The Georgia General Assembly will meet in a special legislative session to begin Monday to discuss redistricting, among other topics, and two of the state's three openly gay legislators may be in the crosshairs.
Already a proposed legislative map is being discussed in public. State Rep. Stacey Abrams (D-Atlanta), the House Minority Leader, has accused the Republican-controlled legislature of pitting black Democratic state House representatives against white Democrats. Abrams, who is black, said Republican lawmakers are "purging the state of Georgia of white Democrats," a charge GOP leaders deny. The full map will be released Friday.
[Updated] Proposed Ga. redistricting maps pit gay state representatives against gay rights allies
For LGBT Georgians, the redistricting also hits close to home and along race lines.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, state Rep. Rashad Taylor (D-Atlanta), who recently came out as gay and is black, would be pitted against gay-friendly and longtime House representative Pat Gardner (D-Atlanta), who is white. Gardner strongly opposed the 2004 state constitutional amendment that banned gay marriage. The same year, Gardner defeated an openly gay challenger, Alex Wan, in the Democratic primary. Wan now serves on the Atlanta City Council.
State Rep. Simone Bell (D-Atlanta), the first out black lesbian in the nation to serve in a state legislature, may have her district combined with state Rep. Ralph Long (D-Atlanta), who is also black and who supported Rep. Taylor when he came out.
Redistricting takes place every 10 years after the release of results from the U.S. Census, which is conducted every decade. The process is often highly partisan as the controlling political party may attempt to craft districts that will increase its power. The maps approved by the Georgia legislature will also require federal approval to certify that they comply with the Voting Rights Act.
Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality, the state’s largest LGBT advocacy organization, has urged LGBT Georgians to take an interest in the redistricting process.
“While this process may seem unrelated to LGBT policy goals, it’s important to realize that these seats are drawn in such a way that they will have a tremendous influence on which party — and in some cases, which people — will have political power for the next decade,” Graham wrote in a guest editorial for GA Voice.
“It’s also important for members of the LGBT community to not only understand the process, but also to make a concerted effort to monitor and weigh in on various proposals and maps as the session unfolds.
“We must work with other communities of interest to remind members of the legislature that Georgia’s strength lies in its diversity. As such, it is imperative that this process includes input from multiple ethnic, racial, social and religious groups and minorities.”
A copy of the state House and Senate Democratic Caucuses includes talking points that allege the Republican controlled legislature is discriminating against the ability of Georgians to build multi-race coalitions. The talking points also discuss the impact on LGBT Georgians and the impact the proposed maps, if approved could have. The talking points include:
• Republican maps are forcing two of the three gay representatives (and the only two African-American LGBT representatives in the nation) into competition with fellow incumbent Democrats, resulting in the potential reduction of gay representation in the House.
• The effect of creating a Republican super-majority would be devastating to Georgia citizens, leading to constitutional amendments that have been introduced or passed in other states:
— Tax laws (eliminating the income tax by increasing sales taxes on the poor and middle class) — Reproductive rights (adopting the Personhood Amendment that states life begins at fertilization) — Gay rights (outlawing gay adoption) — Immigration (English-only laws that affect citizens, residents and visitors) — School vouchers (Diverting more funding from public schools without accountability)