Friday, September 25, 2009

Atlanta Stonewall Democrats 2009 Endorsements

As a board member of the Atlanta Stonewall Democrats, I wanted to share our press release regarding endorsements in Atlanta city elections, along with the special election in State House District 58 and Decatur City Commission. I believe the release speaks for itself.


Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009 – ATLANTA – Atlanta Stonewall Democrats announces endorsed candidates in Atlanta Mayor and City Council races as well as State House District 58.

Our Process: Candidates for Mayor, City Council President, City Council, Decatur Commission, School Board and State House District 58 were sent an email upon closing of qualifying for their respective offices directing them to where they could find the 2009 Endorsement Questionnaire from Atlanta Stonewall Democrats (ASD). While some candidates chose not to seek our support, many others did. The answers to our questions revealed a broad spectrum of responses, not only on LGBT Equality issues, but also on questions regarding knowledge of their district, the problems to be solved, and what they as an elected official would and could do to address the needs o f their constituents.

Atlanta Stonewall Democrats was generally pleased with the candidate responses. Indeed, in some races there was more than one excellent candidate. The focus among almost all candidates seemed to be on Public Safety/Crime and Economic Development/Jobs. Although responses and approaches to these two areas varied, there was a general feeling that nearly all candidates in the various races understand the overwhelming pressure and influence these two issues are placing on our city’s residents, elected officials and civil service employees.

Some candidates did falter on an overall understanding of the LGBT communities and the fact that our communities share a common interest with other Atlanta communities. Focusing solely on LGBT issues would be appropriate if LGBT issues were ASD’s only mission. But it is important to know that the members of Atlanta Stonewall Democrats not only advocate for LGBT Equality inside the Democratic Party, we are also involved in matters of equality and fairness for all. We are actively connected to the Democratic Party and to the diverse coalitions that make up the Atlanta Progressive Community. Some of the candidates recognized this connection and addressed their responses in a way that showed ASD’s board that they clearly understood the overall mission of Atlanta Stonewall Democrats. Sadly, other candidates did not.

The Atlanta Stonewall Democrats is dedicated to engaging in conversation with traditionally Democratic constituency groups and potential allies of the LGBT community. We recognize that the road to equality must be paved by fair-minded Democrats.

The work of Atlanta Stonewall Democrats is based on a long-term strategy, rooted in coalition-building and grassroots organizing, to move us forward in building a fair-minded Democratic majority in Georgia.

We are an affiliate of National Stonewall Democrats, a nation-wide, grassroots federation of more than 90 other LGBT Democratic chapters. We are committed to working closely with other LGBT organizations, along with our allies in progressive communities and traditionally Democratic constituency groups to build a fair-minded Democratic majority in Georgia.

After much deliberation, and a thorough review of answers from candidates, the board of Atlanta Stonewall Democrats is pleased to offer the following endorsements in advance of elections to be held on November 3rd, 2009:


ASD was impressed with the problem-solving ideas put forward by many of the candidates for Mayor, but one candidate stood out not only in presenting his forward-thinking solutions for the ills and concerns of the City of Atlanta, but in a knowledge of and past dedication to the LGBT Communities and concern for the greater good of all Georgians.

Kasim Reed has spent the last 11 years representing Atlanta in both houses of the Georgia General Assembly. During that time in office, he has a 100% voting record from Georgia Equality and other LGBT-advocacy organizations. He has delivered concrete results and advanced progressive policies to level the playing field and give more protections to the LGBT community. As a State Representative, he was the chief House sponsor for Georgia’s Hate Crimes Bill that included protections for LGBT individuals, and fought to keep those protections over the objections of a number of Republican and Democratic legislators. He secured state funding for an LGBT tourism study for the City of Atlanta, and feels that Atlanta needs to invest in more aggressive marketing to solidify Atlanta’s standing as an LGBT destination in light of strong competition from other cities. He also believes that Atlanta should have an entertainment district that would allow us to truly be a 24 hour international city.

We are aware that Kasim has stated his support of civil unions with full benefits. However, Kasim has proven his commitment to full legal equality for same sex couples when he led the effort in the State Senate against the Constitutional Amendment to ban gay marriage. He has also been a key ally working with Rep. Karla Drenner to stop attempts to ban gay adoption in Georgia. During the last legislative session, he sponsored and passed legislation that now requires Georgia to test prisoners exiting the state’s penal system for HIV/AIDS and to provide counseling. This will help prisoners know their health status and seek the help they need before they are released. Kasim’s statement on the Eagle raid made clear that he would not tolerate a police department that violates the civil rights of any citizen. He vows to continue to work equally as hard when Mayor to ensure that LGBT citizens are all treated fairly and equally.

What earns Kasim our endorsement in a race where nearly all the candidates voice support for LGBT equality is performance over promises. We value his strong record in the legislature, his status as one who can bring a fresh, outsider’s vision to a city government that has largely broken down, and his proven ability to establish productive relationships with a Republican state legislature and governor. As Atlanta attempts to recover from the current financial struggles, Kasim’s solid leadership, proven results and knowledge of all levels of government are what Atlanta needs in a Mayor.

Kasim has also received the endorsement of the Atlanta Progressive Firefighters; openly lesbian State Rep. Karla Drenner; State Representatives Kathy Ashe, Roger Bruce, Rashad Taylor, and Rahn Mayo; State Senators Horacena Tate, Nan Orrock, David Adelman, Valencia Seay, and Minority Leader Robert Brown; the Sunday Paper; Ambassador Andrew Young; and the Atlanta North Georgia Labor Council AFL-CIO.


Caesar Mitchell is currently a City Councilman At-Large. He has long worked to cultivate a strong relationship with LGBT Atlantans, promoting various non-profit and civic engagements devoted to civil rights. Caesar is strongly committed to protecting existing domestic-partner benefits for Atlanta city employees, while also working proactively to urge the state Legislature to pass anti-bullying legislation. Caesar also recognizes that the city has room for improvement in how it supports transgender Atlantans through municipal policies, and supports improving those policies as City Council President.


Adam brings a forward thinking, fresh outlook to City operations. Having organizational experience from his IBM career, he is already proposing ways to make the City Council and its operations more open, honest and transparent for city residents. A well qualified candidate, who happens to be gay, he is one of the more impressive and aggressive thinkers on the campaign trail. With his ear to the ground from neighborhood meetings and community involvement, he has focused on what people want: safer streets, a city government that can manage its finances, and productive, efficient and responsive services. His expertise in analyzing the efficiency of government service delivery will be a welcome addition to the Council.

Adam has received the endorsement of the Victory Fund.


Aaron has served on the Atlanta School Board both as a member and as Board President. He has proven his commitment to equality in this difficult arena as well as scored 100% on our survey. His Board service also included chairing the critical Finance Committee and overseeing an annual operating budget of $450 million and a capital improvement budget of $430 million, funds used to build new schools, renovate decaying ones, and install modern information technology for all students. Aaron’s elected office experience shows how he understands budgeting, the effective implementation of accountability standards and the need to fulfill a group leadership role. Since his school board service, Aaron has most recently been working on the challenges of establishing sensible transportation options. He seeks to link neighborhoods, promote smart land use, controlled housing density and establishing protected green space.


LaShawn has received recognition as one of Atlanta's most distinguished young civic leaders. He is a consummate community advocate who also serves as the CEO of the Pittsburgh Community Improvement Association, one of the more successful neighborhood-based community development corporations. He is a former chair of Neighborhood Planning Unit-V and has served on numerous community boards in both Atlanta and Fulton County, including the local school council boards for C.L. Gideons Elementary School and W.L. Parks Middle School and the Atlanta Citizen Review Board. In addition to scoring 100% on our survey, LaShawn brings true grassroots energy and leadership abilitiesto a Council that could use a good dose of both.


Since the election of Cathy Woolard to this seat in 1997, District 6 has been known as the “Gay Seat” on City Council. With 6 candidates in the race, three of them gay, there is no guarantee that the seat will remain “gay”. LGBT voters need to consider not just the sexual orientation of a candidate, but who is qualified and can win. We believe Steve Brodie is the strongest candidate in this race, having run in 2005 and coming within a handful of votes of election. He is a gay candidate who has been actively involved in issues that directly affect the interest of the voters, gay and straight: public safety, zoning, land use, the BeltLine, and the budgeting process. He has worked to prioritize public safety for major events in Piedmont Park, fix miles of sidewalks, and he successfully represented the neighborhood positions on land use issues. Steve played a significant leadership role in the start-up of the Safety Committee and Neighborhood Watch Program in Candler Park, and was a leader and fundraiser for the Midtown “Light the Streets” program. Many candidates who run for public office and do not win often get discouraged and disappear. Steve Brodie has remained deeply engaged in the community and the District he seeks to represent.

Another issue of concern in the District is a vibrant nightlife. When Steve was first elected to the MNA Board of Directors and the NPU-E Board as the representative for Midtown, both boards had a strong contingency that were dedicated to the closure of gay bars. He was a forceful advocate for complete cessation of these actions and was able to create a majority to take all closure/harassment actions off the agendas of the organizations. He spoke out when anti-gay activists directly attacked African-American LGBT citizens in Piedmont Park on Sundays, even though some thought his position put him at political risk.

Although our constituency forms the heart of District 6, Steve is not just an LGBT advocate. He understands that the issue of crime affects all residents, and has a track record of working successfully on this issue. As a city council member, he will be best able to move the levers of city government to keep those issues on the front burner of the new Council and Mayor’s agenda. Of all the candidates, he has done the best job of laying out specific ideas on public safety and suggesting concrete actions needed to fund improvements.

Steve has received the endorsement of the Atlanta Police Union, and the Sunday Paper.


Simone is running for the recently vacated District 58 seat that serves portions of incorporated east-central Atlanta in both Fulton and DeKalb counties, plus adjacent portions of unincorporated DeKalb County. She has been a resident of Atlanta for 20 years and of District 58 for 10 years. She is a graduate of Agnes Scott College and has spent the majority of her working life as a community organizer with local non-profit organizations.

Simone has worked as an activist and advocate in Atlanta and across the South for more than 20 years. Her education and work in health care, experience advocating for women’s health, African American and LGBT rights at ZAMI, the Atlanta Lesbian Health Initiative and Lambda Legal have all given her the tools and perspective to advocate on behalf of the residents of District 58. When elected, Simone will be the first openly gay African-American woman State Representative in the United States. Considering her experience, broad knowledge of quality of life issues, commitment to the under-represented and community involvement, Simone is uniquely ready for this position.

She has also received the endorsement of Georgia Equality and Victory Fund.


At the age of 32, Kyle is already an accomplished community leader. He has held leadership positions in groups like the Red Clay Democrats and Generation Green. In addition, Kyle served on Georgia Equality’s Board of Directors from 2004 to 2007, eventually serving as president his final year. As an attorney, Kyle has been recognized three times as a Georgia “Rising Star” in Litigation, Land Use and Zoning by Georgia “Super Lawyer” and Atlanta Magazine. Southern Voice named him one of the top 20 young gay leaders in the Atlanta metropolitan area. Kyle hopes to advance his ideas to modernize Decatur and bring innovation to the City Commission. He is a candidate with solid credentials and is devoted to LGBT equality. The Commission is currently one of the more effective local governing bodies and it would take a lot for a new member to be quickly productive and contribute. We believe Kyle has the credentials and the vision necessary to not only serve but be a stand out.

Kyle has also received the endorsement of Georgia Equality, Victory Fund, and Log Cabin Republicans.

At this time there are some contested races where we found incomplete or unverifiable information and our decision was to not make an endorsement. This should not be interpreted as a positive or negative reflection on the candidates and we will continue to monitor these contests and assess any need to revisit evaluations.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Support LGBT Federal Employees! Support the New Definition of Family!

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management has proposed a change to the definition of “Family” to include same sex domestic partners so that LGBT employees can use vacation and sick leave just as straight people can. These changes would implement Section 1 of President Obama's June 17, 2009 Memorandum on Federal Benefits and Non-Discrimination and ensure that agencies are considering the needs of a widely diverse workforce and providing the broadest support possible to employees to help them balance their increasing work, personal, and family obligations. I’m sure once the right learns that comments are open through 11:59 pm on November 13, they will be all over it. So we have to make sure our folks are writing in too!

You may submit comments, identified by RIN number ``3206-AL93,'' using either of the following methods:
  1. Federal eRulemaking Portal: Follow the instructions for submitting comments.
  2. US Mail: Jerome D. Mikowicz, Deputy Associate Director, Center for Pay and Leave Administration, U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Room 7H31, 1900 E Street, NW., Washington, DC 20415-8200.

The text of the changes are below. If you go to and put in any of the following, it should get you there:

  1. Document ID: OPM_FRDOC_0001-0338
  2. Docket ID: OPM_FRDOC_0001
  3. Document Type: proposed rules
  4. “Absence and Leave; sick leave

If you choose to comment, you will be asked to fill in your name, etc. I filled it out as “citizen” since I am speaking for myself, but it does ask you to list an organization even if you are commenting as a citizen. I’m a bit confused by this, and wonder if it’s not a programming error on the site. However, I would propose for people who aren’t comfortable with putting “Young Democrats” , "Stonewall Democrats", or even "Democratic Party" as the organization, perhaps retype “Citizen” or “US Citizen” in the organization blank so that your comment goes through.

Please support the Obama Administration and leave positive comments supporting these changes. If you have ways to make the changes stronger, suggest them. Either way, we need to really support President Obama and openly-gay OPM Director John Berry for making this first step toward LGBT equality in the federal government.

OPM's proposed regulations would amend the definition of family member in
part 630, subparts B (Definitions and General Provisions for Annual Leave and
Sick Leave) and I (Voluntary Leave Transfer) and immediate relative in subpart H
(Funeral Leave); and include new definitions for committed relationship,
domestic partner, parent, and son or daughter. We are also making conforming
changes to subparts J (Voluntary Leave Bank Program) and K (Emergency Leave
Transfer Program) because both subparts reference the current definition of
family member. The definitions are being changed as follows.

The current definition of family member at 5 CFR 630.201 and 5 CFR 630.902
reads-- ``Family member means the following relatives of the
employee: (1) Spouse, and parents thereof; (2) Children, including adopted children and spouses thereof; (3) Parents; (4) Brothers and sisters, and spouses thereof; and (5) Any individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.''

We are modifying the definition of family member to include domestic
partners, grandparents, and grandchildren.

Our proposed definition reads-- ``Family member means an
individual with any of the following relationships to the employee: ``(1) Spouse, and parents thereof; (2) Sons and daughters, and spouses thereof; (3) Parents,
and spouses thereof; (4) Brothers and sisters, and spouses thereof; (5) grandparents and grandchildren, and spouses thereof; (6) Domestic partner, including domestic partners of any individual in paragraphs (2)-(5) of this definition;
and (7) Any individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.''

We are also defining the terms committed relationship, domestic partner,
parent, and son or daughter. The proposed definition of domestic partner
reads-- ``Domestic partner means an adult in a committed
relationship with another adult, including both same sex and opposite sex
relationships. Committed relationship means that the employee,
and the domestic partner of the employee, are each other's sole domestic partner
(and are not married to or domestic partners with anyone else); and share
responsibility for a significant measure of each other's common welfare and
financial obligations. This includes, but is not limited to, any relationship
between two individuals of the same or opposite sex that is granted legal
recognition by a state or by the District of Columbia as a marriage or analogous
relationship (including, but not limited to a civil union).

The proposed definition of parent reads-- ``Parent means-- (1) A biological, adoptive, step, or foster parent of the employee, or a person who was a foster parent of the employee when the employee was a minor; (2) A person who is the legal guardian of the employee or was the legal guardian of the employee when the employee was a minor or required a legal guardian; or (3) A person who stands in loco parentis to the employee or stood in loco parentis to the employee when the employee was a minor or required someone to stand in loco parentis. (4) A parent, as described in paragraphs (1) through (3) of this definition, of an employee's domestic partner.''

Finally, we are also proposing a definition of son or daughter, which
reads-- ``Son or daughter means-- (1) A biological, adopted, step, or foster son or daughter of the employee; (2) A person who is a legal ward or was a legal
ward of the employee when that individual was a minor or required a legal
guardian; (3) A person for whom the employee stands in loco parentis or stood in loco parentis when that individual was a minor or required someone to stand in loco parentis; or (4) A son or daughter, as described in paragraphs (1) through (3) of this definition, of an employee's domestic partner.''

We are also proposing a new definition of immediate relative for the
purposes of funeral leave under subpart H, which uses the same categories of
relationship as the definition of family member. In order to be consistent with
the definition of family member of subparts B and I, we are also taking the
opportunity to write the definition of immediate relative in the present tense
and to define immediate relative by relationship to the employee rather that by
relationship to the deceased. The proposed definition reads--
``Immediate relative means an individual with any of the following relationships
to the employee: (1) Spouse, and parents thereof; (2) Sons and daughters, and spouses thereof; (3) Parents, and spouses thereof; (4) Brothers and sisters, and spouses thereof; (5) Grandparents and grandchildren and spouses thereof; (6)
Domestic partner, including domestic partners of any individual in paragraphs
(2)-(5) of this definition; and (7) Any individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.''

In the Voluntary Leave Transfer Program regulations in 5 CFR part 630,
subpart I, we are proposing the same change to the definition of family member
and the addition of the same definitions of committed relationship, domestic
partner, parent, and son or daughter as we are proposing in 5 CFR 630.201. In
the voluntary leave bank and emergency leave transfer programs, we are
referencing the changes we are making in the definitions section of the
voluntary leave transfer program.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

What did Lesbians Ever Do to Atlanta Cotillion?!?

The Atlanta Cotillion has always been a fun event. For several years, the Young Democrats had an unofficial table organized by current DNC Member from Georgia Page Gleason. I chose to pay extra in order to wear a tux mostly because I make one ugly woman, and I wasn't sure that the sitting President of the Young Democrats of Georgia (2007-09) should be photographed in full on drag. The heterosexual men at our table all dressed as ladies for the occasion, to some hilarity as well as surprise at how pretty a woman some of them made! It was all for a good cause, supporting AID Atlanta in its work preventing HIV infection as well as supporting those who have HIV/AIDS.

This year, a very good friend of mine decided to become a Cotillion Debutante. Debutantes are generally "tapped" by a member of the previous year's class and are men who have not done drag before. They make up a name, a history, and then spend the late spring and summer hosting fundraisers for their "cause". There is a competition to raise the most money, as that Debutante is crowned Queen. My friend John Michael Roch chose the name Liberty Belle O'Hara as a nod to his heritage as a yankee from Philly, as well as a nod to his "drag mother" who tapped him for Cotillion, whose last name was O'Hara.

John not only set an ambitious goal for his fundraising, he spent many hours and a lot of his own money pursuing the fundraising parties that fuel the Atlanta Cotillion fundraising. He has made good headway in meeting his goal, with the last hurdle being getting people to buy tickets off of his fundraising page for the Cotillion itself on Sept 19. And for folks feeling the pinch of this recession, he's asked for them to just give whatever they could afford.


I have been asked, in the strongest terms possible, to remove this post in its entirety. It turns out that the Cotillion board did not make the decision referred to the original post. The co-chairs did, and the "bylaws" which I suppose the mean the handbook, specifically state that "gentlemen" must be the escorts. So for now, I just ask you donate to John's deb page.

However, I am accurately quoted by Southern Voice: