Last year, the House refused to approve a resolution by openly gay State Rep. Keisha Waites honoring the University of Georgia’s Lambda Alliance.
In 2011, Drenner succeeded in getting a resolution passed honoring former Atlanta City Council President Cathy Woolard, but the measure never used the words “gay” or “lesbian.” At the time, Drenner explained the wording as an “acceptance strategy.” State Rep. Simone Bell, also a lesbian, used a similar strategy in 2010 for a resolution honoring late LGBT and HIV activist Allen Thornell.
But Drenner’s new resolution honoring the Atlanta Freedom Bands is very clear in praising the band’s effort to “be a source of pride to the LGBT community” and notes that the band will host an international conference of LGBT bands slated for October 2013 to coincide with Atlanta Pride.
“Now, therefore, be it resolved by the House of Represenatives that the members of this body congratulate the Atlanta Freedom Bands on its 20 years of commitment, respect, and education of the LGBT community,” Drenner’s resolution states.
Drenner told GA Voice it is the first resolution she has passed with the words “gay” and “LGBT” in it since she took office in 2001.
“It is a small victory of sorts,” she said this afternoon.
“This bill had LGBT in there instead of Atlanta Pride. I thought it was really innocuous. I worked on it to make it palatable for everybody and I removed everything that could be deemed to be inflammatory except LGBT,” she said.
“LGBT is in the title. So when it was read aloud [yesterday] that’s why a large number of members got interested,” Drenner said. “I think that was the first gay resolution as a privilege resolution, not a policy resolution.”
Drenner couldn’t help but laugh at the reaction the House members had when hearing an LGBT resolution — to honor a band — was up for consideration.
“I think many of many thought it was a gateway bill to same-sex marriage,” she said.
Drenner added she wore all her LGBT buttons today in preparation to defend the resolution because she was not sure how the vote would go. It shows how ridiculous Georgia government can be when legislators cannot easily support a resolution honoring a gay band, she said.
Cliff Norris, director of Atlanta Freedom Bands, said he and other members had urged supporters to contact Ramsey and ask him to let the resolution receive a vote.
“We have been asking our members and audience to send him emails all through yesterday and today. And it worked! Perhaps this is a great example of the effectiveness of contacting our state legislators about issues important to our community,” Norris said.
Norris said he stressed to Ramsey why the band deserved to be honored.
“I explained how the band has grown over the past 20 years to include a number of musical ensembles that involve a wide range of people from across the metro area. I am proud of the community we have developed that includes musicians ranging in age from high school and college students to senior citizens and including people of different races, genders, orientations and professions,” he said.
“I also explained to him how our members have represented Atlanta and the state of Georgia in important events such as three presidential inaugurations and at Gay Games events in cities across the world. I also explained the economic and cultural impact that the Lesbian and Gay Band Association’s international conference will have when we host it in October and how meaningful it will be for a band of over 200 LGBT musicians from around the world to perform in our city,” Norris said.
When Norris contacted Drenner about the resolution, opposition was a concern, he said.
“A dozen of these commendation resolutions typically pass every day without incident. However, ones that have used the words ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian’ have run into trouble in the past. ‘Legislative heartburn’ might be the best phrase to describe it,” Norris said.
“But, Dr. Drenner is such a champion for our community, so I knew she would have the best shot at getting it passed. We have been proud to work with her on the resolution,” he said.
Check out the Atlanta Freedom Band participating in President Barack Obama’s inauguration parade by clicking here.
Top photo: Atlanta Freedom Bands participants, (front row, left to right): Danielle Steele, Eddie Young, Robert Corona, Mark Birditt; (second row) Cliff Norris, John Peterson, Karen Helbling, Bob Derrickson. (courtesy Cliff Norris)