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|Atlanta mayor sits down with gay marriage supporters, but not ready to say 'I do'|
|Written by Laura Douglas-Brown and Ryan Watkins|
|Wednesday, 27 June 2012 21:11|
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed met with gay activists today to discuss marriage equality, but did not emerge ready to say "I do" to same-sex nuptials.
The meeting at City Hall was not open to the press and Reed did not give interviews after it ended. Those who attended described the meeting as candid and positive, but said Reed did not announce a change in his position on marriage equality during the gathering.
“The mayor had a productive meeting and he looks forward to further discussions with the LGBT community," Reese McCranie, Reed's deputy director of communications, said in a written statement Wednesday evening.
Reed has been under increasing pressure to voice support for marriage equality after President Barack Obama announced his support in May.
Gay teacher and activist Charlie Stadtlander started a Facebook page after Obama's announcement titled, "Mayor Reed, It's Time to Evolve on Marriage Equality."
The June 27 meeting was attended by Stadtlander, state House candidate Ken Britt; attorney Lawrie Demorest of Alston & Bird; Pastor Dennis Meredith of Tabernacle Baptist Church; and attorney Doug Brooks, who is married and has children.
In interviews at City Hall immediately after the meeting, all of the gay attendees described the conversation as productive and open.
Britt, who is running for House District 56 and hopes to be the first openly gay man elected to the General Assembly, said the meeting went "great" and Reed "is very aware that he is on this personal journey."
"i would compare it to somebody coming out, that he has got to take time to think about what is meaningful to him. This was an educational process and he was very open and it was a very warm and friendly discussion," Britt said. "In fact he has offered to have a follow up session in July to talk more about this."
Britt said that while Reed did not say that he plans to announce support for gay marriage, his impression was that the mayor will eventually reach that position.
"One thing he did say that i think we are all taking with us is that tolerance is a two-way street and we really have to give him some time to continue on his journey to think about this," Britt said. "I think he will come out on the other side in the right place."
Stadtlander said the mayor stressed that his current lack of support for gay marriage is a "personal" issue and is not based on political considerations.
According to Stadtlander, Reed made it clear "this is a very personal issue for me and it is something that when I get there you are gonna know that I really am there, and that it is not political."
Stadlander said he believes supporters of marriage equality should continue to advocate to Reed "in a way that recognizes that the mayor has been there with us and continues to be there with us."
Meredith said he left the meeting with a more positive outlook on the mayor and "I think he is probably more there than he is representing."
"I think he was very open and very honest," Meredith said. "I think it was an excellent meeting."
Reed, a LGBT ally during his terms in the state House and Senate, supports civil unions but endured criticism during his 2009 mayoral bid when he declined to support full marriage rights for gay couples.
Reed said recently he was still struggling with the issue of supporting full marriage equality.
“I respect President Obama’s decision to stand in support of marriage equality. I have fought hard for the rights of gays and lesbians my entire political career from protecting adoption rights for gay and lesbian families, to voting against Georgia’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage as a state senator, to serving as the state house sponsor for the only hate crimes bill ever passed in the state of Georgia,” Reed said in a statement at the time.
“While I am still wrestling with my own personal beliefs on the issue of marriage, I deeply appreciate the contributions gays and lesbians make to our city every single day and I remain committed to Atlanta’s vibrant and diverse LGBT community,” he said.
Top photo: Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed (file)
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