Crit­ics meet Nunn staff:

De­fend­ers speak out in support of Dem. Se­nate can­di­date

GA Voice - - Front Page - By PA­TRICK SAUN­DERS psaun­ders@the­gavoice.com

At­lanta po­lit­i­cal lead­ers and the Hu­man Rights Cam­paign fired back at crit­ics of Michelle Nunn’s stance on mar­riage equal­ity and other LGBT is­sues, and the cam­paign is re­port­edly con­sid­er­ing a se­ries of moves that will re­pair her stand­ing with the com­mu­nity and clear up con­fu­sion.

Gay at­tor­neys Dan Gross­man and Jeff Cleghorn penned an op-ed in Au­gust for the GA Voice urg­ing Nunn to come out pub­licly and clearly in support of same-sex mar­riage and are lead­ing a vo­cal charge against the can­di­date’s ret­i­cence to do so. Gross­man said he, Cleghorn and Nunn sup­porter Mark Rin­der, for­mer board chair of AID At­lanta, met with her cam­paign man­ager Jeff DiSantis on Sept. 4. They re­quested that Nunn:

Fully and un­am­bigu­ously support LGBT equal­ity in mar­riage and all other ar­eas Com­mit to vote for the full re­peal of DOMA Support com­pre­hen­sive em­ploy­ment non-dis­crim­i­na­tion leg­is­la­tion with­out re­li­gious ex­emp­tions broader than for any other group of Americans un­der cur­rent civil rights laws

Ex­press the view that equal­ity for any group of Americans is never some­thing that can be left up to the vot­ers

March in the up­com­ing At­lanta Pride pa­rade

“The cam­paign asked for some time to con­sider our re­quest and promised to re­spond within a week,” Gross­man said. “We look for­ward to hear­ing back from them within the next few days.”

Mean­while, both LGBT and non-LGBT po­lit­i­cal lead­ers and the Hu­man Rights Cam­paign spoke up for the Demo­cratic can­di­date for U.S. Se­nate, who will face Repub­li­can busi­ness­man David Per­due on Nov. 4 to de­cide who re­places Repub­li­can Sen. Saxby Cham­b­liss.

The de­vel­op­ments come as a Sept. 7 Wall Street Jour­nal poll shows Nunn and Per­due run­ning neck-and-neck in a race that has na­tional im­pli­ca­tions.

TIME­LINE SHOWS PRO­GRES­SION OF MAR­RIAGE EQUAL­ITY IS­SUE

Nunn stated her opin­ion on mar­riage equal­ity in her first in­ter­views after an­nounc­ing her U.S. Se­nate run last July, telling the At­lanta Jour­nal-Con­sti­tu­tion in a July 23 ar­ti­cle that while she be­lieves in mar­riage equal­ity on a per­sonal level, the def­i­ni­tion of mar­riage should be left to in­di­vid­ual states.

The AJC para­phrased her but Nunn later con­firmed her stance to WVTM Colum­bus the fol­low­ing May, say­ing, “Mar­riage has tra­di­tion­ally been de­cided by the states, and I support that process. In ad­di­tion to be­ing a le­gal com­mit­ment, mar­riage is also a sacra­ment. I would op­pose any pro­posal that re­quired a church to act out­side its be­liefs. Per­son­ally, I be­lieve that all Americans should have the op­por­tu­nity to share in the com­mit­ment and re­spon­si­bil­ity that my hus­band and I have shared for the past 12 years.”

How­ever, there wasn’t much talk about her opin­ion un­til she re­ceived the en­dorse­ment of na­tional LGBT rights or­ga­ni­za­tion the Hu­man Rights Cam­paign the fol­low­ing March. Then a leaked in­ter­nal strat­egy memo in July in­di­cated con­fu­sion about her mar­riage equal­ity views, omit­ted any men­tion of states’ rights and showed how the cam­paign in­tended to use its stance on mar­riage equal­ity and the HRC en­dorse­ment to raise $300,000 from the LGBT com­mu­nity.

Once state Sen. Ja­son Carter, who is go­ing up against Gov. Nathan Deal this Novem­ber, stated his support for mar­riage equal­ity on the record on Aug. 6, that left Nunn the one re­main­ing in the spot­light with ques­tions to an­swer, yet she would not clar­ify her stance.

DIF­FER­ING PO­SI­TION THAN REPUB­LI­CAN OP­PO­NENT ON SAME-SEX MAR­RIAGE?

Nunn’s Repub­li­can op­po­nent, David Per­due, wasn’t clear in a Feb. 16 in­ter­view with the Ma­ri­etta Daily Jour­nal about what he per­son­ally feels about mar­riage equal­ity, but said it should be left up to the states, draw­ing par­al­lels be­tween the two.

“As a se­na­tor, I’ve got to up­hold that, so I support that, what­ever the law of the land is in Ge­or­gia,” he said. “As a U.S. se­na­tor, I’m not go­ing to get in­volved in state de­ci­sions like this. It’s a con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment. If that changes, then I will support that with the pop­u­la­tion.”

On Sept. 2, gay law school stu­dent Charlie Stadt­lander took an in­ac­tive Face­book group that had urged Mayor Kasim Reed to “evolve” on mar­riage equal­ity (which he later did), and re-pur­posed it to ques­tion Nunn to clar­ify her views on mar­riage equal­ity, em­ploy­ment non-dis­crim­i­na­tion and other LGBT is­sues.

“Nunn’s of­fi­cial po­si­tion is that ‘the def­i­ni­tion of mar­riage should be left to the states’ and she has re­fused to take an of­fi­cial po­si­tion on em­ploy­ment non-dis­crim­i­na­tion or the full re­peal of DOMA,” the group de­scrip­tion stated. “Please help us tell Ms. Nunn that ‘states rights’ is no more ac­cept­able for LGBT equal­ity than it was for racial equal­ity. If Michelle Nunn wants the support of the LGBT Com­mu­nity, she should join the other mem­bers of her party—around the na­tion and here in Ge­or­gia—and proudly stand in support of full LGBT Equal­ity.”

This got the at­ten­tion of the AJC on Sept. 3, which drew a re­sponse from Nunn spokesman Nathan Click, who made no men­tion of states’ rights.

“Michelle has said time and again that she be­lieves that all Ge­or­gians should be al­lowed to share in mar­riage as she and her hus­band have done,” Click told the AJC. “She also be­lieves that is not only a le­gal con­struct, but a sacra­ment, and ev­ery re­li­gious in­sti­tu­tion has to be able to de­fine it for them­selves. The re­al­ity is that Ge­or­gia vot­ers have spo­ken on this is­sue—pass­ing a con­sti­tu­tional ban on same sex mar­riage.”

“Michelle voted against it, but Ge­or­gia vot­ers came to a dif­fer­ent con­clu­sion. Now it’s up to the courts to de­cide whether amend­ments like this are con­sti­tu­tional.” Click added. “In the Se­nate, Michelle would con­tinue to stand for the equal­ity of all Ge­or­gians. She would op­pose any law that does not re­spect the right of all peo­ple to marry and would vote to re­peal any dis­crim­i­na­tory fed­eral laws that have not yet been struck down by the court. There is a big dif­fer­ence be­tween her and David Per­due on this is­sue.”

The GA Voice has been re­quest­ing an in­ter­view with Nunn to give her the op­por­tu­nity to clar­ify her views on LGBT is­sues to the com­mu­nity since early this year. The GA Voice showed up at Nunn’s Mid­town head- quarters on Sept. 3 for an LGBT vol­un­teer night to ask the vol­un­teers a few ques­tions and seek an­swers from her staff.

Nunn’s press sec­re­tary, Michael Tyler, did not al­low the GA Voice ac­cess to the vol­un­teers, who were phone bank­ing in the next room, and he re­fused to an­swer any ques­tions on the record. The GA Voice was also de­nied an in­tro­duc­tion to Click, who was in the build­ing at the time.

‘YOU’RE KIND OF DAMNED IF YOU DO AND DAMNED IF YOU DON’T’

The Hu­man Rights Cam­paign had strong words in de­fense of Nunn when asked about her stance on mar­riage equal­ity and other is­sues, claim­ing she “sup­ports our full equal­ity.” HRC said she sup­ports many pro­gres­sive is­sues which Per­due op­poses, warn­ing, “If David Per­due gets elected, good luck even get­ting a meet­ing,” ac­cord­ing to a state­ment from Stephen Peters, HRC’s na­tional press sec­re­tary, to the GA Voice.

“Based on the state­ment Nunn’s cam­paign made [in the Sept. 3 AJC ar­ti­cle] it’s clear she be­lieves that there’s a con­sti­tu­tional right to marry and that she would vote to re­peal any fed­eral statute that would in­fringe on that right,” Peters con­tin­ued. “Per­due does not share that per­spec­tive. While her state­ment is im­por­tant and wel­come, Nunn’s al­ready strong po­si­tions on is­sues of great im­por­tance to LGBT Ge­or­gians made our en­dorse­ment a moral and po­lit­i­cal im­per­a­tive.”

HRC re­fused to an­swer a ques­tion di­rected at its pres­i­dent Chad Grif­fin, ask­ing his views on her support of states’ rights since he was a leader in fil­ing the law­suit that ul­ti­mately led the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down Propo­si­tion 8, Cal­i­for­nia’s con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment ban­ning same-sex mar­riage in Cal­i­for­nia.

Lo­cally, Mayor Kasim Reed’s of­fice gave a vote of con­fi­dence to Nunn and a plea to hold all can­di­dates ac­count­able.

“Mayor Reed be­lieves that all can­di­dates, both Repub­li­can and Demo­crat, should be held to the same stan­dard—which is declar­ing mar­riage equal­ity for all,” Mayor Reed’s di­rec­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions Anne Tor­res wrote to the GA Voice. “Mayor Reed is con­fi­dent that Michelle will con­tinue to support mar­riage equal­ity and fight for mar­riage as a fun­da­men­tal right for ev­ery­one, re­gard­less of sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion.”

State Rep. Karla Dren­ner, a les­bian, sees both sides of the ar­gu­ment, but is clear in her opin­ion of the mat­ter as well.

“You’re kind of damned if you do and damned if you don’t. You want them to win but you want them to take strong po­si­tions on our is­sues. You won­der if they don’t take a strong po­si­tion on an is­sue, do you want them to win?” she tells the GA Voice. “I want them to win first and then take a strong po­si­tion on our is­sues. Con­sider where we live. We still live in Ge­or­gia. I don’t think we live in a state that seems to be amenable at this junc­ture to hav­ing some can­di­date be out front on con­tro­ver­sial is­sues.”

Michelle Nunn, Demo­cratic can­di­date for U.S. Se­nate, is run­ning neck-and-neck with busi­ness­man David Per­due ac­cord­ing to sev­eral re­cent polls. (File photo)

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