Executive Director, Georgia Equality
A recent op-ed ran in the Georgia Voice calling into question the record of candidate for Governor and former House Democratic Leader Stacey Abrams and challenging Georgia Equality’s decision to endorse her in this month’s Democratic primary. To imply that the LGBTQ community should be fearful or weary of an Abrams administration is ridiculous. And Abrams should not and cannot be held responsible for what the author acknowledges was the sole decision of the Mayor of Atlanta regarding action against Druid Hills Golf Club.
Our endorsement is in keeping with the endorsements of other progressive organizations including unions, and those focused on reproductive justice and civil rights.
Georgia progressives support Abrams because we know she has been leading the fight on a variety of LGBTQ issues. To suggest that, because she has formed successful working relationships with Republican legislators, she has compromised progressive values ignores the fact that the next Governor will be working with a majority Republican legislature. Support for LGBTQ issues has the capacity to transcend partisanship, and Abrams’ role as a negotiator has made her an asset in the legislature. In truth, her ability to work across the aisle while being a staunch defender for our community has and will continue to ensure that LGBTQ voices are heard at the Capitol.
The Georgia Equality endorsement process was thorough and in keeping with our established procedures. We did send surveys to all Democratic & Republican candidates for Governor. Only the Democratic candidates responded. Because both candidates have supported our community, we went one step further and interviewed both candidates. Abrams’ interview demonstrated that she was both an early proponent of LGBTQ rights and the strongest contender for Governor.
Abrams first endorsed marriage equality in 2006, long before it was politically popular – or even pragmatic – to do so. While serving in the legislature, she consistently opposed discriminatory legislation. Year after year, she has been a vocal critic of legislation that would enshrine discrimination into state law under the guise of promoting religious freedom (RFRA).
The laundry list of support goes on: In 2016, she voted against HB 757, a combined version of the Pastor Protection Act and the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), which critics warned would allow taxpayer-funded groups to deny services to members of the LGBTQ community. And unlike her Republican opponents, she, a deeply religious woman, has consistently refused to support legislation that would give preference to one religion over another. While in the legislature, she co-sponsored legislation to prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation by amending the Fair Employment Practices Act to include LGBT state employees. Her senior campaign staff includes several members of the community. Her campaign proposals include nondiscrimination measures and inclusion practices.
And while I know of no organizations that issue endorsements through a public process, we do consider how candidates are conducting outreach to various LGBTQ communities. While Georgia Equality did not sponsor it, it was Stacey Abrams who first held a public forum that was attended by a room packed with LGBTQ advocates, organizations, and businesses. It was a no-holds-barred session punctuated by hard questions – and those in attendance were not only assured of her commitment to our issues, but of her strategy to win.
Finally, one of the issues we and any organization have always considered as part of the endorsement process is viability. But those who doubt Abrams’ strategy get it wrong – it is the Abrams campaign that is running on a bold vision of what a progressive and inclusive electorate looks like. It’s a campaign that recognizes the power of building a diverse coalition that is rooted in the experiences of people of color. It is a campaign that has been building a statewide network of supports since it kicked off in Albany – not Atlanta, like many campaigns would – last June. The campaign has a robust statewide volunteer network and have been traversing the state, meeting with a diverse array of voters, since day one.
As we clearly stated in our announcement of the endorsement: “Stacey Abrams has not only supported our issues, she has actively supported openly LGBTQ candidates at the legislative level and has been instrumental in building the progressive infrastructure across issues that will make Georgia a better place for all to live, work, and visit.” Georgia Equality is proud to stand with the next Governor of Georgia: Stacey Abrams.