Joan Garner takes oath of office as first openly gay Fulton Co. Commissioner

After taking the oath of office, Garner addressed the crowd as all commissioners did after they were sworn in. She noted the historical aspect of the day and said she would continue to champion the causes she’s always worked for, including gay rights.

Garner thanked everyone who supported her campaign and especially thanked her partner, “My biggest and greatest supporter,” which was greeted by applause.

“Today is no ordinary day, she said. “This is more than an average run of the mill inauguration ceremony. This inauguration ceremony for me is a realization of a lifelong quest for inclusion.”

Garner recounted watching Martin Luther King Jr. as a small girl growing up in Washington, D.C., as he led the Poor People’s March, and the awe she held for his “bold audacity to champion unpopular but important causes.”

“Even then I was painfully aware of a glaring disconnect between many of our people and their government,” she said.

When King was assassinated, Garner said she remembered angry, grieving people taking to the streets in protest.

“From that day forward I took up the mantle of social justice as my own,” she said. “Those days shaped me, they inspired me to pursue a life of social justice. It is what drives me and my decisions every day. My career choice in nonprofit philanthropy, my  activist work in the civil rights movement, the movements of women’s equality and for gay rights.”

Garner placed second behind lesbian Keisha Waites in the July Democratic primary and was forced into a runoff. Garner easily won the August runoff and she was unopposed in the November election.

Garner had never run for elected office before and when announcing her bid for office, she said it was time for the Fulton commission to have an openly gay person serving.

She serves District 6 which includes portions of the central and eastern sections of the city of Atlanta, including Thomasville Heights, Grant Park, Reynoldstown, Downtown, Old Fourth Ward, Inman Park, Midtown, Virginia-Highland, Morningside, Ansley Park and Lindridge-Martin Manor.

Read Garner’s official Fulton County Commission biography here.

Garner’s campaign team included gay leaders Ken Britt and Beth Schapiro, who also served on the team that helped Alex Wan win his seat last year on the Atlanta City Council. Wan is the first openly gay man elected to the council as well as the first Asian American.

In 2003, Mitzi Bickers, former Atlanta School Board president, came out as a lesbian during her unsuccessful bid for the Fulton County Commission chair. She is now a management analyst in Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s office of Human Services and pastor for Emmanuel Baptist Church.

Other members of the Fulton County Commission sworn in today were Chairman John Eaves, beginning his second term and who has stated publicly he supports gay marriage; Robb Pitts, who was first elected to the Fulton Commission in 2002; Liz Hausman; Tom Lowe, who was elected to his 10th term; Emma Darnell; and Bill Edwards.


Top photo: Joan Garner is sworn in as District 6 Fulton County Commissioner with her partner of 11 years, Jane Morrison, at her side. (by Dyana Bagby)