Gay activist inspires nondiscrimination push in Brookhaven

Brookhaven’s mayor expects the city to pass a sweeping LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance by the end of the year, joining several other cities that have done so this year. 

“It the right thing to do,” Mayor John Ernst told Project Q Atlanta. “I could go into a long politician answer to make me sound super sincere but that is not my style. It is just the right thing to do.”

The effort to pass the ordinance is being led in part by a group of people who want to honor the memory of Richard Rhodes, the trailblazing gay activist who died in July at 81. Rhodes (photo) lobbied the Brookhaven City Council for the ordinance until his death. 

The policy would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity — plus several other classes — in private employment, housing and public accommodations. Atlanta, Doraville, Clarkston, Chamblee and Dunwoody are the only cities in Georgia with such a policy.

City Councilmember Linley Jones asked Brookhaven’s city attorney for an opinion on the ordinance in April, according to Reporter Newspapers.

Rhodes’ longtime friend Jon Greaves took up the cause after Rhodes' death by asking Georgia Equality to email its Brookhaven supporters about helping to pass the ordinance.

“We’re supporting those efforts like we’ve done in other places,” Jeff Graham, Georgia Equality's executive director, told Project Q. “But it really is just Jon working with a group of folks living in Brookhaven to push it forward.”

Greaves doesn’t live in Brookhaven, so he’s making sure the city’s residents are the force behind it. 

“I’m project managing the effort and I’ll take part in some of the activities, but it’s important that the effort be owned by the residents there because they have standing in their city,” Greaves told Project Q. 

The group of residents working to pass the ordinance includes gay state Rep. Matthew Wilson and city council candidate Madeleine Simmons. They have been in contact with Ernst and Jones about the issue. 

Ernst expects Rhodes to be mentioned in the ordinance. 

“He was a supporter of mine and I was sad to hear of his passing,” he said.

Greaves said he always tried to follow in Rhodes’ footsteps, and getting the ordinance passed would be a part of that effort. 

“It’s a worthy task even if I didn’t know Dick, but doing it as a tribute to him would make it extra special,” he said.

Georgia Equality endorsed Ernst and Simmons earlier this month in their November elections. 

(h/t Reporter Newspapers)