Tag Archives: georgia equality

EVENT: Columbus Georgia Family Justice Project Public Discussion 2/7/2017

Via Press Release from Georgia Equality:


Columbus Georgia Family Justice Project Public Discussion

Join the Georgia Family Justice Project Community Discussion at 6:00pm on Wednesday, June 7th at the Columbus Public Library Auditorium, 3000 Macon Road, in Columbus. This communication discussion is aimed to raise public awareness of the need for broader, more inclusive definitions of ‘family’ in public and workplace policies.

Only 20% of today’s families identify as a “nuclear” family; mom, dad and two kids. Our families are multi-generational, blended, multi-lingual, have LGBTQ parents, and other non-traditional forms of family. However, the legal definition of ‘families’ found in public policy from adoption to hospital visitation, and workplace leave do not include many of us.

The Columbus discussions is the first of a series of statewide community dialogues to raise awareness through family stories and conversations for the public, private and nonprofit sectors. Additionally the “Typical Georgia Families” photography exhibit highlighting the diversity of Georgia’s families will be on display for this event.

So join us for the Georgia Family Justice Project Community Discussion at the Columbus Public Library Auditorium at 6:00pm on Wednesday, June 7th. Lite fare and refreshments will be provided.

To RSVP go to www.georgiaequality.org.


PHOTOS: Macon Rally Against #HB757

Photo by Jessica Whitley.

A rally protesting against HB 757 was held from 12pm to 6pm in downtown Macon on Thursday, February 25, 2016. It started at the Macon-Bibb Government Center (formerly known as City Hall), and later moved to the Macon-Bibb County Courthouse. It was organized by local activist Dustyn Archer, with the help of Georgia Equality/Georgia Unites Against Discrimination. Various organizations represented at the rally, including Georgia Equality, GLBAL, the Gay-Straight Alliance of Wesleyan College, and the Middle Georgia State University Gay-Straight Alliance (MGA-GSA). Nearly 200 people RSVP’ed to come to the event.

Local media varied in its coverage of the event. 13 WMAZ ran a story on it which included protesters at the event and a Catholic clerical supporter of the bill, and so did 41 NBC WMGT and the Telegraph. Meanwhile, according to Archer, 41 NBC got it wrong on the scope of the bill:

If anyone saw the story on the protest from WMGT (originally mistakenly said WGXA), they made it seem like the bill’s purpose is to make it so that pastors aren’t legally required to provide marriages to gay couples. The ORIGINAL bill was three basic points, of which the Pastor Protection Act was the main deal. THIS IS NO LONGER THE CASE.

Essentially, the bill, as amended by the senate, tacked on what amounts to a whole new bill that eliminates the government’s ability to prosecute or punish organizations, both public and private, that discriminate… It directly protects discriminatory businesses that discriminate by denying goods and services AND protects any speech conducted by these organizations as long as it’s based on the idea that marriage is between a man and a woman (meaning that hate speech is protected). Another big kicker is that the government must continue providing grants and other public funding in spite of any discriminatory language or practice. If these businesses wish to deny rights or discriminate in the name of religion, then they should not receive public funding support of any sort, as they are not in support many of those who pay their taxes, which is where public funding comes from.

If this were just about pastors not having to marry gay couples, there wouldn’t be businesses leaving the state, there wouldn’t be thousands of people against this bill — this is NO LONGER about religious freedom. This is about state-sanctioned fear and hate being laid down as the law of the land; this is about tying the government’s hands behind its back and blindfolding it against the criminal actions of those who wish to perpetuate hate.

Our Civil Rights are still under assault. Let us never forget that we must continue to fight for the rights of every man, woman, and child from the fears of a few zealots in the name of religion. If your religion brings the people of this world into discord and battle with one another, your religion belongs in the dark ages. The Jesus I knew wills for love to trump hate.

No Hate in Our State! Solidarity to all of you.

Of course, you can also send a letter opposing HB 757 to the Governor by Friday at midnight. Much thanks to Jessica Whitley from MGA GSA, Candace Neller-Harper and James GF Stair for allowing me to post the photos here with credit.

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TAKE ACTION: Tell the Governor to VETO HB757

State Sen. Greg Kirk’s HB 757, the combined Pastor Protection Act/First Amendment Defense Act, was passed by the State Senate last week. Gov. Deal has stated that the bill has not been finalized. The final version of the bill has to pass the House again before it is sent to Deal’s desk. 

In reaction to the bill’s passage, 373k, a telecommunications startup led by CEO Kevin Williams (who is African-American and openly gay), announced that they would immediately move their operations to Nevada.

It’s a seriously-detrimental bill which has the ACLU and the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce speaking out in opposition.


What the bill demonstrates is that so many of the conservative legislators backing this bill, including Sen. Kirk (a former pastor who has no background in law), have no idea of what they’re talking about, what they’re fighting against or who they’re defending. Sen. Kirk can even glibly claim 3(!) “gay friends” in order to justify his utter, dunder-headed lack of discussion or intelligence-gathering over this bill outside of his social circles.

Those Senators who voted for HB757, as well as those who voted for Sen. McKoon’s RFRA last session, are lashing out against a changing world and a changing Georgia. Their claims of seeking a “live and let live” status quo only benefit their privilege against those who don’t live their lives by their precepts.

If you’re in Columbus or anywhere in Georgia and want to defeat this bill, here’s what you can do, courtesy of my friend Rob Woods at Georgia Equality:

Call the Speaker / Governor / Lt Governor

David Ralston (Speaker of the House)

Call Ga Speaker David Ralston
Capitol Office 
404.656.5020 – Office
District Office 706.632.2221

Email  –  http://www.house.ga.gov/Representatives/en-US/member.aspx?Member=189&Se
Tweet Ralston – @GaHouseHub  #SpeakerRalston

Governor Nathan Deal

Call Governor Nathan Deal Office – 404-656-1776
Email –
Tweet Governor – @GovernorDeal

Lt. Governor Casey Cagle
Phone: (404) 656-5030
Email –
Tweet: @caseycagle

Thank you!!

GALLERY: Anti-Discrimination Rally at Georgia State Capitol

There were over 100 participants at the rally. Several speakers at the rally railed against the bills gaining traction this session, including the so-called “Pastor Protection Act” and the “First Amendment Defense Act”. I went up with activists Jeremy Hobbs, Patricia Lassiter and Steve Gill to the event, and wow was it COLD!

It’s impressive that so many people from Metro Atlanta made it to the rally in spite of the inclement weather. Even if the rally was far less in number than the number of participants at hate preacher Franklin Graham’s later rally in support of the bills, it was a decent repeat of the rally last march against Sen. Josh McKoon’s hateful RFRA bill. But it looks like the PPA and FADA will have broader support among the Republican caucus than even McKoon’s bill this session, which is not getting a hearing so far.

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Georgia Equality Presents Advocacy Lobby Training January 23

Via press release:


Georgia Equality will host it’s annual Legislative Advocacy Training on Saturday, January 23, 2016 from 11:00 AM until 4:00 PM. Come learn how to be in touch with your elected representatives, and get an in-depth update on what to look out for at the Gold Dome this year. Lunch will be provided so bring a friend and CLICK HERE to let us know you’re coming!

This workshop is geared towards first-time advocates and those who want to sharpen their advocacy skills. We focus on teaching skills to be an effective advocate at the state level, although the skills and information can be readily applied to national issues as well.  Participants will also receive an update on the most important issues facing the LGBT and HIV communities in Georgia during this year’s legislative session.  Then, put your skills to work at GE’s upcoming lobby days at the Capitol (lobby day attendance is not required to attend the training).

The training will take place at the Phillip Rush Center in Atlanta.  Lunch will be provided.  There is no charge for the training, but advance registration is required.

Georgia Equality’s Legislative Advocacy Training
Saturday, January 23, 2016
11 AM until 4 PM
Phillip Rush Center Annex
1530 DeKalb Ave., Atlanta, GA 30307

MLK Day in Columbus with Georgia Equality

Via Press Release:

Commemorate MLK Day with Georgia Equality at these two exciting events!

Columbus’ The Dream Lives Unity Procession
Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Dream Lives Unity Procession, part of Columbus’ celebratory tribute to the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr,  will be held at Noon on Saturday, January 16 in front of the Liberty Theater located at 821 8th Avenue, Columbus GA 31902. The Unity Processional is the highlight of “The Dream Lives” which brings together civic and church groups, bands, corporate entities, city officials, and individuals. At the sounding of the Noon siren, organizations, teams and individuals will walk in a Unity Processional from a designated staging area to the Liberty Theater Cultural Center for “The Dream Lives” festivities.

Georgia Equality has formed a Unity Procession Group and is asking you to join us in the activities.  Please become part Georgia Equality’s Procession Group for this historic event by registering at: https://runsignup.com/Race/Register/RaceGroup-191491?raceId=26220

For more information visit www.thedreamlivescolumbus.com/  or contact Rob Woods atrob@georgiaequality.org.

Bayard Rustin/Audre Lorde Breakfast and
MLK March & Rally
Monday, January 18, 2016

The 2016 Bayard Rustin/Audre Lorde Breakfast will be held Monday, January 18th at theLoudermilk Center — 40 Courtland St. Atlanta, GA 30303 (near Edgewood Ave). Doors open at 9:30am and breakfast is served at 10:00am.

The breakfast honors these two highly influential activists, provides space for fellowship, and enhances progressive coalition building among LGBTQ people and our allies working for social justice.The Theme for the 2016 Rustin/Lorde Breakfast is Justice, Freedom, Desire: Art Is Movement. Key local artists whose work uplifts our communities will be featured.

Following the breakfast, participants will join the Martin Luther King Jr. March and Rally at the line-up site on the Northeast corner of Peachtree and Ellis streets (same side as Ritz Carlton) at 1:45PM. The MLK Jr March and Rally will kick off at 2PM. Immediately following the march, the rally will be held on Auburn Avenue near the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Non-Violent Social Change.

See you there!
From Your Friends at Georgia Equality

My Take on ColGay Pride 2015

ColGay Pride had a greater turnout this year, not just in terms of people who passed through the festival for a few minutes of their day, but also people who stayed for up to all five hours in the hot sun. Many, including Mayor Teresa Tomlinson who opened the festival, braved the sun and humidity to participate and raise awareness about LGBT-relevant issues, rights and advancements.

wpid-img_20150606_151053.jpgMany more booths and tents were present along the Broadway walk in front of the Uptown Stage this year: Georgia Equality, the South Florida/Northern Virginia-based All Things Pride, and even the heavily-dolled-up Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence (Atlanta chapter). CV Pride Community Center, the parent organization of which historically hosts the sole Pride festival in the city (in September at Flat Rock Park), was a presence at ColGay Pride this year, passing out promotional fliers, Mardi Gras-type bead necklaces, and free lemonade from a booth shared with The Health Initiative, the Atlanta-based LGBT health awareness organization.

wpid-img_20150606_150635.jpgSociopolitical booths were present as well, such as the Democratic Party of Georgia’s LGBT Caucus which shared space with NOW Columbus and solicited signups for the Hillary 2016 mailing list. The Southern Anti-Racism Network (aka Project SARN) was also present with a booth.

Speakers included representatives of many of the organizations present in the booths, in addition to representatives from government, healthcare and student activism.

wpid-img_20150606_133737.jpgPerformances included Sexual Side Effects, an Atlanta-based musical duo which played on acoustic, and a Michael Jackson impersonator who performed “Dirty Diana”.

wpid-img_20150606_151606.jpgAt the end of the festival, participants lined up to participate in a Pride March up Broadway to 13th Street and back down to the stage. As far as is known, this is the first-ever LGBT Pride March in Uptown Columbus. No negative responses were heard from those passed by the march.

The festival could not have gone more smoothly, even on a humid, oppressive June day between the historic downtown buildings of Uptown Columbus.

Questions for the Future

The questions which stick in my mind, however, are the following:

  1. Following this greater turnout, how will Pride-branded event organizers in Columbus manage the range of expression for Pride functions? Despite initial trepidations about acceptable drag personas, the sequins, makeup and flowing dresses of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence managed to win genuinely-inquisitive questions and attendance to their booth from many patrons. No one visibly raised a stink about the Sisters’ combination of conservative-yet-flashy garb with full beards and ‘staches at Colgay, which may say more about the acceptability of certain “types” of public drag in these parts of the Southeast (compare the Sisters’ flowing dresses downtown to the more revealing drag that one may see at CV Pride Festival in the deep of Flat Rock Park).
  2. Can publicly-placed, high-visibility events like Colgay Pride offer greater opportunities for LGBT consumers, professionals and tourists? This took place in the heart of a downtown area, with businesses potentially benefitting from participants and passers-by who ate or drank at surrounding restaurants. Perhaps this business-friendly model is one to see take place more often in small cities like Columbus.
  3. Did this event succeed in educating passers-through about LGBT issues?
  4. What will result from this event over the course of the year, or at least toward the next legislative session?

All of this may very well be answered by way of watching the local reaction to whatever decision is made this month at the Supreme Court on marriage equality, or the inevitable revival of RFRA next year in the General Assembly. However, more events are planned throughout the rest of the year by Colgay Pride, Georgia Equality and other organizations to continue the momentum of awareness and visibility in the local area.

Check out more photos from ColGay Pride here!

A Marathon of LGBT-related Events in Columbus this Past Week

LGBT events on equality and faith were held in Columbus throughout last week.

Equality Town Hall

11258817_1069114649783644_5213168889898487223_oIn addition to a PFLAG Columbus meeting on Wednesday, the “Equality Town Hall” on Thursday at the Citizens Service Center was a success, with a turnout of 30-40 people from all walks of life in Columbus.

Panelists included:

  • Jeremy Hobbs, representing Colgay Pride
  • Patricia Lassiter, representing the Democratic Party of Georgia LGBT Caucus
  • David Smith, a senior at Columbus High School
  • Rob Woods, senior field organizer for Georgia Equality
  • Rev. Emily Bel, representing Forgiving Heart Church in Columbus

In addition, other organizations were represented, including the Southern Anti-Racism Network, the Democratic Socialists of America, PFLAG Columbus, CV Pride Community Center, NAACP Columbus GA, and yours truly. The event was moderated by Cheryl Renee of WTVM News 9.

Discussions were held on LGBT equality, the current state of affairs in the LGBT community, the relation of faith and spirituality to LGBT issues and the lack of access to socioeconomic stability for the LGBT community in Columbus. Particular attention was paid at times to the RFRA bill put forward by State Senator Josh McKoon of Columbus, which was criticized and protested to a standstill across Georgia in March.

 Faith and Equality Forum

On Saturday morning, a Faith and Equality Town Hall was held at the Columbus Public Library Auditorium to screen “The New Black“, a documentary about the fight for marriage equality and struggle for acceptance in the African-American community of Maryland. The event was co-organized and moderated by Shankeia Pollard of EITA Inc., Rob Woods of Georgia Equality and Chris Smith of Promised Land Films, the studio behind “The New Black”.

Attendees included several leaders of predominately-African American Christian congregations, as well as LGBT organizations in the local region. Following the film, the discussions covered concerns and objections regarding the relationship of African-American LGBT people and their struggle for civil rights to the realm of religion.

Later, at 7pm, a re-showing of the film was held at the Community Building of Grove Park Apartments, this time in front of a predominately African-American young LGBT adult viewership of 15-20 people from around the area, organized by Pollard, Woods and Lassiter. Following the film, a passionate 2-hour discussion was held covering similar ground as what was discussed by the earlier showing, but from a younger perspective.