A gay-friendly Georgia lawmaker who backs gay marriage says he’s facing discrimination based on his sexual orientation from Georgia Equality, who endorsed his opponent, a lesbian state legislator, in what’s becoming a divisive race for the District 58 seat.
Rep. Ralph Long (photo) called Georgia Equality, a statewide LGBT rights lobby, “bigots” and “hypocrites” in a lengthy comment posted Friday on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s website. He took the group to task for endorsing state Rep. Simone Bell (photo), the nation’s first openly lesbian African-American lawmaker, without contacting him or allowing him to participate in the endorsement process.
However, I will stand by the Mayor’s side, walk door to door, and do what I have to do for his candidacy if Georgia Equality does not get over its hypocrisy and bigotry towards people who are straight. As I have gone door to door vying for support for my July 31st primary, I have had doors shut in my face by people who were not concerned with issues at all, by people who did not want to hear my platform because I was not gay. Georgia Equality has never sent a survey or called me to hear my views on any public policy issue before endorsing my gay opponent, another Legislator who I respect and love very much.
On Wednesday, Long told Project Q Atlanta that he stands behind those comments.
“I was never interviewed, never sent a survey, never contacted,” Long says. “You shouldn’t discriminate against someone because of their sexual orientation. That is just plain discrimination and they need to stop that.”
Georgia Equality endorsed Bell before qualifying for the July primaries closed in late May. It’s one of two races that pit a gay-friendly incumbent against a gay lawmaker, though the group has not yet issued an endorsement in the second race. In a third race, a gay politico is running against a gay-friendly former state lawmaker. In a fourth race, a gay former Marine is hoping to unseat a gay-friendly incumbent.
The group has issued endorsements in two of those races, backing the gay candidates. It’s part of a big gay political endorsement pickle for Georgia Equality.
Jeff Graham, Georgia Equality’s executive director, could not be immediately reached for comment on Wednesday.
Long says it’s not the first time the organization has passed him by. In 2008, Georgia Equality endorsed Keisha Waites, a lesbian, in the District 61 race against Long, who went on to win. Waites again ran for the state House in 2011, this time winning but doing so without Georgia Equality’s endorsement. This year, she is one of three LGBT incumbents with the group’s official backing.
“I’ve knocked on doors and seen some ugly stuff going on,” Long says. “First with Georgia Equality and second, with some single-issue voters out there. I am concerned about the plight of the LGBT community and I want to see their plight realized. In order to do that, you have to put forth equality for all and you have to mean it.”
Long says he supports hate crimes legislation pending in the General Assembly, as well as a proposal that would protect LGBT state employees. He also supports gay marriage.
“Who am I to discriminate against anyone? If you want to marry someone, go do it. I have some beautiful relationships in my community with same-sex couples. Why shouldn’t they be able to marry each other,” Long says.
Bell formally launched her campaign on May 2 with a kickoff event in Cabbagetown, asking friends and supporters to help her secure a second full term. She faces Long in a new District 58 thanks to Republican-led redistricting last year. Long says facing an incumbent and friend in the race is a difficult task.
“It is not easy to run against somebody that you sat in meetings with, hundreds of meetings with, and discussed many issues. We’ve broken bread together, we have fellowship together. It is very tough and hard. It has been very challenging and it has been tough on constituents. I wouldn’t wish it on anybody,” Long says.
Long’s full comments posted on the AJC:
Our mayor is not in a pickle. I supported Mary Norwood over him and have not spoken with him since then and that his shortfall. I also support gay marriage and proudly have gay people in my family, on my street, and in my life that I love. However, I will stand by the Mayor’s side, walk door to door, and do what I have to do for his candidacy if Georgia Equality does not get over its hypocrisy and bigotry towards people who are straight. As I have gone door to door vying for support for my July 31st primary, I have had doors shut in my face by people who were not concerned with issues at all, by people who did not want to hear my platform because I was not gay. Georgia Equality has never sent a survey or called me to hear my views on any public policy issue before endorsing my gay opponent, another Legislator who I respect and love very much. Georgia Equality has failed to educate its constituency on the fact that I supported the renewed hate crimes legislation that was introduced this year as well as the workplace discrimination legislation. Georgia Equality has failed to properly acknowledge that there are gay allies in primary races who will proudly defend the rights of the LGBT community. Georgia Equality has never asked me my beliefs on a single issue or about the fact that I have never voted to discriminate against anyone. I think that is bigotry and I will not let it go until they apologize to me. I have been discriminated against because I was black in this country. I watched Mary Norwood get discriminated against in her Mayoral race because she was white and I am raising the flag on certain political factions within the LBGT community for their bigotry. I have never shied away from tough issues and I will not now, even though this is an election year. In fact, for the betterment of equality, the timing could not be more perfect. No one should be discriminated against regardless of race, color, gender, sexual orientation or religious belief. I cry foul against political groups that would turn the electorate into single-issue, identity voters without talking about actual public policy issues. As a current legislator it is not appropriate to endorse candidates simply because of their sexual orientation. The gay people that I know are concerned about education, jobs, transportation, and other relevant issues in addition to marriage and it is an insult to assume otherwise.