During the same Monday meeting in which it controversially voted to give itself a more than 50 percent pay raise, the Atlanta City Council tackled another hot topic by approving a resolution to support marriage equality.
District 6 Councilman Alex Wan introduced the legislation and the resolution passed by an 11-2 vote with councilmembers Howard Shook and C.T. Martin voting against. Since the state has in place a constitutional ban on marriage equality, the resolution is expected to have almost no legal impact in Georgia.
But it certainly caused celebration in certain portions of the gay-friendly communities of Midtown, Virginia-Highland, and Morningside that Wan represents. On his Facebook page Monday evening, Wan posted:
"Proud to share with everyone that the Atlanta City Council just passed a resolution supporting marriage equality!!!"
A voice mail message left with Wan Tuesday afternoon has not yet been returned to Patch. But the openly gay councilman told the GA Voice:
"Folks in the community have been asking and encouraging me to do something. And with Atlanta being the city it is and having such a large LGBT population, I really wanted us to be one of the leaders in the discussion on marriage equality."
Wan explained to the publication that he was not seeking publicity with the legislation but instead for the council as a whole, “it was the right thing to do.”
According to a report from Creative Loafing on Tuesday, the council has previously taken stands on Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender issues by voting in 2004 its opposition to the state’s constitutional ban on gay marriage, and two years later supporting the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
The resolution counters Mayor Kasim Reed’s stance on marriage equality, which in May he reiterated that he does not support. 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."
In the spring, gay Atlanta teacher and LGBT activist Charlie Stadtlander said Reed should follow the president's lead and endorse same-sex marriage. Stadtlander, who started a Facebook page to put the pressure on Reed, posted on that page Monday:
"Great job, Alex and other Councilmembers! I'm so sad that Mayor Reed appears to be poised to be the last man standing in opposition to marriage equality. With his continued opposition to marriage equality, it's becoming harder and harder to still believe that Mayor Reed is a "pro-equality" Mayor for the LGBT Community."
Wan’s resolution reads as follows and after reviewing, tell us what you think about the city council’s approval of it?
A RESOLUTION BY COUNCILMEMBERS ALEX WAN, CARLA SMITH, FELICIA MOORE, MICHAEL JULIAN BOND, H. LAMAR WILLIS, KWANZA HALL, AARON WATSON
A RESOLUTION DECLARING THE SUPPORT OF THE ATLANTA CITY COUNCIL FOR MARRIAGE EQUALITY; AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.
WHEREAS, the United States Supreme Court has ruled that marriage is one of the basic civil rights of the American people, fundamental to our very existence and survival1; and
WHEREAS, in 1974, the Supreme Court declared that: "This court has long recognized that freedom of personal choice in matters of marriage and family life is one of the liberties protected by the [Constitution]"2; and
WHEREAS, marriages that are deemed legally valid by the federal and state governments provide the married couple with more than 1,138 federal rights, privileges, economic advantages and legal protections; and
WHEREAS, these rights include access to health care, inheritance of social security benefits and eligibility for significant taxation advantages. Protections afforded to each spouse in a legal marriage include protection of their parental relationship with their children, protection of the inheritance rights of their spouse and children, ensuring hospital visitation rights and the ability to make medical decisions for their spouse, and protection of property rights; and
WHEREAS, without being declared legally valid, the spouses of same-sex marriages cannot receive these rights, privileges, advantages and protections; and
WHEREAS, recent national polls show that a majority of Americans now believe same-sex marriage should be recognized by law as valid; and
WHEREAS, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, the District of Columbia, New Hampshire, New York, Washington, Maryland and Maine have legalized marriage for same-sex couples; and
WHEREAS, on February 23, 2011, the Barack Obama administration announced that the US Justice Department would no longer defend in federal court the 1996 federal law entitled the Defense of Marriage Act ("DOMA") and its denial of federal recognition to married same-sex couples; and
WHEREAS, the City of Atlanta ("City") has a rich history in the civil rights movement and and is rightfully considered one of the most progressive cities in the country regarding its policies protecting equal rights for all citizens; and
WHEREAS, the City Atlanta has one of the highest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender ("LGBT") populations per capita, ranking third among major American cities; and
WHEREAS, the Atlanta Code of Ordinances ("Code") has numerous non-discrimination provisions that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation by Atlanta businesses, (Code Section 94-112), in housing sales and rentals (Code Section 94-94), and by stores, hotels, restaurants and other public accommodations (Code Section 94-68); and
WHEREAS, City law also prohibits sexual orientation discrimination in the City's own employment decisions (Code Section 3-502). The City offers its employees the ability to enroll a domestic partner for coverage under the employee's health insurance plan, and to name a domestic partner as the recipient of the employee's pension benefits; and
WHEREAS, in 2004, the City passed resolution 04-R-0183, opposing an amendment to the Georgia Constitution that would ban same-sex marriages in Georgia; and
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF ATLANTA that the Atlanta City Council supports marriage equality for same-sex couples.