Take your pride to the polls

GA Voice - - Front Page -

“Th­ese are scary times for our com­mu­nity, and in the era of Don­ald Trump, ci­ti­zens in the LGBTQ fam­ily need to run for of­fice and win.”

It’s hard to be­lieve it is elec­tion time again. We are liv­ing in a much dif­fer­ent LGBTQ Amer­ica than we were less than a year ago. There is no rest for the weary and it is more im­por­tant than ever for us to come to­gether as a com­mu­nity.

Since 45 took of­fice, the Repub­li­cans have slowly tried to erase us. Our com­mu­nity has been com­pletely re­moved from the 2020 Cen­sus. Don­ald Trump has banned trans­gen­der Amer­i­cans from the mil­i­tary. He re­fused to ac­knowl­edge June as Pride month. Fed­eral pro­grams for HIV have been slashed and At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions just re­cently ar­gued that busi­nesses have the right to fire peo­ple for be­ing LGBTQ. Un­for­tu­nately, ev­ery Ge­or­gia Re­pub­li­can run­ning for gover­nor in 2018 has fol­lowed this lead by promis­ing to sign a “re­li­gious free­dom” bill mak­ing LGBTQ dis­crim­i­na­tion le­gal in Ge­or­gia.

Th­ese are scary times for our com­mu­nity, and in the era of Don­ald Trump, ci­ti­zens in the LGBTQ fam­ily need to run for of­fice and win.

I have heard peo­ple say, “Just be­cause I am gay doesn’t mean I’m go­ing to vote for some­one be­cause they are gay too,” which is a valid ar­gu­ment if I was try­ing to get you to elect “Just Jack” for mayor.

For­tu­nately, or­ga­ni­za­tions like HRC, Vic­tory Fund and Ge­or­gia Equal­ity have en­dorsed a few LGBTQ can­di­dates that will help give you more than enough rea­sons why it is OK to vote gay.

The may­oral race is one of the big­gest con­tests to sup­port and in­cludes our own Cathy Woolard. Cathy was the first openly gay elected of­fi­cial in Ge­or­gia his­tory and then be­came the first openly gay City Coun­cil pres­i­dent in the coun­try. In 1999, she suc­cess­fully spon­sored leg­is­la­tion to add gen­der iden­tity to At­lanta’s nondis­crim­i­na­tion pol­icy for city em­ploy­ees. Cathy per­son­ally led the At­lanta City Coun­cil to pass what is still the only com­pre­hen­sive civil rights bill in the state of Ge­or­gia that pro­tects LGBTQ peo­ple from dis­crim­i­na­tion in em­ploy­ment, hous­ing and pub­lic ac­com­mo­da­tions. In re­cent years, she also worked tire­lessly to stop at­tempts to pass dan­ger­ous, anti-LGBTQ “li­cense to dis­crim­i­nate” bills at the state Capi­tol.

Other gay can­di­dates run­ning for of­fice in­clude Alex Wan for City Coun­cil pres­i­dent, who has al­ready had suc­cess as the first Asian-Amer­i­can gay man elected for City Coun­cil District 6. Look­ing to re­place Wan for District 6 is Phoenix Award-win­ner Kirk Rich. Rich is also the for­mer board pres­i­dent of the HIV/AIDS non­profit Jerusalem House. Queer po­lit­i­cal ac­tivist Lil­iana Bakhtiari is the per­fect ex­am­ple how vot­ing for “fam­ily” can help en­sure your gay voice is heard. Lil­iana has al­ways been ac­tive with our city’s LGBTQ home­less com­mu­nity, and her own fam­ily fall­ing vic­tim to the Don­ald Trump Mus­lim travel ban was the cat­a­lyst for this first-time can­di­date to run for of­fice.

It is im­por­tant for us as a com­mu­nity to have peo­ple from our com­mu­nity rep­re­sent us. We have proven that when we stick to­gether, we have amaz­ing amounts of power. Start­ing with Stonewall, we alone fought for our­selves. If it weren’t for gay or­ga­ni­za­tions like ACT UP, Ron­ald Rea­gan would have con­tin­ued to ig­nore the AIDS cri­sis while mil­lions of us died. Our re­lent­less fight to­gether helped pass mar­riage equal­ity and proved that when we join forces, we can change the world.

The time has come to bring your pride to the polls and sup­port all of our LGBTQ can­di­dates. If we don’t vote for can­di­dates in our own com­mu­nity, who can we rely on to speak for us and help pro­tect us all?

Bill Kaelin is the owner of Bill Kaelin Mar­ket­ing Events and Con­sult­ing Agency in At­lanta. www.Bil­lKaelin.com

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