Georgia lawmaker exiting to take leadership post in gay rights group

One of Georgia’s three openly gay state legislators is leaving office.

State Rep. Simone Bell, D-Atlanta, said Thursday that she is headed to Lambda Legal’s Atlanta office as a Southern regional director. Bell had previously worked as a community educator for the gay rights group.

“I am so proud of what Lambda Legal has accomplished, but my experience in the General Assembly tells me the work cannot stop,” Bell said in the statement. “This is a particularly exciting time to be a part of Lambda Legal’s work in the South, challenging laws and public policies that discriminate across lines of sexual orientation, gender identity, HIV status, income and race and to achieve full equality for all.”

Bell was first elected to office in a 2009 special election to represent her east Atlanta district, and she beat back a heated primary challenge last year.

She was an outspoken advocate for gay marriage and other LGBT issues, and her website trumpets that she is the “first African American OUT lesbian to serve in a State House in the United States.”

“Simone has never stopped being a fierce advocate for LGBT people and those living with HIV,” said Kevin Cathcart, Lambda Legal’s executive director.

Her departure leaves two openly gay members of Georgia’s Legislature: state Reps. Karla Drenner and Keisha Waites, both metro Atlanta Democrats.