Byron Amos, a candidate for the District 2 seat on the Atlanta Board of Education, today denied responsibility for a campaign mailer that targeted opponent Angela Brown for allegedly supporting “cross dressing” among school children.
“I am aware of the mailer, because being a voter, I got it, as well,” Amos said at a press conference today at Booker T. Washington High School.
“I am appalled first and foremost that that mail would be attributed to my campaign or anyone else associated with me, because that has not been the character of this candidate nor the character of this campaign since Day One,” he said.
Amos said he was not responsible for the mailer, nor did it not come from his campaign.
“We have supporters out here, who knows what they would do, but that mailer took me off guard because it hit on some very sensitive issues that we must all sit down and begin to address as a family,” he added.
Brown and Amos are competing in the Dec. 6 runoff election. Brown placed first in the field of five candidates in the November election, garnering 37.95 percent of the vote. Amos placed second with 24.26 percent. The runoff is required because no candidate received more than 50 percent of the vote.
The charge about children cross-dressing is included in a mailer with the headline, “Would you trust someone like this with your children?”
“She says she wants Atlanta School children to cross-dress! … whether it’s pink hair or gender bending… I am definitely supportive,” the mailer reads, appearing to quote from an interview Brown gave to Atlanta Progressive News.
Georgia Equality, the state’s largest LGBT political group, criticized Amos for the mailer in a press release this morning that included a copy of the document.
“Bullying in our schools is a very real problem that members of the school board should be committed to addressing. The gay and transgender community has been especially concerned about this issues as too many children, including children here in Georgia, have taken their own lives due to harassment and name calling based upon perceptions of sexual orientation and gender identity,” Georgia Equality Executive Director Jeff Graham said.
“It is especially troubling to think that someone running for a position on the board of the Atlanta Public School system would use the weapons of homophobia, transphobia and slander to achieve political gain.”
In an interview, Graham told GA Voice that Georgia Equality had also been notified of telephone recordings sent to voters that also claimed Brown supports cross-dressing children and urged residents to vote for Amos.
Amos has to answer for the tactic regardless of whether he personally approved and distributed the mailer, Graham said.
“Clearly Byron Amos has a tremendous amount of explaining to do,” Graham said in an interview this morning. “Why are his supporters specifically attacking LGBT youth?”
Graham said the campaign mailer attacked “school kids,” not just Amos’ opponent.
“As far as I am concerned, it doesn’t matter who put out the piece, we have got to send the message that it is completely unacceptable to stigmatize young LGBT people.”
Amos said at the press conference that the issue should not “distract” from his campaign’s goal of improving education in Atlanta.
“I don’t know where the mailer came from. I wish personally that it did not show up because that issue is not one that involves this campaign. Educating our kids is the first and foremost and we cannot be distracted by any other issues at this point,” he said.
Dwanda Farmer, a former candidate in the race who has endorsed Amos in the runoff, also spoke out against the mailer at the press event.
“On today, being National AIDS Day, we would like to recognize our friends who may have an alternative lifestyle. We don’t even consider it alternative, it’s normal,” she said. “And if you can’t be who you are in Atlanta and you are a homosexual, it’s wrong. It’s OK to be whoever you are right here in the city of Atlanta. All people equal. That’s who we are as a community, so we resent the mailer as much as anybody else in your community might.”
Dec. 1 is World AIDS Day.
Top photo: Atlanta School Board District 2 candidate Byron Amos (by Ryan Watkins)