Fulton County Commission Chair John Eaves said today he supports full marriage equality for same-sex couples after initially only supporting civil unions.

“I did previously support civil unions but I have since learned more … and my previous stance was not sufficient,” Eaves said today. “I’m supportive of marriage equality, not just civil unions.”

Eaves said after talking with members of the gay community and studying the issue on his own, he now believes in gay marriage.

Fulton Chair John Eaves comes out in support of gay marriage

“I’m an educator and I have been educated. I believe in marriage equality for all,” he said.

Eaves faces a possible battle in his reelection campaign against Mary Norwood, a strong ally of gay rights who is an outspoken advocate for gay marriage. Norwood is seeking to gain some 23,000 signatures to qualify as an Independent on the ballot to run against Eaves. She has until July 13 to get the needed signatures and have them approved by the Fulton County Department of Registration & Elections.

Eaves and his campaign challenged the way Norwood was gaining signatures because she was using petitions with the word “Fulton” already preprinted on the forms to indicate the county of residence of the signer.

Eaves argued that only the signers of the petitions can fill in the petitions and last week Norwood sued Eaves. Norwood’s lawsuit was dismissed in Fulton County Superior Court on Thursday.

“I’ve stated from the beginning that anyone has the right to seek this office. However, there is a process to follow,” said Eaves, a Democrat. “And you have to abide by election law.”

Norwood, in a press release, questioned how Eaves discovered her petitions were preprinted with Fulton on them and alleged he was trying to block her from the ballot. She said she received written permission from Fulton election officials to have “Fulton” preprinted on her petition forms.

“My campaign raised the issue — there is to be no tampering with petitions. Only the petitioner can fill out the form,” Eaves said. “My campaign just raised the issue and Norwood’s camp filed suit.”

Norwood has also questioned how Eaves and his campaign discovered her petitions were preprinted.

“We have a right to open public records and the ability to find out,” Eaves said.

“My campaign pursued that. I really don’t know” how it was discovered, he added.

Rashad Taylor, campaign chair for Eaves’ campaign, called the Georgia Voice to clarify that the campaign found out about Norwood’s request to have petitions preprinted with “Fulton” through an open records request.

Taylor said the campaign filed a request to see what communication occurred between the Norwood campaign and Fulton County election officials when it was discovered she had requested to have her petitions preprinted.

“And the answer is no — we felt one of the staff members had given her bad advice,” Taylor said.