Gay activists focus on legislative session

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imageGird your loins. The Georgia General Assembly returned to the State Capitol today.

This bastion of leadership — the same folks that bring us legislation including Amendment 1, which banned same-sex unions in the state for the second time — is back in session.

Let’s hope a projected $2 billion budget deficit will keep the Republican-controlled building away from the social issues it tends to favor. It’s not an election year, so lawmakers might not be so inclined to show off for their conservative constituents.

But there is already jockeying among anti-gay elected officials on the GOP side of the 2010 governor’s race. Those candidates include Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, Secretary of State Karen Handel and state Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine. None of them support marriage equality — not that any Democratic candidates will, either.

Cagle is a staunch conservative who voted in favor of Amendment 2 in 2004, Handel flip-flopped on being gay-friendly when she sought the secretary of state job in 2006, and Oxendine fought against implementation of domestic partner benefits the City of Atlanta was putting in place in the late 1990s.

Back to today: Gay advocates aren’t predicting any anti-gay legislation because of the state’s financial mess, but are keeping guard just in case. There’s more concern about the potential impact of budget cuts across state government.

Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality, the state’s largest gay political group, said one HIV-related program already slated for cuts is the AIDS Drug Assistance Program, which provides funding of last resort to help pay for HIV medications.

“I don’t believe that there are any programs that will avoid scrutiny and the ADAP program is one where the cuts have already been proposed by the Department of Human resources,” Graham said.

Graham said 120 to 130 subscribers to ADAP could face interruptions in their service if the cuts go through.

Rep. Karla Drenner, the legislature’s only openly gay member, provided this quip about the new session: “I look for the same sort of long drawn out bullshit that we went through last year.”

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