Mixed emo­tions as Karen Han­del takes over 6th District seat

Hu­man Rights Cam­paign, Log Cabin Repub­li­cans cau­tion con­gress­woman on LGBT rights

GA Voice - - Georgianews -



It was about 10 p.m. on June 20 when a tan­gi­ble mood shift fell over the Westin At­lanta Perime­ter ho­tel. The crowd, packed tightly into a ball­room, spilling out into the hall­ways and foyer and even the out­side area with a view of the King and Queen Build­ings, had un­til mo­ments be­fore been cheer­ing and high-fiv­ing, danc­ing to blar­ing mu­sic with beers in hand, buy­ing pins and bumper stick­ers and hug­ging rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Planned Par­ent­hood.

Sud­denly, the cheers died down. CNN an­chors’ voices came over the speakers, an­nounc­ing that Demo­cratic can­di­date Jon Os­soff just lost the 6th District House seat to Repub­li­can can­di­date Karen Han­del, a for­mer Ge­or­gia sec­re­tary of state.

The “boos” started. So did chants of “not my con­gress­woman.” So did the tears.

“I’m heart­bro­ken,” said Ma­ri­etta res­i­dent Jan Yanes, an Os­soff sup­porter. “We have worked so hard and knocked on so many doors and I don’t know what it’s gonna take for peo­ple to ed­u­cate them­selves about the real is­sues, and not get dis­tracted.”

District 6 and LGBT rights

Some of those “real is­sues” are where the two can­di­dates stood on LGBT rights.

Through­out the cam­paign, Os­soff touted him­self as an ally, and the Ge­or­gia Young Democrats Stonewall Cau­cus even hosted a LGBT fam­i­lies meet-and-greet in his honor. Han­del, how­ever, stayed quiet for the most part.

Just be­fore the elec­tion, Han­del told a Re­porter News­pa­pers writer — and for­mer Ge­or­gia Voice ed­i­tor — that her “faith calls me to a very dif­fer­ent place on” the is­sue of same-sex adop­tion. Fol­low­ing a de­bate against Os­soff, Han­del also re­fused to speak with openly queer state Rep. Park Can­non (D-At­lanta) about is­sues af­fect­ing the LGBT com­mu­nity. Through­out the cam­paign, and

July 7, 2017

af­ter the elec­tion, Han­del’s team did not re­turn re­peated in­ter­view re­quests from Ge­or­gia Voice.

Prior to the 2017 special elec­tion, Han­del had a rocky LGBT rights record. Dur­ing her early 2000s cam­paign for Ful­ton County Com­mis­sion, Han­del sup­ported do­mes­tic part­ner ben­e­fits and was both a mem­ber of and en­dorsed by the Log Cabin Repub­li­cans. She flipped from those po­si­tions dur­ing later cam­paigns for both sec­re­tary of state and gov­er­nor, say­ing she never joined the Log Cabin Repub­li­cans, and re­vealed she doesn’t be­lieve gay par­ents are in a child’s best in­ter­est.

“Karen Han­del’s record, un­for­tu­nately, speaks for it­self. It was part of the rea­son why HRC was en­gaged in the Ge­or­gia 6th race,” said Chris Sgro, com­mu­ni­ca­tions direc­tor for Hu­man Rights Cam­paign. “She’s re­fused to com­mit to pro­tect­ing les­bian, gay, bi­sex­ual and es­pe­cially trans­gen­der Ge­or­gians from dis­crim­i­na­tion, and that, cou­pled with the fact that Don­ald Trump — who has been an en­emy to our com­mu­nity in his time in of­fice — gave his sup­port, we’re ob­vi­ously very wor­ried for her time in Con­gress and in­tend to make sure that she’s held ac­count­able for her ac­tions.”

Gre­gory An­gelo, pres­i­dent of Log Cabin Repub­li­cans, said he hopes Han­del will “demon­strate an aware­ness” that LGBT fam­i­lies are a part of Amer­ica.

“I think that Ms. Han­del should un­der­stand that she was elected to rep­re­sent all of the peo­ple in her district. There are a num­ber of LGBT peo­ple in that district and, for the most part, whether they live in Karen Han­del’s district, whether they live else­where in the United States, de­sire noth­ing more than to live our lives in quiet dig­nity,” An­gelo said. “I would ad­vise Ms. Han­del that be­ing LGBT goes far be­yond mar­riage. There are hu­man rights abuses tak­ing place against LGBT in­di­vid­u­als abroad. There’s dis­crim­i­na­tion tak­ing place against LGBT in­di­vid­u­als here within the United States and it’s im­por­tant to stand up against that, and we would cer­tainly en­cour­age her to do that.”

An­gelo, who used to work in a foster care agency, said he saw first­hand the “cri­sis” of par­ent­less chil­dren.

“I have seen youth who are dis­abled, who have learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties or who oth­er­wise are seek­ing a place to call home, ap­pre­ci­ate noth­ing more than to be wel­comed into a house­hold, whether that house­hold is headed by two in­di­vid­u­als of the same sex or whether it is headed by in­di­vid­u­als of the op­po­site sex,” he said. “Their No. 1 con­cern is that they have par­ents. … We can talk about re­li­gious lib­erty. We can talk about … mar­riage. But when we talk about adop­tion, it’s im­por­tant not to lose sight of the fact that we’re talk­ing about chil­dren who are seek­ing a home, and I would hope that Con­gress­woman Han­del would see that above any­thing else.”

How LGBT friendly is the GOP?

“We have seen a mas­sive sea change in the GOP in the one year, in less than one year since the Repub­li­can Na­tional Con­ven­tion, a con­ven­tion that was marked by his­toric mo­ments that in­cluded af­fir­ma­tive men­tions of the LGBT com­mu­nity from Newt Gin­grich, Peter Thiel, even Ted Cruz, and of course our then-nom­i­nee and now-pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump,” An­gelo said. “Lead­er­ship comes from the top and I don’t think it’s any ac­ci­dent that you’re see­ing far more muted rhetoric when it comes to LGBT is­sues among Repub­li­can elected of­fi­cials and party lead­ers.”

Scott Tay­lor, a Repub­li­can from Vir­ginia, in­tro­duced the Fair and Equal Hous­ing Act that would pro­tect LGBT Amer­i­cans from be­ing dis­crim­i­nated against.

“You have a young Repub­li­can, for­mer Navy Seal, … and his first act as a newly minted Repub­li­can in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives was to file a piece of leg­is­la­tion that would pro­tect LGBT in­di­vid­u­als from dis­crim­i­na­tion,” An­gelo said. “Right now, that bill has — I be­lieve — six Repub­li­can co-spon­sors.”

For many of them, it was the first proLGBT leg­is­la­tion they put their name to.

An­gelo said Repub­li­can leg­is­la­tors put their names on the bi­par­ti­san res­o­lu­tion con­demn­ing anti-gay vi­o­lence in Chech­nya, and there was sup­port to keep anti-trans­gen­der amend­ments from be­ing added to Pen­tagon poli­cies re­lated to mil­i­tary ser­vice.

Both An­gelo and Sgro said their or­ga­ni­za­tions would be open to sit­ting down with Han­del as she takes her seat in Con­gress. At least one of her con­stituents hopes she’ll do so with open ears.

“I want her to lis­ten be­cause Jon lis­tened. And so far, she has not made her­self avail­able to the pub­lic, her con­stituents,” Yanes said. “It’s al­ways be­hind closed doors and I want her to make her­self avail­able to the pub­lic, on the street cor­ner or in the gro­cery store, and she doesn’t.”

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