When swearing in of a new administration happens in the City of Atlanta on Monday, an unexpected fourth member of the newly elected City Council takes the oath. Post 2 At Large member Matt Westmoreland raises his right hand for the third time, but the first time as an openly LGBTQ public servant.
Westmoreland made the announcement on social media late Sunday night.
“Tomorrow afternoon, I’ll swear an oath for a third time to serve the City of Atlanta and all her residents. And I’ll do so as a proud member of our LGBTQ+ community,” Westmoreland’s string of seven tweets began.
The decision didn’t come easily for Westmoreland, who joins a contingent of what is already Atlanta’s largest number of LGBTQ city council members at one time. District 5’s Liliana Bakhtiari, Alex Wan in District 6, and Keisha Waites in the At Large-3 seat will also take their oaths of office on Monday.
“I wrestled with the decision to post this note: The fact that the content is so personal,” the missive continued. “The desire to live in a world where such pronouncements aren’t necessary. The fear that who I chose to be with would change how people view me or my public service.”
“But the former teacher and school board member in me has been thinking about our students who have ever struggled to accept themselves for who they are,” Westmoreland added. “And, frankly, has found inspiration in our students who allow their authentic selves to shine brightly for all to see.”
In the end, I wanted to be true to myself – and to you.
Read the full thread here.
Westmoreland’s history on LGBTQ issues while in office includes Georgia Equality’s full endorsement in November. Project Q profiled him as an ally in 2017 as he set off to replace Mary Norwood in the AtLarge-2 position.
A native Atlantan and graduate of Grady High, Westmoreland also sat on the inclusive task force deciding the fate of the city jail, and he pressed for justice in Atlanta’s beleaguered HIV housing program. He has also attended gay rights galas and ridden in the Atlanta Pride parade.
The four out council members have each made history in one way or another with their elections. That’s in addition to being the largest LGBTQ contingent to sit on the council at the same time. Lesbian members Cathy Woolard and Anne Favre served together in the early 2000s.
Bakhtiari is the first openly LGBTQ Muslim elected official in Georgia history. Waites is the first Black lesbian on the council, after being the second Black LGBTQ woman elected to the Georgia state legislature in 2012.
In 2010, Wan became the first Asian American and first openly gay male member of the council. He served two terms before losing a race for council president in 2017. Westmoreland is now the first gay male council member to serve in a citywide elected position. Woolard was the first lesbian to do so when she was voted council president in 2002.
We reached out to Westmoreland and will update this story if he responds.