State Sen. Jason Carter, the Democrat running for Georgia governor, quietly came out in support of gay marriage on Tuesday. It only took a round of media coverage and growing concern from LGBT activists to get him there.
Bryan Thomas, Carter's campaign spokesperson, issued a two-sentence statement to the AJC's Political Insider on Tuesday:
“Jason has long supported marriage equality, and has said so to anyone who asked him. He doesn’t think we should ever be in a position of telling churches what to do, but has long been on the record in support of civil marriage equality.”
Except portions of Thomas' statement aren't quite accurate. The statement came after Carter collected nearly $90,000 from LGBT donors during a lavish fundraiser on Thursday that we detailed in great length on Friday.
We asked Thomas directly about Carter's position on gay marriage, which the candidate did not discuss during the fundraiser attended by a large crowd of LGBT politicos, activists and civic leaders. Thomas declined to answer any questions about Carter's position on any LGBT issue. The campaign also has not responded to repeated requests by the GA Voice for an interview. We would have asked Carter directly, but the campaign didn't allow media at the fundraiser and didn't make him available on Friday.
Carter never said the word “gay” or “LGBT” as some people noted on social media following the event and also as reported by Project Q Atlanta. The media was blocked from attending the event because Carter’s people disallow reporters to attend fundraising events.
But we do know Jason Carter can say the word gay and LGBT. When he ran for the state Senate in 2010 in a special election, he received the endorsement of Georgia Equality and talked publicly about his support of “LGBT issues” but nothing about marriage. Marriage was not on the front burner like it is today.
On Wednesday, Political Insider discussed the GA Voice coverage, offered up the campaign's endorsement of gay marriage and acted as if his position were widely known.
It wasn't. Both Project Q and the GA Voice attempted to track down any public statements by Carter on gay marriage without any finding anything. The closest we came was in March as Carter deflected a question about gay marriage in a March interview with the Huffington Post.
So Carter's campaign might heed the advice of Georgia Equality's Jeff Graham, who offered this to the AJC:
Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality, said this morning that he was pleased by the above statement, but suggested that the Carter campaign might want to be more responsive to LGBT media in the future.
Beyond the political fray and poorly handled roll out of Carter's marriage equality announcement, it still remains significant. Carter becomes the first Democratic candidate to back gay marriage. Four years ago, former Gov. Roy Barnes wouldn't go that far and even said he'd vote for the gay marriage ban enshrined in the state Constitution. That vote took place six years earlier.
Also in 2010, now Gov. Nathan Deal turned the race into one of the most anti-gay in state politics. Still, Libertarian John Monds supported gay marriage and participated in the Atlanta Pride parade.
Andrew Hunt, the current Libertarian candidate for governor, has not responded to a question from Project Q Atlanta about gay marriage.
The announcement by Carter's campaign also comes as Michelle Nunn, the Democrat candidate for U.S. Senate, comes under increased scrutiny for her nuanced position on gay marriage. Her Libertarian opponent, Amanda Swafford, backs same-sex marriage. Republican David Perdue supports the state's marriage ban.
Democrat Greg Hecht, trying to unseat Republican Attorney General Sam Olens, also supports gay marriage and would stop the state's legal defense of its ban. Olens is taking the lead on defending the gay marriage ban against a federal lawsuit.