Reg­is­ter to vote in Athens-Clarke County

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said,” Den­son said. “The mayor and com­mis­sion at that time were not too open to it. What they de­cided to do was pass an or­di­nance specif­i­cally ad­dress­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion at bars down­town, when bars were se­lec­tively en­forc­ing their dress code.”

Athens equal­ity ad­vo­cates wanted more. They felt the or­di­nance should ap­ply to all busi­nesses, not just bars, and it needed to ex­pand to a full civil rights com­mit­tee. They marched on City Hall again, at one point even singing “This Lit­tle Light of Mine” un­til the mayor fi­nally gave in and put the pro­posal on the agenda.

The county chose to move for­ward with re­search­ing the im­pli­ca­tions of cre­at­ing such a com­mit­tee and how it could as­sist in ad­dress­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion, and is ex­pected to bring for­ward its rec­om­men­da­tion to the County Com­mis­sion and mayor next month, Den­son said.

Adding voices to the con­ver­sa­tion

Den­son praised may­oral can­di­dates Girtz and Simms for their lead­er­ship on mov­ing the res­o­lu­tion for­ward, specif­i­cally not­ing Girtz as a “huge ally.” In 2016, the push be­gan for an Athens Civil Rights Com­mit­tee as part of the Athens-Clarke County Com­mis­sion. A rec­om­men­da­tion from the county staff is ex­pected to be pre­sented in June on whether or not to move for­ward. (Photo by Richard Cham­bers, via Wikimedia Com­mons)

If the com­mit­tee comes to fruition, it will have sev­eral func­tions, in­clud­ing of­fer­ing guid­ance to Athe­ni­ans who feel they were dis­crim­i­nated against, and po­ten­tially plan com­mu­nity aware­ness events.

“It will kind of do a few dif­fer­ent things. The big­gest thing I see is that they will actu- ally do an an­nual re­port on the en­tire county, in­clud­ing the gov­ern­ment and the com­mu­nity as a whole, with how we’re do­ing on in­clu­siv­ity … then also pos­si­ble rec­om­men­da­tions on what could be done to make the dis­crim­i­na­tion go away,” Den­son said. “This body would not have le­gal author­ity the way some other hu­man re­la­tions com­mis­sions have in the past, specif­i­cally the one in At­lanta. It would be dif­fer­ent in that way, although it’s pos­si­ble that mov­ing for­ward, that author­ity could be given to a body like this.”

Hav­ing a di­verse slate of peo­ple gov­ern­ing Athens-Clarke County could also bol­ster the func­tions of the com­mit­tee, as it may give mi­nor­ity com­mu­ni­ties the con­fi­dence to add their voices to the ta­ble.

“Be­ing a part of that com­mu­nity, I have a dif­fer­ent view­point or dif­fer­ent eye than most would have. I rec­og­nize and un­der­stand our dis­crim­i­na­tion is­sue a lit­tle more than the av­er­age white male be­cause I’ve seen it. I’ve been through it,” Knight said. “We have to get more cit­i­zens en­gaged in our lo­cal gov­ern­ment and that’s a com­mu­nity that’s not en­gaged right now. Very few peo­ple in the LGBT com­mu­nity have a voice at the ta­ble.”

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