Queer Georgia legislator gets cold shoulder, police called after Karen Handel questions

Karen Handel, Republican candidate for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, is still keeping quiet about her views on LGBT rights — even refusing to speak to a fellow elected official following a public debate about them.

According to Rewire, local area radio station WABE called the police on openly queer Rep. Park Cannon (D-Atlanta) after she tried to speak with Handel following a public debate on June 8.

During the Young Democrats of Georgia Stonewall Caucus’ meet-and-greet on June 9 with LGBT families and Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff, Cannon took the floor to speak about the experience, but did not mention her police escort to the crowd.

“Yesterday, I attended a debate. I was attending just to listen to what was happening at a public broadcasting station. After the debate was over, as an elected official, I wanted to do a little diplomatic work. I went up to the woman who was in the room who I just saw debate a man — let’s have that moment for a moment, women in the room — and I said to her, ‘You did a good job. And if you’re elected, I want to work with you. But I want to work with you on a specific issue, and that has to do with gay marriage and gay adoption. I have seen what you’ve been saying in the media, and as a gay person, I want to leverage what I have on the ground here in Georgia to help you,’” Cannon said. “She literally turned her head and walked away.”

Cannon said as Handel left, Ossoff remained to shake hands.

“He wasn’t scared to talk to the people that he is going to represent,” she said.

As Cannon left the debate space, she was approached by a staff member of WABE. Rewire reported that Cannon said the staffer “held his hands up against the door so that I could not exit the building,” and questioned her about the thumbs-up and–down gestures she made to the candidates, which Cannon told him she did in reference to their positions on various LGBT-related issues.

Cannon told Rewire the staffer “proceeded to call one police officer, and that police officer called another police officer.” Cannon was then able to leave.

Public Broadcasting Atlanta’s senior vice president of marketing and business strategy, Hilary Silverboard, responded to interview requests from Rewire with a statement about the incident. Public Broadcasting Atlanta oversees WABE.

“It was our agreement with the campaigns that there would not be an audience Q&A after the debate. Based upon this agreement, all audience members were asked to remain in the studio until the candidates had left,” Silverboard said in the statement. “WABE staff escorted Sec. Handel from the studio to the front door and asked for assistance from an officer when an audience member (whom we later learned was Rep. Cannon) followed rather than remaining in the studio as requested. The actions we took were consistent with what was communicated to the candidates and the audience, and was by no means an effort to suppress the views of Georgia state Rep. Cannon.”

Silverboard said WABE was to provide security for candidates while on the studio premises, and escorting Handel to the door away from audience members was honoring security protocol.

Though in an earlier debate this campaign season, Handel said she did not believe people should be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation — moments after also stating she was a supporter of “religious freedom” — she has yet to talk openly to the press, including Georgia Voice, about her 2017 views on LGBT rights, including gay marriage and adoption. Handel previously flip-flopped her stances on those issues in previous election cycles in a well-publicized television interview.

“I definitely, if she becomes elected, will request a meeting with her more formally to talk about gay adoption,” Cannon told Rewire. “I wanted to speak with her further about the harmful effects of the words she has put in the media before and how I may be a resource for her, as a young person on the ground here in Georgia, for making those positive changes.”