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|Election: Ga. activists hope for ‘status quo’ after GOP sweep|
|by Laura Douglas-Brown|
|November 12, 2010 00:00|
The Republican tidal wave that swept the nation Nov. 2 and handed control of the U.S. House to the GOP also washed over Georgia, but local activists are cautiously hoping that the election results won’t mean major disasters for LGBT issues in the state — not because most Georgia Republicans aren’t bad on gay issues, but because they already controlled state politics.
Prior to last Tuesday’s vote, Republicans controlled the Georgia governor’s mansion, the state House and Senate, and all major statewide elected offices except Labor Commissioner and Attorney General.
But Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond, a Democrat who said he supports civil unions for gay couples, gave up a relatively safe re-election bid to run for U.S. Senate in a quixotic attempt to unseat GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson — taking only 39 percent of the vote to Isakson’s 58.3 percent. And Attorney General Thurbert Baker lost to former Gov. Roy Barnes in the July Democratic gubernatorial primary.
Barnes, who reached out to gay voters in the final days leading up to Nov. 2, suffered a stinging loss last week to former Congressman Nathan Deal, who appeared unhurt by allegations of ethics violations during his years in Washington. Deal took 53 percent of the vote ompared to 42.9 percent for Barnes and 4 percent for Libertarian John Monds, who supported same-sex marriage and attended the Atlanta Pride parade.
Republicans then swept every state constitutional office and picked up a handful of seats in the Georgia General Assembly.
None of Georgia’s three major gay political groups — the bipartisan Georgia Equality, Atlanta Stonewall Democrats, and Georgia Log Cabin Republicans — issued endorsements in the governor’s race. But Georgia Equality launched a Facebook page urging LGBT voters to pledge not to support Deal.
“If elected governor, Nathan Deal would be a danger to the well-being of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Georgians,” the pledge stated.
As a member of the U.S. House, Deal consistently received scores of zero on a congressional scorecard on LGBT issues compiled by the Human Rights Campaign. During the primary, he ran one of the most anti-gay campaigns in recent Georgia history, including attacking an opponent for allegedly supporting YouthPride, which provides support to LGBT young people.
Georgia already bans gay marriage, does not have a hate crimes law, and does not ban discrimination based on sexual orientation. Georgia Equality Executive Director Jeff Graham hopes that under Deal, things won’t get any worse.
“I am cautiously optimistic that we will end up with the status quo,” Graham said after the election. “We certainly are not going to see any great ability to push through a more aggressive agenda, but it is too early to say that we are going to see an increase in anti-gay or anti-trans attacks in the legislative session.”
While Deal ran a much more publicly anti-gay campaign than current GOP Gov. Sonny Perdue, who even met with the gay Log Cabin Republicans during his first race, Deal takes the helm of a state still struggling with financial issues — and Graham hopes that is where the focus will stay.
“We are always in the defensive position, but in the last three years we have not seen much thrown at us,” Graham said. “I believe that with the economic problems facing the state, that will continue to dominate discussions.”
Given that gay adoption was an issue in the Republican primary, Graham said Georgia Equality would remain on guard for any attempts to restrict LGBT parenting. The group has hired Cathy Woolard, who was Georgia’s first openly gay elected official, to lobby on LGBT issues during the next legislative session.
With little hope of advancing proactive legislation specifically for LGBT Georgians, Graham said Georgia Equality would continue to focus on bills that are more general, but can also help gay and trans people — similar to last year’s anti-bullying legislation, which was spearheaded by state Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-Atlanta).
When the legislature convenes in January, Georgia Equality hopes to push a bill to allow Georgians to list on their driver licenses the person who should make medical decisions for them — a move that could be particularly helpful for gay couples, or gay single people who do not want their parents to care for them in emergencies.
Jacobs, who is the most gay-friendly Republican state representative and backs marriage equality, easily won reelection Nov. 2 over Democratic challenger Sandy Murray in House District 80. He was endorsed by Georgia Equality and Log Cabin Republicans. Atlanta Stonewall Democrats endorsed Murray.
Rep. Jill Chambers, another gay-friendly Republican, lost her House District 81 seat to Democrat Elena Parent, who had strong backing from LGBT supporters. Georgia Equality did not issue an endorsement in the race, while gay partisan political groups split on party lines.
Georgia Equality says of its 17 endorsed candidates, 10 won.
Top photo: Gov.-elect Nathan Deal used LGBT issues as a wedge during the Republican primary, but the state’s largest LGBT political group hopes he will focus on the economy when he takes office in January. (Courtesy photo)
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