Bill Kaelin

Bill Kaelin: Take your pride to the polls

It’s hard to believe it is election time again. We are living in a much different LGBTQ America than we were less than a year ago. There is no rest for the weary and it is more important than ever for us to come together as a community.

Since 45 took office, the Republicans have slowly tried to erase us. Our community has been completely removed from the 2020 Census. Donald Trump has banned transgender Americans from the military. He refused to acknowledge June as Pride month. Federal programs for HIV have been slashed and Attorney General Jeff Sessions just recently argued that businesses have the right to fire people for being LGBTQ.

Unfortunately, every Georgia Republican running for governor in 2018 has followed this lead by promising to sign a “religious freedom” bill making LGBTQ discrimination legal in Georgia.

These are scary times for our community, and in the era of Donald Trump, citizens in the LGBTQ family need to run for office and win.

I have heard people say, “Just because I am gay doesn’t mean I’m going to vote for someone because they are gay too,” which is a valid argument if I was trying to get you to elect “Just Jack” for mayor.

Fortunately, organizations like HRC, Victory Fund and Georgia Equality have endorsed a few LGBTQ candidates that will help give you more than enough reasons why it is OK to vote gay.

The mayoral race is one of the biggest contests to support and includes our own Cathy Woolard. Cathy was the first openly gay elected official in Georgia history and then became the first openly gay City Council president in the country. In 1999, she successfully sponsored legislation to add gender identity to Atlanta’s non-discrimination policy for city employees. Cathy personally led the Atlanta City Council to pass what is still the only comprehensive civil rights bill in the state of Georgia that protects LGBTQ people from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. In recent years, she also worked tirelessly to stop attempts to pass dangerous, anti-LGBTQ “license to discriminate” bills at the state Capitol.

Other gay candidates running for office include Alex Wan for City Council president, who has already had success as the first Asian-American gay man elected for City Council District 6. Looking to replace Wan for District 6 is Phoenix Award-winner Kirk Rich. Rich is also the former board president of the HIV/AIDS nonprofit Jerusalem House. Queer political activist Liliana Bakhtiari is the perfect example how voting for “family” can help ensure your gay voice is heard. Liliana has always been active with our city’s LGBTQ homeless community, and her own family falling victim to the Donald Trump Muslim travel ban was the catalyst for this first-time candidate to run for office.

It is important for us as a community to have people from our community represent us. We have proven that when we stick together, we have amazing amounts of power. Starting with Stonewall, we alone fought for ourselves. If it wasn’t for gay organizations like ACT UP, Ronald Reagan would have continued to ignore the AIDS crisis while millions of us died. Our relentless fight together helped pass marriage equality and proved when we join forces, we can change the world.

The time has come to bring your pride to the polls and support all of our LGBTQ candidates. If we don’t vote for candidates in our own community, who can we rely on to speak for us and help protect us all?