Georgia State Rep. Rashad Taylor (D-Atlanta) came out today as a gay man at a press conference after the ex-boyfriend of his current partner sent out emails to legislators alleging he is gay and also accusing him of misusing his office.
“I am a gay man,” Taylor said at the press conference held today at Georgia Equality’s office at the Phillip Rush Center.
Taylor becomes the first openly gay male serving in the Georgia legislature and the third openly gay state lawmaker. State Rep. Karla Drenner (D-Avondale Estates) and State Rep. Simone Bell (D-Atlanta) are also openly gay and ran as openly gay when seeking office.
According to the national Victory Fund which works to elect openly gay officials, Taylor is only the sixth openly black LGBT person to serve in a state legislature. State Rep. Bell was the first African-American lesbian elected to a state legislature in 2009.
Yesterday and in days prior, a man who is the ex-boyfriend of Taylor’s partner sent an email to state legislators outing him and alleging Taylor misused his office by promising men jobs in exchange for sex. Taylor denied those allegations today, but did say the truth is is he is gay.
“For some it may take two days, for some it take two years or 20 years [to come out],” he said. “I serve in public office and try to retain some semblance of a private life. This is a journey I’ve been on,” he said. “i wouldn’t want to expedite anyone else’s journey. It ought to be a personal decision.”
Taylor admitted that if the allegations against him had not been made he would not have come out.
“I would not be standing here today,” he said, adding he considered ignoring the allegations.
But now was the time to tell the truth, Taylor added.
“I felt like honestly this was it unless I spoke the truth,” Taylor said, saying he didn’t want someone to feel like they had something “over his head.”
He said before today, he could “count on one hand” the people who knew he was gay. Taylor also said that he came out to his mother and family in the past 24 hours. He thanked his mother for his support and she hugged him warmly after he spoke to the media.
“I feel really good. My heart is as ease,” he said about coming out publicly. “Tonight’s sleep will probably be the best sleep I’ve had in 12 or 13 years.”
Taylor acknowledged that in the African American culture, being gay is a a tough subject to discuss, which played a role in his not coming out publicly before.
When asked about his political future, Taylor said, “I am the same Rashad Taylor that was on the ballot in 2008 and 2010. My positions won’t change.”
Taylor was flanked by his mother and also some other family members as well as State Rep. Alisha Morgan; State Sen. Vincent Fort; Reese McCranie, the openly gay spokesperson for Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed; Larry Pellegrini, the openly gay executive director of the Georgia Rural Urban Summit; and Georgia Equality Executive Director Jeff Graham.
Taylor was greeted with applause when he walked into the podium.
Taylor, who just turned 30 two months ago, is the youngest member of the Georgia General Assembly. He was first elected in 2008 and then re-elected in 2010 to serve House District 55.
Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality, said he was pleased with Taylor’s announcement today despite the circumstances.
“I’m certainly very pleased for the community, and for Rashad. I think the circumstance are of course very difficult as he said,” Graham said.
“I think anyone who identifies as gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender understands … the one thing that ties us all together is coming out. First we have to come out to ourselves, then to family and friends and then eventually the public. That can be the most difficult process, coming out publicly, to strangers. He is embracing who he is. We have a community of hundreds of thousands of Georgians who will support him,” Graham added.
“He has been a strong ally in the community. I’m very proud we supported him in 2008 and 2010 and we gladly support him in 2012 as an openly gay man,” Graham said.
Mike Berlon, chair of the Democratic Party of Georgia, released a statement today in response to Taylor’s coming out.
“Rashad’s words today add to his stature as a true leader. His journey is an extremely personal one, and I hope that all Georgians will show him the same kindness and support that he has shown his constituents during his tenure in the General Assembly.
“Coming out is never easy. It is an intensely personal decision. We stand with those that make this difficult choice, and we continue our strong support for the LGBT community and Rashad personally,” Berlon said.
Top photo: State Rep. Rashad Taylor (center) is applauded by friends, family and supporters after he comes out as gay at a press conference today at Georgia Equality. (by Dyana Bagby)