The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today published a Politifact column declaring that Mayor Kasim Reed has “flip-flopped” on the issue of marriage equality. While it is certainly fair to say that Mayor Reed’s position on the specific issue of marriage equality has evolved, it is inaccurate to say he “flip-flopped” due to his well-established track record of supporting the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community as a state lawmaker and as Mayor. Mayor Reed has been of Georgia’s strongest supporters of the LGBT community and was always clear that due to his faith and his personal view of marriage, he was giving thoughtful consideration to the issue of same-sex marriage.
In addition, the column contains a factual error. It says: “In December, the City Council cornered Reed into taking a stand by passing a resolution echoing the President’s position. The Mayor had to decide whether to sign it.” That is incorrect. The Mayor had the option to sign, veto or do nothing at all; the resolution could have gone into effect without his signature. Mayor Reed chose the proactive step of signing the resolution in his office with Councilman Alex Wan. Consider the following:
Since his mayoral term began in 2010, Mayor Reed has supported the gay and lesbian community through his direct actions and in his leadership of the city. In 2010, Mayor Reed supported the decision of the Atlanta Police Department to appoint a second LGBT liaison. He also supported the decision of Chief George Turner to disband the department’s Red Dog unit involved in the Eagle Bar incident and replace it with a more community-oriented policing unit. Under his leadership, the city brought the litigation regarding both the Eagle Bar and the HIV-positive police officer to a close, although both incidents and the subsequent lawsuits began prior to his term in office. Mayor Reed participated in the annual Gay Pride Parade and hosted a welcome party at City Hall in 2010. At the request of some of the city’s leading gay rights activists, Mayor Reed attended a town hall meeting on issues affecting the LGBT community and hosted a meeting with more than a dozen LGBT activists at City Hall. This year, Mayor Reed’s campaign supported the Human Rights Campaign. And for the last three years in a row, Mayor Reed and the City of Atlanta have participated in World AIDS Awareness Day and sponsored free HIV-testing here at City Hall.
Prior to his election as Mayor, he had a well-established track record as one of the state’s strongest supporters of equal rights for gay and lesbian residents for more than a decade. In 2000, he was the House sponsor of the only hate crimes bill to ever pass the Georgia General Assembly. As a State Senator, he voted “no” in 2004 on the constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage in Georgia — a clear indication that despite his own personal views about marriage, he did not support a law which he believed embedded discrimination in the Georgia state constitution. As a co-sponsor for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, Sen. Reed proposed a measure that would prohibit discrimination in hiring and employment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity by civilian and nonreligious employers. In 2007, Sen. Reed joined with the LGBT community to prevent legislation banning gay couples from adopting children from coming to the floor for a vote. And in 2009, his legislation regarding HIV-testing for prisoners upon their release went into law.
Mayor Reed never championed legislation or policies against marriage equality. Again, in 2004, he was one of fewer than a dozen state senators who voted “no” against the state’s constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage while other senators walked off the floor of the state Senate rather than vote. Despite his personal unreadiness, Mayor Reed’s religious beliefs never played a role in his public policy decisions on equal rights, and his record demonstrates that fact. Mayor Reed voiced his view on the issue of same-sex marriage only when asked by the media, repeatedly stating that while he strongly supported civil unions and equal rights for gays and lesbians, he was strongly considering the issue of marriage equality. During the height of the 2009 mayoral campaign, Mayor Reed was criticized for not supporting same-sex marriage, a decision that cost him substantial political support in the LGBT community. However, instead of taking the politically expedient path, Mayor Reed reiterated his support for the LGBT community on civil unions and said he would continue to talk with his pastor, members of the faith community and his gay and lesbian friends on the issue of marriage equality.
Mayor Reed regularly talked with trusted friends about marriage equality. He hosted several meetings with LGBT leaders at City Hall and in private homes. He attended the national Human Rights Campaign dinner this fall in Washington D.C. as a guest of his good friend Lee Schreter and her wife, De Linda. Lee and De Linda have long talked to the Mayor about their relationship and shared with him their perspectives as a LGBT couple. They invited Mayor Reed to their wedding and he declined, feeling he would be hypocritical. His ability to speak openly and honestly with Lee and De Linda, along with other friends in the LGBT community, enabled him to come to the decision he made a few weeks ago supporting marriage equality. He simply came to the conclusion that civil unions do not carry the recognized benefits of marriage that traditional couples enjoy. Mayor Reed decided that supporting Councilman Alex Wan’s resolution was the appropriate time to make a public statement of support for the equal treatment of all of our citizens.