New At­lanta LGBTQ ad­vo­cacy group draws at­ten­tion

Pe­ti­tion to save ‘land­mark’ ques­tioned, fake sig­na­ture alleged

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A new group, Gay Ge­or­gia Inc. (GAGA), is at­tract­ing pub­lic at­ten­tion. GAGA says it is a PAC — a political ac­tion com­mit­tee — ded­i­cated to pro­tect­ing LGBTQ land­marks. GAGA claims the be­lea­guered adult store Tokyo Valentino is one such lo­ca­tion. Crit­ics have ac­cused GAGA of be­ing an as­tro­turf or­ga­ni­za­tion pos­ing as a grass­roots political move­ment.

A ben­e­fit and a pe­ti­tion

reg­is­tered on Feb. 21, 2018.

Ge­or­gia Voice asked Mor­ri­son for his thoughts on GAGA and Tokyo Valentino. Mor­ri­son said he had no spe­cial knowl­edge of GAGA, and that the store and GAGA were sep­a­rate en­ti­ties. “I am cur­rently fight­ing the city in a law­suit,” he said. “I have a store I’m try­ing to save.” Mor­ri­son de­clined to an­swer fur­ther ques­tions and then hung up.

The ve­rac­ity of GAGA pe­ti­tion sig­na­tures has been called into ques­tion. Chris Bran­don claims some­one signed his name to the pe­ti­tion with­out know­ing it. Bran­don, a D.C. res­i­dent, is orig­i­nally from the At­lanta area. Bran­don told Ge­or­gia Voice that he’d “never heard of Tokyo Valentino un­til I re­ceived the email from that my name and email ad­dress had been reg­is­tered for a pe­ti­tion to save it.” Bran­don said he emailed both and the GAGA con­tact form to dis­cover how he was added. The per­son who replied from a GAGA PAC email was At­lanta party pro­moter, Chris Cole­man — a close friend of Mor­ri­son’s who has helped pro­mote Tokyo Valentino over the years.

Ac­cord­ing to Bran­don, Cole­man had added Bran­don to his mail­ing list years ago “for par­ties or some­thing.” Bran­don said Cole­man “re­sponded to me tersely. … That is the only in­ter­ac­tion I’ve ever had with him un­til last week.” In his April 12 re­ply to Bran­don, Cole­man wrote “If you don’t want to be a part of the pe­ti­tion, you are able to re­move your email ad­dress. You were added to the pe­ti­tion be­cause I thought you would want to sup­port the cause. If you don’t want to sup­port the venue, I apol­o­gize for adding you.”

Bran­don dis­missed the idea of Tokyo Valentino as a gay touch­stone. He said he came out and spent his “de­fin­i­tive gay years in At­lanta.” He spoke of in­sti­tu­tions like “Back­street, The Heretic and the Ware­house on Spring Street.” Bran­don de­scribed those places as “LGBT in­sti­tu­tions with im­por­tant lega­cies to me.”

“The idea that Tokyo Valentino, a place I’ve never heard of and didn’t ex­ist when I lived there, is a land­mark among those is laugh­able to me.”

Thomp­son-Sarmiento and Cole­man ini­tially in­di­cated an in­ter­est in com­ment­ing for this story, but de­clined to fol­low through.

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