Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ LGBTQ Advisory Board has big plans. The first public meeting of the Board was held at City Hall on the morning of August 17. An earlier, private meeting was held in July. The event, which took place behind closed doors, was widely criticized for an alleged violation for Georgia’s open meeting laws.
According to Project Q Atlanta, “Officials with One Atlanta — which encompasses the city’s equity, diversity and inclusion office — initially announced that the first hour of Friday’s two-hour session would be closed to the public.”
“But the board’s co-chairs decided at the beginning of the meeting to open it up for the entire session.”
Last Friday’s meeting primarily focused on structural concerns. The board divided itself into working groups, to address problem areas and devise solutions of interest to the entire community.
Bottoms founded the official LGBTQ Advisory Board on May 8 of this year.
The Mayor’s LGBTQ Advisory Board (MLAB) was put together as fulfillment of a pledge to the gay community by Bottoms during her campaign. Indeed, LGBTQ support was an important part of the Bottoms coalition.
As a 2017 Atlanta Journal-Constitution article noted, “The demographics of LGBT communities are hard to pin down because the Census Bureau does not ask people about their sexual orientation, but there’s little doubt that LGBT voters have an outsized electoral influence.”
“A 2015 analysis of Gallup survey data found about 4 percent of metro Atlanta’s residents identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. Some analysts, including veteran Democratic pollster Beth Schapiro, say the LGBT vote accounts for at least 10 percent of registered voters in the city.”
According to the May press release, MLAB is composed of “citywide leaders and advocates,” and “will help shape the City’s policies and engagements with Atlanta’s LGBTQ communities and serve as a bridge between City Hall and LGBTQ residents.”
In addition to the Board, Bottoms appointed the City of Atlanta’s first full-time LGBTQ Affairs Coordinator, Malik Brown. Brown, well-known in Atlanta, is a former member of the national leadership of the Human Rights Campaign, the LGBTQ advocacy organization.
During the founding of the MLAB, Bottoms said “During my campaign, I spoke at length of my commitment to the LGBTQ community. As Mayor, my recognition of that importance has been put into action, as I have made the formation of the LGBTQ Advisory Board and the hiring of a full-time LGBTQ Affairs Coordinator a priority.”
Among the members of MLAB are local notables such as Georgia Equality’s Jeff Graham, city businessman Richard Cherskov, religious leaders Oliver Clyde Allen and Joshua Noblitt, actor Daniel Newman, and State Representative Park Cannon.
Official documents report that the most significant issues to be tackled by MLAB include the AIDS epidemic and Atlanta’s homelessness problem, which disproportionately effects LGBTQ youth.
As mentioned above, to better address these issues, the Board divided its membership into specific, issue-centered committees, which will take responsibility for the fields of arts, trans issues, health, economics, and so on.
The station WABE quoted Pam Stewart, MLAB’s co-chair, as praising the Mayor. “The Mayor could have come in and said we’ve done enough, we’re already there. She didn’t do that. She said we still have work to do, we want to take it from great to exceptional and not just rest at great.”
Other MLAB members chimed in, saying they wanted to hear from all the people. The mood of the Board was reportedly optimistic.