Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed to help kick off Southern gay marriage initiative

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed will join LGBT advocacy groups Georgia Equality and Freedom to Marry on Monday as part of a press conference to announce the initiative “Southerners for the Freedom to Marry.”

“The goal of the initiative is to increase public support for same sex marriage here in the south, which has lagged behind the rest of the country.  The national organization Freedom to Marry will be working with Georgia Equality and other southern-based LGBT advocacy organizations,” states an email from Georgia Equality to its members and supporters.

Speakers at the press conference in addition to Reed, the chair of the Mayors for the Freedom to Marry initiative, will be Evan Wolfson of Freedom to Marry, Rev. Don Saliers and a local couple, Linda Ellis from The Health Initiative and her wife, Rev. Lesley Brogan.

Reed “came out” in support of full marriage equality in late 2011 and after issuing a statement months earlier he was still “wrestling” with the issue.  Since 2012, Mayor Reed said he would work to change the conversation on same-sex marriage in Georgia and the nation has been vocal about his support for marriage equality.

In January, Georgia Equality and Lambda Legal hosted a marriage town hall forum to announce its “Why Marriage Matters Georgia Campaign” in collaboration with Freedom to Marry. Bottom line: it’s going to cost about $10 million in the next three to five years to get marriage equality passed in the Peach State, according to Georgia Equality. The state’s largest LGBT advocacy group is currently trying to raise $50,000 to launch its “Why Marriage Matters Georgia Campaign” in collaboration with the national Freedom to Marry organization.

With recent victories in Virginia and Kentucky, questions have been raised via social media by Georgia LGBT activists why no legal push has been made in Georgia to pursue marriage equality via the courts. At the town hall forum, Lambda Legal staff attorney Tara Borelli explained the reasoning — the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals based in Georgia is very conservative. In 2004, there was a challenge to Florida’s gay adoption ban. The case was lost and has been been used as a roadblock to marriage equality cases ever since, Borelli said at the forum.

The same “gay people are bad parents” rationale was later used in an August 2012 case in Hawaii, although the legislature later legalized same-sex marriage in 2013. “This is a primary argument [marriage equality opponents] make in every single one of these cases and that judge bought it even though the research, the science, the literature and the consensus of every major, medical, behavioral, mental health organization is that we make equally fine parents,” Borelli said.

Gay couples, families and supporters of marriage equality are invited to attend the press conference on Monday at 10 a.m. at the Phillip Rush Center, 1530 DeKalb Ave., Atlanta, GA 30307. Those planning to attend are asked to RSVP at this link.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story said Georgia Equality sent out a press release announcing the press conference. Georgia Equality actually sent out an email to people on its membership and those on its action list. The story reflects the change.