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Top local news of 2012: Atlanta backs marriage

Alex Wan and Kasim Reed

Whether it was the threat of the end of the world or just plain old fashioned holiday spirit — or most likely political timing — the month of December brought Atlanta officials together in a cornucopia of outspoken support for LGBT equality. 

First, on Dec. 3, the Atlanta City Council passed a resolution 11-2 stating its support for same-sex marriage. The resolution was introduced by Alex Wan, the only openly gay council member, after months of discussion with his colleagues about the difference between civil unions and marriage equality.

Wan, who represents District 6, said he pushed for the resolution because it was “the right thing to do.”

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Former Outwrite owner speaks out on new gig with AJC Decatur Book Fest

Philip Rafshoon

Philip Rafshoon, the former owner of the now shuttered Outwrite Bookstore & Coffeehouse, has been named the new program director for the AJC Decatur Book Festival.

“I'm studying right now and trying to figure out what exactly has been done at the festival in the previous years and talking to people about what they want to see changed and what will work,” Rafshoon told GA Voice today. “I'm celebrating right now that I have this great position but the work begins right away.”

Rafshoon will officially take up the position Jan. 1 and will replace outgoing program director Terra Elan McVoy.

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It’s up to all of us to decide whether we still deserve to be the gay capital of the South

Outwrite is closed. YouthPride is teetering on the brink. Atlanta Pride will have a new leader for the first time since 2008, and it will be the first year since 1999 that James Parker Sheffield has not been involved.

Only a month into 2012, the year has already brought tremendous change to three iconic institutions in LGBT Atlanta. Outwrite was the city’s highest profile LGBT business. YouthPride is one of our city’s most important and beloved LGBT organizations. And Atlanta Pride is by far our city’s largest and most visible LGBT event.

What all of these changes mean for Atlanta will take months or even years to determine, but one thing is certain: How we respond to them will define whether we deserve to keep our reputation as the gay capital of the South.

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Midtown Patch asks if neighborhood is losing its gayness

Activists gather at Atlanta's Outwrite Bookstore and Coffeehouse

Midtown Patch, a hyper-local news outlet funded by AOL, asked an interesting question this morning on its website: Is Midtown losing its gayness?

Amy Wenk, editor of the site, highlights the impending relocation of Outwrite Bookstore & Coffeehouse, as well as the most recent list of the country's “gayest” cities compiled by Advocate.

Atlanta finished this year's list ninth overall, but it's tough to take any list too seriously that doesn't include San Francisco, New York City or Miami. The Advocate makes no claims to any kind of scientific method being applied to the now-annual list. Still, a compliment is a compliment.

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Outwrite fundraiser coincides with ‘CNN Dialogues’

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Outwrite Bookstore & Coffeehouse announced today a fundraiser to coincide with “CNN Dialogues,” an open community forum sponsored by the cable news network.

“CNN Dialogues: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender: Has More Openness Led to More Acceptance” will be hosted by HLN anchor Jane Velez-Mitchell, who is gay, and will feature panelists figure skater Johnny Weir, Robin Brand from the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, LZ Granderson from ESPN and transgender speaker Donna Rose. The program takes place on Wednesday, Dec. 14, at 7 p.m. at Midtown's Grady High School.

To learn more about the panel discussion, click here.

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Atlanta’s gay-owned bookstores strive to stay open

Charis Books and More

Sara Luce Look, co-owner of Atlanta’s Charis Books & More, remembers when the chain Barnes & Noble opened up a mega store in Los Angeles across the street from the small independent feminist bookstore Sisterhood in 1995.

Last month, that Barnes & Noble closed but not before it forced the closing of Sisterhood in 1999 — just a few years shy of Sisterhood’s 30th anniversary.

“Sisterhood was the oldest feminist bookstore in the country at the time and Barnes & Noble put them out of business. Now the major chain is closing and it’s sad that neither are there anymore,” Look said.

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Rafshoon pledges bright future for Outwrite

Outwrite Bookstore and Coffeehouse owner Phillip Rafshoon

The shelves at Outwrite Bookstore & Coffeehouse are starting to look a little bare as the iconic bookstore sells down its inventory as it celebrates its 18th anniversary in the face of a prospective move.

On the corner of Piedmont Street and 10th Avenue, Outwrite has become the unofficial center of gay Atlanta. It started its life as a vacant nightclub and turned into one of Atlanta’s few remaining independent booksellers. In November, store owner Philip Rafshoon announced that Outwrite can no longer afford its lease and is looking to move.

“It’s kind of a bittersweet milestone tonight because we’ve got to kinda find a new home, but 18 years tonight, well sorta tonight, we had our opening party,” Rafshoon told the crowd on Saturday.

“What I said that night is that there will be a time that we won’t need a gay and lesbian bookstore. When people can come to their parents, where they won’t be persecuted in churches, schools, there won’t be any issues in their families. Right now there are a lot of people who think that we are at that point. In fact, we had some good friends who ran a book store and they said mission accomplished… our mission is not accomplished in any shape way or form. There is still a lot of work to be done.”

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Outwrite woes part of national trend for LGBT bookstores

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While popular with authors and LGBT Atlantans, Outwrite has publicly struggled financially. This morning, the gay bookstore announced it would close at its current location at the corner of 10th and Piedmont and try to relocate. The store's financial problems echo a trend for bookstores around the nation.

A press release from Outwrite owner Philip Rafshoon said he is looking for a new location and noted that the current space, which anchors the corner that is often referred to as the epicenter of gay Atlanta, was just too expensive.

"Our landlord has been extremely cooperative and has worked with us longer than expected. Our departure is amicable," he wrote. "The bottom line is simply we can no longer afford to rent this desirable space regardless of what business model we try to engage."