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|2010 in Review: Top 10 LGBT news stories in Ga.|
|by Dyana Bagby|
|December 24, 2010 00:00|
In 2010, Atlanta and Georgia saw many achievements and setbacks in the LGBT community, from activists battling an alleged hate crime in Savannah to welcoming a new gay mega church pastor from Conyers and an Atlanta transgender woman winning a federal lawsuit after being illegally fired. Here are GA Voice’s choices for the state’s top 10 LGBT news stories of the year.
Atlanta Eagle lawsuit ends with settlement
Nearly a year and a half after the Atlanta Police Department illegally raided the Atlanta Eagle, a federal lawsuit between the city and numerous patrons of the bar that night was settled on Dec. 8.
The city was ordered to pay $1.025 million to the plaintiffs and their legal representation: Dan Grossman, Lambda Legal and the Southern Center for Human Rights. The settlement includes sweeping changes to police policy.
Anti-gay Bishop Eddie Long caught in gay sex scandal
Sending cell phone photos of yourself wearing tight muscle shirts to young men in your congregation is not seen as typical behavior for the senior pastor of one of the largest churches in the country. But that’s just one of the accusations Bishop Eddie Long of mega church New Birth Missionary Baptist Church faces in a sex scandal that rocked the city and the nation in September.
Long, who spews anti-gay hate, is facing four lawsuits by young men who allege their pastor used his spiritual authority to coerce them into sexual relationship while they were teens.
Trans woman wins federal lawsuit against Ga. legislature
Vandy Beth Glenn, who was removed in 2007 from her job as a legislative editor after disclosing her plan to transition from male to female, won her federal lawsuit against the state legislature when a judge ruled July 2 she was illegally discriminated against when Legislative Counsel Sewell Brumby fired her for being transgender.
The state is appealing the decision; during the appeal Glenn is being paid her full salary and benefits. She is represented by the non-profit gay organization Lambda Legal.
Gay South Ga. teen takes his boyfriend to the prom
As a senior at Bleckley County High School in Cochran, Ga. — about 2.5 hours south of Atlanta — Derrick Martin wanted to bring a date to the prom on April 17. Martin’s date, however, was another male.
After local media outlets picked up Martin’s story, the teen was kicked out of his home by his parents. Martin attended the prom with his boyfriend with no hassle from classmates and is now a freshman at Georgia Southern University. He founded Project LifeVEST, an organization that states it is dedicated to helping other LGBT youth and adults find safe spaces from discrimination.
LGBT people, allies rally to combat hate
When the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church decided to bring its circus to Atlanta and protest at Grady High School in May, more than 100 people of all ages and all orientations gathered for a rather peaceful but mighty counter protest to their words of hate.
LGBT Atlantans and others also showed up in force at the state capitol when the National Organization for Marriage brought its national “Summer of Marriage” road tour to Atlanta in August. Only approximately 35 people stood on the front steps of the Capitol where NOM gathered, including their speakers, performers, volunteers and the media.
Across the street on the sidewalk in front of Central Presbyterian Church, close to 300 people gathered with signs supporting marriage equality for gay couples.
Mega church pastor comes out; gay pastor reinstated
On Oct. 13, Bishop Jim Swilley, founder of Church of the Now, a mega church located in Conyers, came out to his congregation with the support of his now ex-wife and his children. Swilley noted in his October sermon that he was motivated to speak up by the recent rash of gay youth suicides, and by ongoing hate crimes targeting gay people.
In a victory for gay pastors, Rev. Bradley Schmeling and his partner, Rev. Darin Easler, were reinstated to the clergy rolls of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in April after they were removed for being in a same-sex relationship.
Most anti-gay GOP gubernatorial race in recent history
While seeking the GOP nod to run for governor, former U.S. Congressman Nathan Deal and Karen Handel pulled no punches in seeking to be more anti-gay. In one of the most egregious examples, Deal released a campaign ad claiming Handel supported YouthPride, an Atlanta LGBT youth agency, which Deal claimed “promotes homosexuality” to children as young as 13.
Handel was no better, denying her past support for domestic partner benefits and saying if elected governor she would consider a bill prohibiting gay couples from adopting. Deal eventually won the GOP primary and general election. He will be inaugurated as Georgia’s governor in January.
Rash of anti-gay crimes; two LGBT Atlanta police liaisons named
• Josh Noblitt, the gay social justice minister from Saint Mark United Methodist Church, was robbed at gunpoint in Piedmont Park July 2. Six male suspects ages 13-19 were arrested shortly after the alleged robbery and remain in custody. APD has classified this as an anti-gay bias crime.
• Durand Robinson, managing partner of the renowned promotion team and nightclub, Traxx and one of the patriarchs of Atlanta’s black gay community, was killed on Aug. 25, a week before Atlanta’s Black Gay Pride. Police say the crime may have been a carjacking. The shooting remains unsolved. Friends say Robinson was not gay.
• On Sept. 5, two men — Samuel Blizzard, 21, a Georgia State University student from Spring Cove, Va., and Calvin Streater, 26, of Atlanta — were found shot to death after police said they had attended Black Gay Pride events. This crime remains unsolved.
• During his campaign, Mayor Kasim Reed reached out to gay voters by promising his administration would have two LGBT liaisons. Reed named Senior Patrol Officer Patricia Powell to the post in April and then Officer Brian Sharp as the second liaison in September.
Savannah rallies against hate, celebrates victories
The Savannah City Council voted unanimously in October to authorize the city manager to implement a domestic partner program for city employees beginning in 2011. Other municipalities in Georgia offering domestic partner benefits include Atlanta, Athens-Clarke County, Fulton and DeKalb counties and the cities of East Point, Doraville and Decatur.
In June, Savannah activists held a rally of hundreds after a gay Savannah man, Kieran Daly, was beaten by a U.S. Marine for allegedly winking at him. Georgia Equality demanded the beating be investigated as a federal hate crime because Georgia does not have a state hate crime law. Federal authorities and local prosecutors deemed the crime did not fit the criteria of a hate crime. Only one of the Marines arrested in the attack on Daly was eventually charged.
The city also held its first Queer Power March in September that attracted hundreds.
First-time Gay Prides around our state
On June 19, Augusta held its very first Gay Pride fest that attracted some 3,500 people, said organizer Isaac Kelly. The event included a parade down the city’s main street as well as headliners “American Idol” contestant Frenchie Davis and Thelma Houston.
Cobb County also had its first Pride on July 24 with the celebration of the Marietta Rainbow Festival that attracted hundreds to the plaza where gay bar Le Buzz is located.
The first-ever East Side Pride drew a diverse crowd to Clarkston’s Milam Park on June 26.
Top photo: Left: Bishop Eddie Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church once led a march through downtown Atlanta against gay marriage, earning him scant sympathy from LGBT Georgians when he was sued this year by four young men who claim he coerced them into sex. (via New Birth) Right: Vandy Beth Glenn won a victory for all transgender people when a federal judge ruled that the Georgia legislature illegally fired her when she transitioned from male to female. (File)
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