Meet the man leading gay Georgia Democrats

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A 27-year-old gay Atlanta entrepreneur with a deep interest in politics hopes to help educate Georgia Democrats about LGBTQ issues and help the party with outreach across the state.

Colton Griffin was recently tapped as chair of the LGBTQ Caucus of the Democratic Party of Georgia, which was created in 2010 to boost the party’s work on LGBTQ issues. During his tenure, Griffin hopes the caucus continues its outreach across the state and helps educate Democrats on issues impacting LGBTQ people.

In January, the caucus talked LGBTQ issues with Rep. Stacey Abrams, the Minority Leader in the Georgia House. Last week, Griffin and the caucus welcomed members of the Democratic National Committee during its winter meeting in Atlanta.

Griffin recently discussed with us politics, the legislative session and what lessons can be learned in campaign losses.

What got you engaged in politics?

I’ve been interested in politics since I was in, since even before college, since I was in high school. I went to the University of Tennessee, I was involved in our progressive student alliance there.

In the 2013-2014 election cycle, I got involved in Michelle Nunn’s and Jason Carter’s campaigns here, and as part of that the Young Democrats of Georgia asked me to revamp or restart the Young Democrats of Georgia Stonewall Caucus, which is an LGBTQ caucus for Young Democrats of Georgia.

And that’s where I guess I got involved in a more official way, but I spent a lot of time knocking on doors, making phone calls, all of 2014. And unfortunately, we lost. But I stayed involved from there.

After working with a losing campaign, how did you stay motivated and involved?

I think you have to find victories in the loss. I mean other than just the experience of participating in our democracy and giving, and it’s not like this is a lost cause. We didn’t lose by that much. We, and in our community, we actually turned out really well for 2014.

If you believe in the values that Democrats stand for, you can’t just throw up your hands and say that we’re never going to win, because then you never will win. We’ve made significant gains in voter turnout, voter registration, participation, and really closing the gap and turning Georgia into a swing state.

Of course, it’s pretty disheartening when you lose. But I think that if you like, just look at this past election. We lost pretty big. But people like Sam Park, that was one bright moment for us, you know, reclaiming the seat from a three term Republican.

Why are you interested in working on LGBTQ issues and doing that work within a state party?

It’s a whole different world for me. It’s a nice break from what I do for work on a day to day basis, politics are. I think there’s something like 300,000 LGBTQ people in, I think just the metro Atlanta area alone. And we need to make sure that we have our voice and our voices be heard and be represented. And even though we’ve made monumental gains in our rights and equality over the last number of years, everything is still at risk of being rolled back. So we have to be diligent.

How do you assure that people in your party get LGBTQ issues?

We actually discussed this at our last meeting because we were just talking about some other things that we might want to do this year. And we came away with two actions we want to do. One is we want to work with our director of county affairs for the state party and essentially offer us up and offer some of us up as speakers to be able to come to county party meetings or if people have different questions about like different pieces of legislation or issues or how to talk about things.

And the other thing is doing the same thing with the House Democratic Caucus and the Senate [Democratic Caucus], and just basically reaching out to them. Cause it’s been a while, I think, since we’ve done some of that formal training about ‘hey this is an issue and this how we need to talk about it.’

Even though some people’s hearts might be in the right place, they might not really feel comfortable talking on the issues. And they might not know exactly what those issues are and what they really mean. So yeah that’s part of the role of the caucus, to be a resource for that.

Other than “religious freedom,” what are issues that are important for the caucus in the legislative session?

I think healthcare is probably one of the bigger pieces or issues that’s going to be discussed.

There’s a lot of people on PrEP for instance, that are able to be on PrEP, which is extremely effective at preventing [the spread of] HIV. Which is a huge win for society and for our community. And they’re able to be on that because they have insurance and they’re able to have insurance because they have subsidies through the Healthcare Insurance Exchange. And if all that can be taken away, I mean that’s a huge, that hurts our community.

Anything else you want to add?

I hope the caucus is going to get bigger and continue to grow and be a force within the state of Georgia. We’re the most active caucus in our state party.

With full Republican control from our state house through our federal government, it’s going to be incredibly important to be engaged and vigilant, and to work with allies across the state to make sure that we don’t lose a lot of what we’ve gained over the last couple of years. It’s going to be a busy and interesting year.


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