Atlanta City Council votes to support marriage equality
The Atlanta City Council voted 11-2 on Dec. 3 to pass a resolution supporting marriage equality. The vote puts the council ahead of Mayor Kasim Reed, who has stated publicly he does not support marriage rights for same-sex couples.
City Councilmember Alex Wan, who is gay, presented the resolution to the full City Council.
“Folks in the community have been asking and encouraging me to do something. And with Atlanta being the city it is and having such a large LGBT population, I really wanted us to be one of the leaders in the discussion on marriage equality,” Wan said. “This was also very important to me.”
For the past two months, Wan said he has been answering questions from council members who wanted to know, for example, the difference between marriage equality and civil unions and why it was important to make a statement even though the resolution has no legal impact on gay marriage in Georgia.
“Some didn’t understand the concept of marriage equality and civil unions. Some wanted to know why the city should take a position on this when it has no impact,” Wan said. “I explained to them the symbolic statement it makes and that it was more than just having the rights.”
Wan was very pleased with the 11-2 vote. The two “no” votes were from Howard Shook and C.T. Martin.
Wan spoke with Reed about his resolution at the beginning of his process to get the council’s support of same-sex marriage.
“We had a good conversation about it. It wasn’t about him. This was a position I wanted my City Council to take,” Wan said. “I respect his process.”
Sonji Jacobs, spokesperson for Reed, issued a short statement when asked if the mayor had a reaction to the council’s vote: “Mayor Reed respects the decision of the Atlanta City Council in passing a resolution supporting marriage equality.”
Reed met with LGBT advocates in June to discuss his stance, but despite the pressure, was still was not willing to change his position even after President Barack Obama came out in support of gay marriage.
Reed said earlier this year 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.
While the Atlanta City Council’s resolution has no legal impact and it remains illegal to get married in Georgia, other councils as well as mayors are stepping up to make symbolic statements of their support for marriage equality.
In September, the Austin, Texas, City Council passed a resolution in support of same-sex marriage. Last year in North Carolina, the Durham City Council also passed a resolution in support of gay marriage.
The Freedom to Marry organization also began a Mayors for Freedom of Marriage campaign this year. Some 289 mayors from 33 states have signed onto the pledge.