Rainbow lights and rainbow cupcakes. Drag queens and an open bar. A proposal and a comedy show. The Mayor’s Inaugural Pride Reception was a night of fun for Atlanta’s LGBTQ community which successfully kicked off Pride Week. More importantly, the night highlighted the strides the City of Atlanta and its mayor have taken to celebrate and protect its diverse LGBTQ population.

“To underscore my unwavering commitment to the LGBTQ community, I want you to know that you are welcome, you are graced and celebrated by our administration and the city of Atlanta,” Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms kicked off the event by saying. “We are fully committed to the protection and advancement of our LGBTQ residents, workers, and visitors.”

Mayor Bottoms, the 60th Mayor of Atlanta, had the work to back up her words – work that was celebrated throughout the event.

Upon being sworn in, Mayor Bottoms made the landmark move of appointing Atlanta’s first ever full-time LGBTQ Affairs Coordinator, Malik Brown. Brown works to connect Atlanta’s LGBTQ community with City Hall.

Mayor Bottoms also appointed a diverse, 34-person LGBTQ advisory board, who have already begun making policy suggestions on a wide range of issues: “reducing homelessness among LGBTQ youth, combatting the spread of HIV/AIDS, supporting the needs of our trans community, propelling economic development and opportunities for the LGBTQ community, and ensuring Atlanta is a national leader in LGBTQ arts, entertainment, and culture.”

In May, Mayor Bottoms helped form a national coalition of over 300 mayors who are committed to using Atlanta offices to combat LGBTQ discrimination.

The Atlanta City Council also unanimously voted to dedicate $100,000 of this year’s city budget to combat of HIV/AIDS, the first budget allocation of its kind in Atlanta’s history.

The memory of who Mayor Bottoms called “an exemplary public servant,” Joan Garner, was honored on the stage.

Joan Garner was the Fulton County Commission’s first openly LGBTQ elected official. Mayor Bottoms granted her the Phoenix Award, the highest honor that can be bestowed by the Mayor of Atlanta.

“We remember Commissioner Joan Garner for the noble contributions she made to the city of Atlanta, Fulton county, and the state of Georgia through her inspiring character, sacrifice, and exceptional public service. Commissioner Garner will be remembered as a brilliant and respected leader, who dedicated her life to advancing the welfare of others,” Mayor Bottoms said as she granted Garner’s wife the plaque.

Chief of police, Erika Shields, spoke on the strides the Atlanta Police Department has made to better protect its LGBTQ citizens. These included having one to two LGBTQ liaisons on hand at all times and starting their second LGBTQ Citizens Police Academy.

The event hosted a number of big names, including Congressman John Lewis. Rep. Lewis spoke of his experiences working in the Civil Rights movement and seeing gay people being discriminated against because of their sexuality.

“It was not right, it was not fair, it was not just,” he said.

He continued with a message to the crowd, “When you see something that is not fair, not right, not just, you have a moral obligation to say something and do something.”

The President of the Human Rights Campaign, Chad Griffin, made an appearance to announce Atlanta’s score on the 2018 Municipal Equality Index. This index is “the nation-wide gold standard when it comes to measuring LGBTQ inclusion in municipal law, policy, and services,” according to Griffin.

Atlanta received a perfect score for the sixth consecutive year, and also achieved “all-star status” by receiving higher than an 85 despite being in a state with no LGBTQ inclusive protections.

The night was wrapped up with a comedy performance by Jaboukie Young-White, a speech by out CBS 46 anchor Thomas Roberts – who announced that CBS 46 will be airing the Pride Parade this year –a message from Imara Canady, Regional Director of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, and a drag performance by members of the local camp drag organization, The Armorettes.

The Inaugural Pride Reception kicked off what is sure to be a week of fun, love, and pride. The Mayor of Atlanta moved past acceptance and protection to celebration and advancement. This event, as well as the significant strides the Bottoms administration and City of Atlanta have made, sent the profound message to Atlanta’s diverse LGBTQ community, as Chad Griffin said, “that all are welcome in the city of Atlanta.”

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