You’ll forgive Mayor Kasim Reed for snubbing his gay police advisory board this week, but he’s been busy ringing the NASDAQ bell, building his national portfolio and reminding CNN’s viewers that he loves Atlanta’s gays, just not enough for them to marry.
Yes, at a time when his administration continues to stumble through the wake of the botched Eagle raid nearly two years ago, Reed raised an issue that proved divisive – and nearly defeating – to his 2009 mayoral campaign: same-sex marriage.
“I support civil unions,” Reed told CNN anchor Suzanne Malveaux in a piece aired Friday. “I have not evolved to the position of believing in marriage equality.”
Reed’s comments came near the end of a lengthy feature during CNN’s “What Matters” segment, part of a spree of national attention Reed has sought – and received – in recent weeks to tout his reform of the city’s troubled pension system. The CNN piece also focused on what Malveaux called the city’s “alarming obesity epidemic” and the mayor’s efforts to “take on Atlanta’s criminals.”
Reed touted the hiring of more than 250 police officers since he took office in 2010 during the segment. But Malveaux did not ask about two recent reports condemning the actions of the Atlanta Police Department during the Eagle raid in 2009, the half-dozen officers who were fired earlier this month, or Reed’s dismantling of the controversial Red Dog Unit that took part in the raid.
Reed’s victory lap in the CNN coverage is similar to a July 2 piece from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. That story, written by veteran City Hall report Ernie Suggs, was titled “Reed focuses on next challenge” and discusses the mayor’s “victory in the pension debate.” It also points to Reed’s next challenge – quality of life issues that make Atlanta more attractive.
Like the CNN piece, the AJC story does not mention the recent Atlanta police firings or how the Eagle reports showed that officers violated the Fourth Amendment rights of patrons and employees, as well as several provisions of the police department’s Standard Operating Procedures, and how those findings might impact the law enforcement agency’s work across the city and Reed’s efforts to combat crime.
While CNN and the AJC stories skipped past Reed’s troubled police department, Reed hasn’t talked much about it, either. When the reports were issued on June 28, his administration released them after a deadline from a federal judge and late at night with only brief prepared comments from City Attorney Cathy Hampton. That stands in sharp contract to Reed’s public reactions and statements in the wake of similarly disturbing reports documenting the Atlanta public schools cheating scandal.
Reed has no formal role in the school system; he directly oversees the Atlanta Police Department and picked its current chief, George Turner, in a controversial selection process.
Besides tackling the thorny pension problem, Reed has been busy boosting his profile on the national stage. He’s appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” twice in recent months to tout President Obama’s re-election effort, talked pension reform with PBS, and was in New York City on Thursday to ring the closing bell for NASDAQ.
Reed’s muted reaction to Eagle reports
A day earlier, Reed was a topic of conversation during a meeting of the Atlanta police LGBT advisory board. The panel’s meeting on Wednesday was its first since the release of the Eagle reports and they moved to request a face-to-face with Reed and Turner to discuss why more officers haven’t been fired over the raid.
Earlier this month, Turner fired six officers not for their role in the raid, but for lying about their actions in later investigations; two others were fired for reasons unrelated to the rate; nine faced punishments ranging from written reprimands to 20-day suspensions for their direct role in the raid; another retired before being demoted. Punishment is pending against three others.
The one time Reed has spoken publicly about the Eagle reports, a week after their release in a brief telephone interview with the GA Voice, he offered no specifics on what, if any, action he would take next. He also offered his shock over the specifics of the two reports, one from high-powered law firm Greenberg Traurig and the other a long-stalled internal investigation by Atlanta police.
But Reed’s shock comes despite court documents in the $1.025 million settlement of a federal lawsuit over the raid detailing how city attorneys and police ignored court-imposed deadlines, destroyed evidence and delayed discovery in the legal matter. The Atlanta Citizen Review Board also documented the misdeeds of the raid as it investigated the incident and complaints of police misconduct and anti-gay behavior.
There’s also this: In his interview, Reed pointed to the demotion of Major Debra Williams as an example of his “swift action” in the wake of the Eagle reports.
“That is a severe demotion and has not been customary in the city of Atlanta. We are taking swift action. We are going to do more. It is a beginning, not an ending.”
But it turns out that, despite characterizations of her demotion by Reed and Atlanta police, Williams was allowed to slip out the back door as a major a day before the demotion. It’s the same treatment given to her husband, Major Khirus Williams, the popular Zone 5 commander who retired in May claiming he was being forced out of the agency.
’Working through’ same-sex marriage
Reed’s comments Friday echo his position on same-sex marriage that proved troubling for him during the 2009 mayoral election.
In 2004, he voted against a constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage in the state while serving in the state Senate. The measure later passed the legislature and was approved by voters. The vote by Reed came even as he personally did not back gay marriage – though he supports LGBT couples receiving all the benefits enjoyed by married couples – and that distinction became an issue during the mayoral campaign. Runoff opponent Mary Norwood made it a key issue and it caused a split among LGBT voters.
Despite that, Reed said in an April 2010 interview that although he continues to discuss same-sex marriage with gay and lesbian friends and supporters, his position hasn’t changed.
“My position is exactly the same: I believe in full legal equality. I have the same reservations because of my personal faith that I have. I have conversations about it with my gay and lesbian friends all of the time and I continue to work through it. I was hurt by the outcome of the vote in the gay and lesbian community but I respect it and understand,” Reed said.
“I believe that my record should matter for something and it does not seem to matter for very much. I do hope that other elected officials who are running for office and who will be running for office shortly will be held to the same standard. I believe that gay and lesbian couples should have access to every right and benefit that married couples have. I also happen to be the only elected official in municipal government, certainly for the city of Atlanta and Fulton County, that has ever had to stand up and cast a vote when there were real consequences on the line. And I voted against the ban on gay marriage in the state of Georgia because I thought it placed discrimination in the constitution of the state,” he added.