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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET

Politics

Brooks Blanton

Atlanta, GA

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Gay Marriage: Deciding Factor in Atl. Vote?

December 1, 2009 - 3:04 PM | by: Brooks Blanton

Gay marriage is not on the ballot in Atlanta today, but the issue could make a difference in the race for Mayor.  The ongoing gay marriage and gay rights debate has become a flashpoint in an election that could seat the city’s first white mayor since 1973.  Both candidates have been pushed into a struggle to prove who is more gay-friendly to win the coveted vote of Atlanta’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) community.

Former Georgia State Senator Kasim Reed and current City Council member Mary Norwood have been sparring over gay rights and gay marriage since the November 3rd general election, trying to win over a voting bloc that could decide a run-off election that otherwise has been split loosely along racial lines.  Reed, a black man, is expected to win Atlanta’s African-American majority, while Norwood, a white woman, is predicted to do well with white voters, especially in the city’s northern suburbs.  But, ironically, it’s the gay vote that could be the deciding factor of this election in the heart of the mostly conservative Bible Belt.

Atlanta ranks third in the nation for the percentage of gay residents, making up approximately 12 percent of the city’s population.  Gay and Lesbian activists have looked to both candidates for a definitive stance on gay marriage and gay rights.

Norwood has been very vocal in her push to support gay marriage and the LGBT community.  She recently protested in a rally on the steps of the state capital against Proposition 8 — California’s controversial anti-gay marriage law, participated in Atlanta’s Gay Pride parade and held fundraisers at several gay bars and nightclubs.  Although Reed does not support gay marriage, he says he does favor civil unions.  He has also thrown support behind issues important to the gay community at the state capital, by sponsoring a hate crimes bill that would have extended protection to gays.  The issue of who supports the gay community more became a flashpoint in a recent televised debate between the two.  Reed, trying to chip away at Norwood’s gay marriage stance, accused her of missing an important vote on pension benefits for domestic partners of city employees.  Norwood dismissed the attack as an unimportant vote that was largely ceremonial and had no bearing on city policy.

Some political analysts say the gay community should produce a large turnout today as two other openly gay candidates are also on the ballot in Atlanta.  Simone Bell, who lives with her partner in Southeast Atlanta is running for a State House seat while Alex Wan is hoping to grab an at-large city council seat in Midtown, the center of the gay community.

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