Editorial: It’s time for Jason Carter to come out on gay marriage

Atlanta’s gay elite have come out in full-force to support Jason Carter as Georgia’s next governor. At a fundraiser just last week, the grandson of a former president raised approximately $100,000 from LGBT voters at a posh event where the high rollers gathered to hear him speak and pay to have their photo taken with him.

Carter never said the word “gay” or “LGBT” as some people noted on social media following the event and also as reported by Project Q Atlanta. The media was blocked from attending the event because Carter’s people disallow reporters to attend fundraising events.

But we do know Jason Carter can say the word gay and LGBT. When he ran for the state Senate in 2010 in a special election, he received the endorsement of Georgia Equality and talked publicly about his support of “LGBT issues” but nothing about marriage. Marriage was not on the front burner like it is today.

And times have definitely changed just in the last few years. This year, a major Democratic candidate for statewide office, Greg Hecht, who wants to unseat Attorney General Sam Olens, announced his support of same-sex marriage.  DuBose Porter, who, as a state legislator, helped lead the push to pass the 2004 anti-gay constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, now is in full support of marriage equality as the chairperson of the Democratic Party of Georgia.

Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality, told the GA Voice he is not sure if the questionnaire Carter filled out in 2010 seeking the organization’s endorsement asked specifically about marriage equality. However, considering that in 2004 the General Assembly voted to put the question to a referendum—when some 80 percent of voters approved the constitutional amendment defining marriage as only being between a man and a woman—it seems like this would be a fair and important question for the state’s largest LGBT advocacy organization to ask of candidates seeking state office.

“We don’t have any specific litmus test for our endorsement,” Graham said. “No, a candidate does not have to support same-sex marriage to get our endorsement, or any one of our legislative agenda items. We try to weigh a variety of factors and also look at viability of being elected; that can be a deciding factor.”

Graham pointed out that Carter’s nomination and campaign is historical itself—as the state Senator from the most liberal district in Georgia (District 42)

Carter is seeking Georgia Equality’s endorsement again this year, Graham added.

In March, Jason Carter sidestepped a question on same-sex marriage by stating Georgia has a constitutional amendment in place making it illegal.

“Georgia has a constitutional amendment that bans gay marriage. And so that issue from an electoral standpoint is not going to be a big issue in the race, because the governor is not going to make much of a difference on it,” he told the Huffington Post.

That argument just doesn’t hold water anymore. Not in 2014 and not in Georgia where the state is being sued to overturn that anti-gay constitutional amendment approved by voters a decade ago. The governor very much has a role to play in this lawsuit and we deserve to know what his stance is.

Michelle Nunn, the Democrat seeking to replace Saxby Chambliss, has gone on the record as supporting states’ rights on marriage equality. That could be worse than Jason Carter’s silent position because it does impart a position held by those who we consider anti-gay, including her Republican opponent.

Many LGBT people say Jason Carter is obviously the best choice over Gov. Nathan Deal despite his silence so far on our issues. I’m not here to argue he isn’t. If there is one thing I do know it’s that Nathan Deal needs to go.

I am here to argue that silence is poisonous to our movement. Jason Carter can say whatever he wants to individuals but until he comes out and publicly states how he recognizes our issues, including marriage, then he is hurting all of us.

It is 2014 and it is time for LGBT Georgians to demand our leaders and those who want to be our leaders speak out for all of us.