against openly gay state Rep. Karla Drenner, D-Avondale Estates, over a 2004 amendment to the state Constitution that would have banned gay marriage in Georgia.
You can watch Porter's remarks in the above YouTube video. The AJC's Jim Galloway also transcribed the comments, which you can read below:
All of us have personal experiences. Here, I went through a pretty messy divorce. What I thought was the perfect marriage just fell apart. So the commitment that I thought I had with someone was not nearly as strong as I thought it was.
My first cousin, who lives in DeKalb County, has a life partner and had to go to New York to get married. The commitment they have is stronger than the one I thought I had. It is that strong and sincere. And we need to relay that.
[Former state lawmaker] Jim Martin [of Atlanta] and I used to share offices together. Jim called me one day and said, 'DuBose, you know our districts aren't that different from each other.' I said, 'What do you mean?' [He said,] 'You have just as many gay constituents in your area as I do. They're just not out.'
How do you have it so that everyone is comfortable where they live? The state Democratic party has that opportunity to have that conversation.
It's better to have somebody that's from there - you know, you need a bald-headed, fat redneck. I think I can help take that message better, in a way than just having someone from Atlanta talk about it. It's because I believe in it and I'm not afraid to talk about it."
Shahar, who is openly gay, has worked for the city's law department since 1993 and is a Woodruff Fellow at Emory University's law school. Her new position will include advising the mayor on local, state, and national issues. She'll also serve as a liaison between Reed and community organizations to achieve "equal protection and treatment for Atlanta's LGBT residents, workers, and visitors."
"I am honored and privileged to work with a Mayor who cares deeply about LGBT equality, and who values diversity as integral to Atlanta's strength and vibrancy," Shahar said in a statement.
Georgia Voice points out that Shahar successfully fought against former Georgia Insurance Commissioner (and one-time gubernatorial candidate) John Oxendine in 1999 in making benefits available to city employees' domestic partners. Oxendine had previously opposed the plan because it opened the door to "illegal sexual relationships."
In addition, she also fought former Georgia Attorney General Mike Bowers in court in a discrimination case. The Georgia Voice writes:
Shahar is likely best known for suing Georgia Attorney General Mike Bowers after he rescinded his job offer to her in 1991 when he learned she was planning a same-sex commitment ceremony[.]
Bowers had successfully defended the state's sodomy law in 1986 and said Shahar would not be able to enforce the law if she worked in his office. Shahar sued Bowers but the district court and federal courts ruled in favor of Bowers. In 1998, the Supreme Court declined to hear her case.
Reed called Shahar's new position a "vital role" in his administration. She'll now become his only openly-gay senior staff member, a role once filled by spokesman Reese McCranie, who now handles communications for Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
"In addition to her keen legal mind, she is well-respected in the community and will be an effective ambassador," Reed said in a statement. "My administration and I are dedicated to eliminating barriers to equality, fighting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and engaging the LGBT community across the city."
Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy tweeted the remark yesterday, not long after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act. He later deleted the 140-character message. (via Wall Street Journal)
To save CL time from painstakingly documenting every comment people say, we've created 'Soundbites' to call attention to their remarks.
UPDATE, 3:18 p.m.: In response to Cathy's tweet, Chick-fil-A spokesman Mark Baldwin says the president deleted his post because he realized his views didn't "represent the views of all customers, restaurant owners, and employees."
"Dan Cathy, like everyone in this country, has his own views on this topic, but Chick-fil-A is focused on providing great tasting food and genuine hospitality to everyone," Baldwin tells CL.
Yesterday morning, state Rep. Karla Drenner, D-Avondale Estates, sat on her couch and cried.
Although Georgia's first openly gay state lawmaker was overjoyed to hear the news that the U.S. Supreme Court had overturned the Defense of Marriage Act, she shed tears. She was grateful.
"Thank you, God," she said. "Thank you, God, for making me gay. Thank you, God, for bringing me to Georgia. And thank you, God, for letting it happen today."
Yesterday afternoon, as Atlantans got off work, members of every letter of the city and metro region's LGBTQ community descended on the intersection of 10th Street and Piedmont Avenue in Midtown to celebrate the court's decision in U.S. v. Windsor, legalizing gay marriage at the federal level.
Georgia Equality, one of the state's leading LGBT advocacy groups, applauded this morning's U.S. Supreme Court decisions to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act and pave the way for the return of same-sex marriage in California. But it also noted that the rulings do little to help the tens of thousands gay and lesbian couples in Georgia, where voters approved a gay marriage ban in 2004. From the group:
After months of anticipation from LGBT activists across the nation, the Supreme Court released a narrow ruling today that only expanded the federal definition of marriage to include same-sex couples who have been married in marriage equality states, while allowing same-sex marriages to resume in California.
The two cases, Windsor v. United States and Hollingsworth v. Perry, dealt with the national Defense of Marriage Act and California's Proposition 8, both of which restricted the definition of marriage to a union between one man and one woman. Citing a violation of the Equal Protection Clause, Chief Justice John Roberts delivered a small win for the LGBT community but stopped short of granting full marriage equality to same-sex couples in all 50 states.
Instead, Kennedy wrote that the federal government would only recognize same-sex marriages performed in states that already grant those marriage licenses. Prior to today's decision, even same-sex couples married in marriage equality states were barred from taking advantage of the 1,138 federal benefits provided to opposite-sex couples. Now, same-sex couples will be able to enjoy federal perks previously afforded only to opposite-sex couples, such as social security benefits, retirement, medical leave, and numerous federal tax exemptions.
Still, the pair of rulings will have little effect on the nearly 22,000 same-sex couples in the state of Georgia who are still waiting on the day their government recognizes their commitment officially.
"While we had hoped for a more expansive ruling that would immediately affect the legal status of couples here in Georgia, this is an important step towards the full legal recognition of our relationship." said Jeff Graham, Executive Director of Georgia Equality. "We can celebrate for our colleagues and loved ones in California and the twelve other states affected by this ruling today. Tomorrow we begin the process of building a movement to recognize our own marriages here in Georgia."
The ruling comes amid a rapidly changing shift in public opinion on the issue of gay marriage. According to a Washington Post/ABC News poll released this March, 58% of Americans now support same-sex marriage, up from 37% just a decade ago. Additionally, 12 states and the District of Columbia have already recognized same-sex marriages of their own volition.
Fortunately, the Supreme Court's pass on Prop. 8 means it now yields to the 9th District court's earlier decision, granting same-sex couples in California the right to marry once again after having the opportunity for only a brief 5-month window in 2008.
Members of Atlanta's LGBT community will gather on the corner of 10th Street and Piedmont Avenue near Piedmont Park at 5 p.m. today to celebrate the decisions - and push for more action in Georgia. It's one of several rallies planned across Georgia.
Another day, another landmark ruling.
The U.S. Supreme Court today in a 5-4 decision said the Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 law that denied benefits to same-sex married couples, is unconstitutional. We embedded the decision after the jump.
Under the law, gay couples who are legally married in their states were not considered married in the eyes of the federal government, and were ineligible for the federal benefits that come with marriage.
The case before the Supreme Court, U.S. v. Windsor, concerned Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer, a lesbian couple who lived together in New York for 44 years and married in Canada in 2007.
When Spyer died in 2009, Windsor was hit with $363,000 in federal estate taxes. Had the couple been considered by the federal government to be married, Windsor would not have incurred those taxes.
In a separate case, the justices decided not to take up a case challenging a California law banning same-sex marriages. So sayeth Pete Williams of NBC: "That decision means that gay marriage will once again be legal in California." Here's the decision.
More from SCOTUSBlog's Amy Howe on the court's decision:
Here's a Plain English take on Hollingsworth v. Perry, the challenge to the constitutionality of California's Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage: After the two same-sex couples filed their challenge to Proposition 8 in federal court in California, the California government officials who would normally have defended the law in court, declined to do so. So the proponents of Proposition 8 stepped in to defend the law, and the California Supreme Court (in response to a request by the lower court) ruled that they could do so under state law. But today the Supreme Court held that the proponents do not have the legal right to defend the law in court. As a result, it held, the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the intermediate appellate court, has no legal force, and it sent the case back to that court with instructions for it to dismiss the case.
UPDATE, 11:49 a.m.: Georgia's gay marriage ban, which was approved by voters in 2004, is unaffected by the decisions. Says Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens:
"Today, the Supreme Court of the United States held 5-4 that Congress violated equal protection when it defined marriage for federal purposes differently from the way the State of New York defined it. I disagree with the Court's decision. But it is important to understand what the decision does and does not mean.
Today's decision rests on the basic assumption - with which I strongly agree - that the power to define marriage is a power traditionally reserved to the States. The decision does not affect existing state definitions of marriage; in fact, it explicitly says that it is limited to marriages recognized by states as lawful. I agree with the Chief Justice that this limitation means what it says. The definition of marriage adopted by Georgia's voters is unaffected by today's decision."
UPDATE, 12:53 p.m.: Mayor Kasim Reed says in a statement:
"The Supreme Court ruling to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act was a courageous decision and is an enormous victory for loving, married couples and their families. It is my hope that today's decision puts our nation on an inevitable path toward the day when all citizens, regardless of their sexual orientation, can enjoy equal protection under the law and marry the ones they love. "
More to come, including possible impacts.
The award, which was established two year ago to honor the San Francisco elected official who was assassinated in 1978, recognizes openly gay elected and appointed public officials who have worked to "empower and inspire members of their communities."
Bell, who says she received multiple anonymous nominations for the award, became the country's first openly gay African-American state lawmaker after winning a special election in 2009.
"When I first ran for office I couldn't bring myself to watch the Harvey Milk Story. It was too overwhelming. Today, I wear his pin on my lapel," Bell said in a Facebook post.
Last November, Bell bested former state Rep. Ralph Long, D-Atlanta, after the two colleagues' districts were drawn together by Republicans. She eventually won and championed some LGBT causes during the 2013 legislative session, including co-sponsoring a bill to prevent anti-gay private schools from receiving public funding.
The Atlanta Democrat will be honored alongside nine other officials including Minnesota state Rep. Karen Clark, Redondo Beach, Calif., Mayor Mike Gin, Cincinnati Councilman Chris Seelbach, and Colorado Sen. Pat Steadman. You can watch the ceremony live at 3 p.m. this afternoon.
Boy Scout uniforms are so gay. Which is why the homophobia erupting over the supposed threat of gay scout leaders is pretty nonsensical to me.
Just look at the above footage from earlier this week and ask yourself who looks like the least qualified role model for young boys of America - Don Lemon, who comes out (again) as both a gay man and a former Boy Scout; the hetero dude and former Boy Scout who recalls how his lesbian mother was banned from participating in scouting with her son; or the fully grown Scout master vehemently expressing his opposition to gay scout leaders while wearing a kerchief around his neck? A flippin' kerchief.
I, too, was a Cub Scout for many years, until about the 5th grade when girls in my class started informing us that our uniforms made us less than desirable. I never learned how to tie a slip square knot or make fire from flint stone, but I did learn how to freehand a picture of the old Georgia state flag. When I took it home to show it off to my mother, who wasn't from Georgia, she swore up and down that it was the Confederate rebel flag. It took me weeks to convince her that my white scout master wasn't some covert racist who wanted to take us camping so he could lynch us with all that good rope he had lying around.
I'm not sure what that has to do with the Boy Scout's current proposal to continue banning gay scout leaders while allowing gay boys as scouts. But maybe there's a lesson about tolerance and compassion buried in there somewhere - my tolerance for my mom's irrational fears and the compassion I developed for a scout leader who took pride in things that seemingly posed a threat to my own family's values, perhaps. But naw, all that pales in comparison to the biggest thing I gained from my time in the Scouts: my impeccable fashion sense.
Are you planning to inquire how the prosecution did such a poor and unsatisfactory job?
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