I’ve spent my whole life breaking barriers and standing up for the LGBTQ community. I was the first openly gay elected official in Georgia and the first openly gay city council president in the United States.
I’ve worked tirelessly over the years to stop the passage of bills that discriminate against members of the LGBTQ community under the guise of defending religious liberty. In 2002, I personally led the Atlanta City Council to pass the only comprehensive civil rights bill in the State of Georgia, protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations in the private sector. Also while on city council, I successfully sponsored legislation adding gender identity to Atlanta’s non-discrimination policy for city employees.
At 15, I ran away from home out of a sense that I didn’t belong. Years later, many young people still fall into this predicament, and they can end up on the margins of society. Homelessness is an ongoing problem in Atlanta, and LGBTQ people are disproportionately affected. My efforts to expand stable, safe, and affordable housing options for people at every income level, including the homeless, will help alleviate the problem. Providing stable housing will also allow people easier access to health services that could be especially beneficial to people who are HIV positive.
Too many people avoid treatment and testing because of the stigma attached to HIV. I’m a firm proponent of ending HIV discrimination. It is clear that laws seeking to criminalize HIV not only fly in the face of science, but are also motivated by unvarnished homophobia. There are better ways to combat HIV discrimination. To name a few, we could install more PrEP clinics, legalize and implement syringe exchange programs, and boost efforts in the areas of education and awareness.
We also need to work with law enforcement to ensure they’re trained to work with LGBTQ people professionally. Study after study has shown that community based policing works to mitigate discriminatory enforcement of the law. The more of our officers who can live and work in the communities they police, the better. I’ll work to increase available housing to ensure recruits in training can live in decent housing in the areas they serve. And those who want to do more can receive additional compensation for participating in community events, as well as for attending Neighborhood Planning Unit meetings and civic gatherings on issues specific to the LGBTQ community. Furthermore, I will mandate more training on de-escalation and implicit bias be mandatory for all officers. We will work to ensure that each recruitment class reflects the diversity of Atlanta.
As mayor, I’ll continue defending the rights of LGBTQ people. If Atlanta is to become a more international city, the kind that would attract investment from the film industry and businesses like Amazon, we must ensure we are welcoming to people of all backgrounds.