There are at least eight openly gay candidates running for seats in the Georgia General Assembly — four incumbents and five hopefuls.
Only Georgia’s first openly gay state legislator, state Rep. Karla Drenner, is unopposed, guaranteeing that there will be one out gay voice under the Gold Dome when the new legislative session starts in January.
The General Assembly’s three other openly gay incumbents — state Reps. Simone Bell, Rashad Taylor and Keisha Waites — all face opposition in the Democratic primary.
Georgia’s upcoming primary election represents another junction in the intersecting fates of state Rep. Karla Drenner’s political party, and her movement — the two passing each other as they spiral in opposite directions.
When Drenner (D-Avondale Estates) became the Deep South’s first openly gay state legislator in 2001, the Democrats had controlled both chambers of the Georgia General Assembly and the governor’s mansion for more than 100 years.
Today, they control nothing. And the day after the July 31 primaries, they will be even more powerless due to Republican-drawn redistricting maps that are expected to reduce Georgia Democrats to super-minority status in the state legislature for at least the next decade.
Attorney Jane Morrison hopes to become one of the first openly gay judges in Georgia and the Southeast with her bid for the Fulton County State Court judge seat left open when Judge Brenda Cole retired after serving 14 years on the bench.
Morrison, 48, faces Fulton Magistrate Judge Melynee Leftridge for the non-partisan post, which will be decided in the July 31 election. State court handles misdemeanor criminal cases such as DUI and civil cases including contract cases and personal injury cases.
Morrison, whose partner is Fulton County Commissioner Joan Garner, graduated from Northeastern University School of Law in 1994 and said she was immediately drawn to civil rights work.
Dean of the Gold Dome’s ‘LGBT Caucus’ set to win 7th term
Seven openly gay men and women are vying for seats in the Georgia General Assembly — some incumbents, some newcomers — while a lesbian seeks to replace a retiring Fulton County judge, making 2012 one of the gayest election seasons to date.
But most of the gay incumbents and candidates do not have until the general election in November to make their case to the public. Since those running for Georgia House seats are Democrats in mostly Democratic districts — and only two races include Republican candidates — many contests will be decided in the July 31 general primary.
Qualifying was held May 23-25. Gay candidates on the ballot will include incumbent state Reps. Karla Drenner, Simone Bell, Rashad Taylor and Keisha Waites. Also qualifying is longtime Atlanta politico Ken Britt, who is making his first run for political office after working behind the scenes on such successful gay campaigns as Alex Wan for Atlanta City Council and Joan Garner for Fulton County Commissioner.
For Ken Britt, the time is finally right.
“I have the ‘fire in the belly,’” Britt told GA Voice during a recent interview. “If you had asked me 10 years ago, I probably would have said I was content to stay on the sidelines.”
Britt, 63, recently announced his candidacy for the District 56 seat in the Georgia House of Representatives, currently held by Democrat and gay-rights ally Rep. Kathy Ashe. Ashe announced her retirement in mid-April after more than 20 years under the Gold Dome.
The Georgia General Assembly ended its annual 40-day session March 29, leaving two LGBT bills on the table.
State Rep. Rashad Taylor (D-Atlanta), who is gay, introduced a hate crime bill on the last day of the session.
Taylor announced he would introduce the bill back in February, while speaking at a rally to protest the beating of Brandon White by gang members in southwest Atlanta who repeatedly called him “faggot.” A video of the beating went viral and made national headlines. Four men have been charged in the beating and a federal investigation continues to determine if the attack is a hate crime.
Atlanta is one of more than three dozen cities participating in a global march for LGBT equality on Saturday, April 21.
Organizers hope the event, billed as the “2012 Worldwide LGBT Civil Rights March,” will draw thousands of LGBT people and their allies to the streets to demand full equality and to raise awareness of ongoing LGBT issues.
The marches are the brainchild of Joe Knudson, an author based in Oklahoma City. Knudson said in a phone interview that the idea for a worldwide event came to him about a year ago when he created a Facebook campaign to draw attention to the struggle for LGBT equality.
In a move some legislators say they’ve never seen before, the media was banned from taking photos and video during a public hearing Monday, Feb. 27, at the Georgia General Assembly that included testimony on HB 630, the State Fair Employment Practices Act. The bill, which would ban job discrimination against state employees based on sexual orientation and gender identity, was discussed for a second time by a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee.
No vote was taken on the bill Feb. 27. It was tabled at a hearing on Feb. 21, but Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-Atlanta), who presided over the Feb. 27 subcommittee hearing and is a co-sponsor of the bill, said the legislation remains “alive” in his subcommittee.
“Well, I don’t know what happens next at this point. We’re just at a point where there’s a lot of legislation pending and inability to get it all done prior to crossover day,” Jacobs said.