Although all non-essential inauguration activities are canceled due to the winter storm, Nathan Deal will be sworn in today as Georgia’s second Republican governor since Reconstruction.
The inauguration will be held inside at the State Capitol. It is set for 2 p.m. in the House chambers. It is also set to be aired live on Georgia Public Broadcasting.
As a member of the U.S. House, Deal consistently received scores of zero on a congressional scorecard on LGBT issues compiled by the Human Rights Campaign.
During the Republican primary for governor, Deal ran one of the most anti-gay campaigns in recent Georgia history, including attacking opponent Karen Handel for allegedly supporting YouthPride, a nonprofit agency which provides support to LGBT young people. Deal claimed in an attack ad that the group “promotes homosexuality” to children as young as 13.
No gay rights groups issued endorsements in the November election for governor, although statewide LGBT political group Georgia Equality launched a “No Deal” campaign against the Republican.
“If elected Governor, Nathan Deal would be a danger to the well-being of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Georgians. He has already run the most anti-LGBT campaign in Georgia history and hopes our community and our allies will be so discouraged we will not vote in November,” the pledge stated.
Gay issues did not figure prominently in the general election, in which Deal faced off with Democrat Roy Barnes and Libertarian John Monds.
“I don’t perceive [gay issues] as being an issue in this race, moving forward,” Brian Robinson, spokesperson for Deal’s campaign, told the GA Voice as the general election battle got underway.
“We were in a very hard-fought campaign [against Handel], and we just, we had to fight,” Robinson said then. “We were focused on talking to Republican voters in the Republican primary, and we were focused on communicating a message that Nathan Deal is the true conservative, and he has been unwavering in his principles.”
Robinson also reiterated Deal’s opposition to many gay rights issues.
“He would not support gay adoptions, he would not support taxpayer-funded domestic partner benefits, and he would definitely fight to uphold Georgia’s constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between one man, one woman,” Robinson said.
Robinson has since been appointed to serve as communications director for Gov. Deal.
While gay rights activists are not optimistic that Deal will support their initiatives, Georgia Equality Executive Director Jeff Graham said he is hopeful that the new governor will be helpful in preserving HIV funding as the state faces a budget crisis.
Where the funding cuts could most damage the gay community is the AIDS Drug Assistance Program. The program helps low income HIV-positive individuals pay for their medication, and is currently operating with a waiting list of about 800 people.
On World AIDS Day, Dec. 1, approximately 50 HIV activists and those living with HIV delivered some 1,200 postcards to Gov. Elect Deal’s office at the state capitol urging him to fund the ADAP program that provides medication to those who can’t get them any other way.
There is currently a $15 million shortfall in the state’s ADAP program,Graham said at the time. Georgia is expecting $10 million federal funding next spring but only if the state also funds the program, he explained.
“This is an issue that Nathan Deal did work on while he was in Congress,” Graham said, explaining that Deal worked on the committee that oversees ADAP. “He actually was supportive in the past and we hope that he will continue to be supportive as governor.”
— Matt Schafer contributed.