To hear former Gov. Roy Barnes at the Oct. 25 LGBT Democratic fundraiser, Tuesday’s election is the most important in Georgia “since World War II.”

While that might be a bit exaggerated, it is hard to overstate the importance of this year’s state elections to LGBT Georgians — although that is not what Barnes and the other Democratic Party leaders and candidates who spoke at the fundraiser were talking about, since they managed to stand at a microphone at an LGBT event and not say the words “gay” or “sexual orientation” one single time.

Roy Barnes no dream but Nathan Deal a nightmare

It’s not that they can’t say them: Barnes, who is attempting a comeback as Georgia governor; U.S. Senate candidate Michael Thurmond; and Democratic Party of Georgia Chair Jane Kidd all answered questions on LGBT issues in one-on-one conversations with reporters during the event. Barnes in particular spoke with clarity and ease about why gay voters should back him in Tuesday’s vote.

But when it came time to stand before the assembled crowd and make their pitch for votes and money, they couldn’t, wouldn’t or at least didn’t even acknowledge out loud the constituency group they were addressing.

It’s that kind of silence that leads gay voters to feel like we are taken for granted, and might as well sit out the election or cast our ballots for third party candidates in protest.

And our frustration with the Democratic Party isn’t limited to the state level. The 2010 election is a far cry from just two years ago, when our community turned out in droves to vote for Barack Obama and “change we can believe in.”

While in two years Obama has done more for us than any other president in history, as this week’s cover story explores, many of us are still frustrated by the pace of change and the lack of significant victories on big issues like “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and employment non-discrimination.

As a community, we have matured far faster than the politicians and political parties that serve us. Mere lip service isn’t enough anymore, especially when we sometimes don’t even get that.

It’s important to acknowledge our frustration, to talk about it within our community and also to voice it to the politicians and campaigns that are fueling it. To pretend it doesn’t exist does us all a disservice: We lose LGBT people who aren’t motivated to vote, and we lose the chance to prod our politicians to do better.

But as important as it is to speak honestly about our disappointment, it is just as important that we still turn out to vote on Tuesday — and that we cast our ballots for Roy Barnes for governor and for other candidates on the Democratic ticket.

Barnes may not be our dream candidate on LGBT issues, but Nathan Deal is definitely our nightmare.

The ethically challenged former congressman who now tops the GOP ticket consistently earned scores of zero on the Human Rights Campaign’s congressional report card on LGBT issues. During the primary, he ran one of the most anti-gay campaigns in recent Georgia history, including attacking YouthPride, which provides counseling, suicide prevention and other support to LGBT young people.

Do you really think “It Gets Better” for our youth if he is governor?

During Barnes’ first term as governor, he signed a hate crimes bill into law (though it did not list protected categories and was eventually struck down as too vague) and became the first sitting Georgia governor to address a gay group when he spoke to the Atlanta Executive Network on July 20, 2000.

Barnes offered a general speech on issues that “affect all of Georgia” but still openly acknowledged his audience: “I’m glad to be here to talk with you as Georgia taxpayers and Georgia citizens who just happen to be gay and lesbian citizens of the state of Georgia,” he said.

In a question-and-answer period, Barnes spoke of his support for the hate crimes law, expressed concern about all forms of bullying in schools, and said “people should be hired on merit, regardless of anything about them — what color they are, where they came from, or anything else, sexual orientation included.”

In an interview this week, he said he would support a gay-inclusive hate crimes bill if elected governor and continue to hire based entirely on merit, without regard to sexual orientation.

It may not sound like much, especially when we are frustrated with a president who gives us vastly more, but it is still infinitely better than what we would face under the vindictive Deal.

To vote Libertarian for governor or sit out Tuesday’s ballot would be foolhardy — the electoral equivalent of, as my grandmother used to say, cutting off your nose to spite your face.

And believe me, we would be the ones injured here, far worse than the Democratic Party.


GA Voice staff members, like many in the LGBT community, are divided over which candidate to support in Tuesday’s gubernatorial election — although we agree it won’t be Republican Nathan Deal. You can read why Web Manager Ryan Watkins thinks you should vote for Libertarian John Monds here.