In their race to become Atlanta’s next mayor, Mary Norwood and Kasim Reed have targeted blacks, whites, the business community, the elite and the poor in an effort to court those important voting blocs.
“So I call this the ‘Ask the Gay Community for a Vote Week,' ” said Glen Paul Freedman, an openly gay political insider.
Consider this. On Friday night, Freedman hosted an event at Einstein’s Restaurant attended by more than 100 members of Atlanta’s LGBT community in support of Reed.
On Wednesday, more than twice that flowed through Amsterdam Atlanta in Midtown to support Norwood. That party followed an endorsement by Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual and Transgendered Atlanta, or GLBTATL, a small local gay advocacy group.
On Sunday, LGBT community leaders plan to hold a private VIP reception for Norwood in hopes of raising $20,000 for her campaign.
“I think every constituency has been treated equally and fairly during this campaign,” said Freedman, who initially volunteered for Lisa Borders’ campaign but who is now backing Reed. “But a lot of attention has been focused on the LGBT community.”
Part of that might also be the fact that District 6 will still be in play during the Dec. 1 runoff. Liz Coyle and Alex Wan, who is openly gay, are in a runoff to represent Atlanta’s largest voting district with 27,649 registered voters.
In recent years, gay and lesbian voters have flocked to intown neighborhoods such as Midtown, Poncey-Highland, Inman Park and Morningside, buying condos and lofts or refurbishing older homes.
In the general election, Norwood won 58.3 percent of the vote in the district, followed by Reed’s 23 percent. While there are no numbers about actual voters, it has been estimated that up to 15 percent of Atlantans are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered.
“The LGBT community, we have a lot to offer and we are regular voters,” Freedman said. “We do vote.”
Many of those voters are likely up for grabs since Georgia Equality, one of Georgia’s largest gay advocacy groups, decided to sit out the runoff. In the general election, the group backed Borders.
Instead, Georgia Equality Executive Director Jeff Graham points out the strengths of both candidates. He said that Reed has been an advocate for HIV prevention and treatment, was one of only 14 senators who voted against Georgia’s anti-gay marriage amendment and has supported an inclusive hate crimes bill.
Norwood, he said, has supported legislation to protect the rights of people living with HIV, has actively supported many LGBT organizations and supports legalizing same-sex marriages.
“Therefore, in our efforts to represent the full LGBT community, we concluded that either candidate, if elected, would be a mayor whom we could work with on municipal issues that are important to our community,” said Graham, who added that neither candidate responded to requests to participate in a debate specifically on LGBT issues.
Stonewall Democrats, a group of gay political activists, has endorsed Reed.
"Issue after issue, I have been supportive of the LGBT community," Reed said of his years in the General Assembly. "My legislative record is undeniable. My philosophy is one of complete inclusion. You will not hear talk about a liaison. I will have LGBT people in my administration."
At the event, Reed introduced his campaign's communications manager, Reese McCranie, who is gay.
At Wednesday’s event, Norwood appeared on stage with her stepdaughter, Dorsey Norwood, who is gay. She called for protections for gays – especially with the community still stung from the police raid at the Atlanta Eagle.
“My appreciation of the LGBT community goes back a long way because people are people,” Norwood said. “We can be a city that is fun without fear. And as your mayor, nobody is ever going to raid a club without Mary Norwood knowing about it. We are going to enforce the rules fairly.”
Reed has also said that he would not tolerate what happened at the Atlanta Eagle, adding that his police force will have sensitivity training to work with the gay community.
But for many people who attended her event, they noted Norwood’s stated support of legalizing same-sex marriage as the main issue that appeals to them.
“Mary Norwood does have a significant draw within the LGBT community,” said Todd Vierling, director of GLBTATL.
But Freedman said that Reed has never said he wasn’t for legalizing same-sex marriage and that everyone saying that Norwood is the only candidate promoting equality is being disingenuous.
“He said he wants all to have the same rights as heterosexual couples,” Freedman said. “And I look at it as not just one issue. Kasim has been out there on a lot of issues for the LGBT community, like hate crimes and HIV funding. Why are they not looking at the bigger issues and all of the things that are affecting our community?”
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