The week after the Atlanta City Council approved District 6 Councilman Alex Wan’s resolution to support marriage equality, Mayor Kasim Reed Tuesday signed it in announcing his support for gay marriage.
The resolution supports the city’s lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual community by endorsing marriage equality for same-sex couples. Previously, the mayor had said he was “wrestling” with his personal beliefs on the issue, while saying he was an advocate for equal rights for gays and lesbians.
“Today marks an important day as I announce my support for marriage equality,” said Reed in a city release. “It is well known that I have gone through a good bit of reflection on this issue, but listening to the stories of so many people that I know and care about has strengthened my belief that marriage is a fundamental right for everyone.
"Loving couples, regardless of their sexual orientation, should have the right to marry whomever they want. By signing this resolution, I pledge my support to marriage equality for same-sex couples, consistent with equal protection under the law provided under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.”
On his personal Facebook page, Councilman Wan wrote:
"So proud of our Mayor. It may have taken some time, but in the end, his reaching the right conclusion is what we celebrate today. Thank you to everyone - including my colleagues on Council - for your hard work on this issue!"
The resolution approved by the council and signed by Mayor Reed cites Atlanta’s support of policies that protect equal rights for all citizens, as well as the city’s numerous provisions that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation by businesses, stores, hotels, restaurants and other public accommodations, and in housing sales and rentals. The City Code also prohibits sexual orientation discrimination in the city’s employment decisions, and the city offers its employees the ability to enroll a domestic partner for health insurance coverage and to name a domestic partner as a pension beneficiary.
It's an election year in 2013 and Reed told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s City Hall beat reporter Jeremiah McWilliams that there was no political motivation involved in making his change of heart decision on Tuesday.
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The City of Atlanta has one of the highest LGBT populations in the country based on U.S. Census and other data. In a statement, the Rev. Timothy McDonald of Atlanta's First Iconium Baptist Church said he’s encouraged by Reed’s decision: “I’m grateful for Mayor Reed’s positive, inclusive position on marriage equality. It is consistent with the NAACP’s position and I’m sure many in the city will celebrate this decision.”
Reed also announced that he will join other leading mayors who have already signed the ‘Mayors for Freedom to Marry’ pledge. Mayors for the Freedom to Marry is a broad-based and nonpartisan group of mayors who believe that all people should be able to share in the love and commitment of marriage.
"Mayor Reed, like the more than 200 other Mayors for the Freedom to Marry, has his eye on the economic growth, prosperity, diversity, and opportunity that the families he serves cherish -- and knows that including same-sex couples and their contributions in the community and in marriage strengthens the city and our country," said Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry.
"As we build toward more wins in 2013, we welcome Mayor Reed's support at this crucial time in the freedom to marry movement, and are excited to work with him to make the case for the freedom to marry both in Atlanta and across America."
According to a city release, during his term in the Georgia House of Representatives, Reed sponsored the only hate crimes bill ever to pass the General Assembly and defended the LGBT community’s right to adopt children. As a co-sponsor for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, Mayor Reed proposed a measure that would prohibit discrimination in hiring and employment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity by civilian and nonreligious employers. In 2004, Mayor Reed also voted against the constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in Georgia.
Reed added: “I believe in tolerance and acceptance, regardless of a person’s race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity. That creed has been a guiding force for me throughout my life, as reflected by my actions and votes as a lifelong Democrat and elected official in the state of Georgia for more than 14 years.”
Even one of his most vocal critics, gay Atlanta teacher and LGBT activist Charlie Stadtlander, gave Reed a shout out on his Facebook page Monday:
"Mission Accomplished!!! Thank you, Mayor Reed for being on the right side of history. Proud to support you in 2013!!
The change of heart from the mayor counters his previous stance on marriage equality. In May, after President Barack Obama Barack Obama said on ABC's Good Morning America that he personally supported gay marriage, Atlanta’s mayor released a statement indicating he was "wrestling" with his support of same-sex marriage. Reed's statement at the time read:
"I respect President Obama’s decision to stand in support of marriage equality. I have fought hard for the rights of gays and lesbians my entire political career from protecting adoption rights for gay and lesbian families, to voting against Georgia’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage as a state senator, to serving as the state house sponsor for the only hate crimes bill ever passed in the state of Georgia.
"While I am still wrestling with my own personal beliefs on the issue of marriage, I deeply appreciate the contributions gays and lesbians make to our city every single day and I remain committed to Atlanta’s vibrant and diverse LGBT community."