There’s a crowded ticket coming to ballot boxes this November: in addition to city council and school board races, Atlanta will elect its new mayor.
A handful of candidates are considered top contenders, and it is these that gay peer mentoring organization Rainbros. invited to its upcoming mayoral forum geared toward reaching the younger LGBT voting population.
“[James Brian Yancey, founder of Rainbros.] thought it would be a great idea to get some of the younger voters out there to get out and make a difference,” event organizer Charlie Paine said. “It’s a good way to get LGBTQIA youth involved in issues that matter to them.”
He said the younger voters tend to not vote at all, or vote based on name recognition. There will be a candidate meet-and-greet before the forum begins to help attendees get to know the names better — and become more aware of what they stand for.
This is the second LGBT-geared mayoral forum, following one held in late June through the Atlanta Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. Maria Saporta of SaportaReport moderated a discussion between eight candidates, including Cathy Woolard, one of two LGBT individuals in the running.
That forum included questions for Atlanta’s business community, and also touched on how the candidates felt about keeping openly gay police Chief Erika Shields on staff if elected.
Topics up for discussion at the Rainbros. event, which is co-sponsored by Lost-n-Found Youth, Point Foundation, Out Front Theatre Company, Emory Alumni Association, Creative Approach, Joining Hearts and Pride Alliance, include Atlanta’s HIV epidemic, homeless youth and how the city is a “sanctuary city” in a way for LGBT youth in the Southeast.
“I know [HIV] has been an issue that hasn’t been talked about by our current mayor much at all,” Paine said. “We’re talking about policing as well, understanding that police aren’t really trained in helping LGBTQIA youth and this is something we could possibly make better.”
Paine said the younger voting crowd is a hard population to reach, and he hopes students at Atlanta’s colleges and universities come out in force to hear from their candidates.
“Local politics makes way more of a difference than national. It’s overshadowed, but the decisions that are made at the local level really changes the ideology of the population and can actually change national politics in the long run,” he said.
In preparation for the forum, Georgia Voice posed a question to the candidates: In what specific ways do you plan to protect LGBT citizens in Atlanta from both discrimination and bodily harm? Their answers, limited to approximately 75 words, are below.
“As mayor, I will offer [Atlanta Police Department] resources to our schools so that they can learn best practices in reducing bullying and suicide rates for LGBTQIA students. I will lobby City Council to mandate transgender workplace transition guidelines for city employees. We will update the city application for HIV/AIDS relief to remove gender binary, while expanding transgender interaction training policies for our police force. And, we will do more to combat LGBTQIA homelessness.”
Keisha Lance Bottoms Democrat
“Found within the booklet ‘Born Free and Equal: Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in International Human Rights Law,’ issued by the United Nations, are recommendations I will follow as mayor: ‘To protect people form homophobic and transphobic violence. Include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected characteristics in hate crime laws. Establish effective systems to record and report hate-motivated acts of violence. Ensure effective investigation and prosecution of perpetrators and redress for victims of such violence.”**
John Eaves Democrat
“I will appoint a LGBT advisory board that will have more than just a seat at the table. It will help develop policy ensuring that LGBT citizens are safe, secure and thriving. I have appointed LGBT citizens at all levels of Fulton County; I will do the same at City Hall so voices of equality are heard. I will ensure we have sensitivity training as we expand the number of police officers on the street.”
Vincent Fort Democrat
“I will use my office to oppose any religious freedom act, RFRA-type legislation as I did while I served in the state Senate. As a senator in 2016, I made the motion in committee to slow down the RFRA bill … I authored the state’s first hate crimes law. With that in mind, I will make sure the Atlanta Police Department works to diligently prevent and investigate hate crimes directed at the LGBTQ community.”**
Kwanza Hall Democrat
“I believe in solutions, not punishment. Our police department’s sensitivity training, liaison appointments and Citizen Review Board will be enhanced. As mayor, I will expand our pre-arrest diversion program, created as a solution to prevent pushing transgender people into jail. I will partner with AGLCC to execute a business development program to expand consideration of LGBTQ entrepreneurs for all city contracts, especially at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Discrimination in any arena will not be tolerated.”**
Laban King* Democrat
“My goal is to create a zone of safety [at Pride events] that will be designated [to] have police presence with visible and undercover officers, as well as first responders. I would … create safe meet-up areas for members of the community that would love to meet up with individuals they befriend via social/dating apps. … I will introduce a special LGBT task force within the police department that will specifically focus on needs of the community.”**
Ceasar Mitchell Democrat
Did not respond as of press time.
Mary Norwood Independent
“A Norwood administration would speak out forcefully against hate speech, hate crimesand discrimination; encourage the General Assembly not to pass discriminatory religious liberty laws; revamp Atlanta Police Department training on LGBT issues and encourage members of the LGBTQ community to apply for jobs; cooperate with Fulton County on HIV/AIDS education; adopt safe and bias-free educational policies for LGBT students; raise awareness that LGBTQ youth [are at high risk for suicide, homelessness and sex trafficking].”**
Cathy Woolard* Democrat
“On City Council, I led passage of the only comprehensive civil rights bill in Georgia, sued our insurance commissioner for companies to provide domestic partnership benefits and added gender identity to our employee non-discrimination ordinance. As mayor, I will support statewide civil rights and hate crime bills, provide more housing for LGBT youth and persons with HIV, ensure appropriate training for [Atlanta Police Department] and other city employees and include LGBT-owned businesses in our minority contracting program.”