New Atlanta LGBTQ advocacy group draws attention
Petition to save ‘landmark’ questioned, fake signature alleged
By JASON RHODE
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 Change.org that my name and email address had been registered for a petition to save it.” Brandon said he emailed both Change.org 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.