Michelle Nunn has a growing gay problem

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Democrat Michelle Nunn, who is targeting LGBT support and dollars for her U.S. Senate bid in Georgia, now has a target on her back by gay activists unhappy with her continued dance around same-sex marriage.

It's a growing problem as the campaign rolls into the home stretch before the Nov. 4. vote.


A group that nagged Mayor Kasim Reed on gay marriage pivoted to focus on Michelle Nunn.


The Facebook page, run by former Atlanta candidate Charlie Stadtlander, helped coalesce LGBT support for pushing Reed to evolve on gay marriage. The Atlanta mayor finally did, coming out in full support of marriage equality in December 2012.

Stadtlander pivoted the page to now focus on Nunn.

 Please join us in urging Michelle Nunn, Georgia's Democratic candidate for United States Senate, to officially support LGBT equality.

“Michelle Nunn… has gone on the record as supporting states’ rights on marriage equality,” noted an editorial in the LGBT newspaper GA Voice (8/5/2014).

Nunn's official position is that “the definition of marriage should be left to the states” and she has refused to take an official position on employment non-discrimination or the full repeal of DOMA.

Please help us tell Ms. Nunn that “states rights” is no more acceptable for LGBT equality than it was for racial equality.

If Michelle Nunn wants the support of the LGBT Community, she should join the other members of her party — around the nation and here in Georgia — and proudly stand in support of full LGBT Equality.


Nunn wants LGBT support. Her memo says so.


A series of campaign memos leaked in July show that Nunn campaign strategists identified LGBT supporters and set a goal to raise $300,000 from them. The memo also spelled out a marriage equality stance for Nunn, but she's fallen short of embracing it.


· Opportunity: Michelle’s positions on gay marriage and the HRC endorsement provide a huge opportunity for mobilizing this community and their substantial resources.

· Message: I believe everyone has the right to enjoy the commitments and benefit of marriage to the person they love. This is not a position shared by my opponents, so I hope you’ll join me on this journey and lend me your full support so we can win this race.

· Potential Anchors: Cathy Woolard, Ken Britt, Tony Conway, Edie Cofrin

· Projected Goal: $300,000


But some gay politicos aren't in her corner.


Gay attorneys Dan Grossman and Jeff Cleghorn accused Nunn of “political double speak” in a GA Voice column, “Why Michelle Nunn's position on marriage harms LGBT Georgians.”

Ms. Nunn’s position that the dignity of our relationships should be left up to the will of Georgia voters is a despicable thing to say. To say that voters should decide whether gays and lesbians should have equal rights is as despicable as saying that voters should decide if black children should attend the same schools as white children. Or that the electorate should control whether loving interracial couples are allowed to marry. To declare that a person of color does not have a “right” to equality, but only as much equality as the voters are willing to provide, would be a hateful, racist statement. And to tell a gay person that she or he has no “right” to equality—but only as much equality as the voters are willing to provide—is no less hateful and arguably homophobic.


Her gay marriage position gets compared to 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.' Ouch.


Cleghorn, in the Huffington Post, criticized Nunn's lack of mentioning LGBT issue beyond gay marriage as her “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” moment, a comparison to the military's now-debunked policy banning openly gay soldiers.

There is no reference on either Ms. Nunn's campaign's website or Facebook page to any issue close to the gay community's heart (like ENDA), nor even a mention of Georgia's LGBT community. Ms. Nunn has repeatedly refused interview requests with gay media outlets. In fact, her only public LGBT issue position is that she believes same-sex marriage should be “left to the states.” This aligns her with those supporting our state's marriage ban — a despicable position for her to have because it gives credibility to the intolerance currently enshrined in Georgia's constitution.


Civil rights (and LGBT) hero John Lewis chided her.


Pride parade shuffling expert U.S. Rep. John Lewis chided Nunn in an interview with the GA Voice, urging more leadership from political leaders on LGBT issues.

There’s a history of establishment figures in different movements across time hesitating to push things, while a vocal minority pushed for more aggressive moves. You were part of that vocal minority as the chairman of SNCC during the civil rights era. The LGBT community is engaged in a similar conversation here in Georgia lately about how much to push Democratic candidates to state all of their views on LGBT issues on the record regardless of how it might hurt them in a general election. Do you think the LGBT community should expect more out of our Democratic candidates considering the groundswell of change in public opinion about us?

I think if people feel strongly about an issue they have a moral obligation to speak up and speak out. On the other hand, I think they have to have what I call an “executive session” with themselves. Say “this is my position and this is where I’m going to stand” and be consistent and be persistent. And use their candidacy, use their presence to help educate. And it’s very difficult for people in this region, but leaders have to lead.

I can understand the position that Michelle [Nunn] and Jason [Carter] may be in. I’ve heard “Let them get elected and they’ll be more effective and be able to do more and say more” but I think there are many politicians in this region that are reluctant to say anything. I tell people all the time, “Go with your gut and it will work out.” It’s amazing to me that in such a short few years, people have come so far. And they just need a little leadership really.


Even her Libertarian opponent backs gay marriage.


Amanda Swafford, a former Flowery Branch City Council member turned Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate, told Project Q Atlanta that her position mirrors that of her party, which she says has backed marriage equality for decades.

“The Libertarian Party has supported marriage equality since the party's founding in 1971.  Surprisingly, it wasn't until 2012 that the Democrat Party added same-sex marriage to their party platform. And of course, the Republican Party has never supported marriage equality. In fact, both political parties supported the Defense of Marriage Act, which was pushed through by a GOP Congress and signed by a Democrat president.  The Libertarian Party was on record opposed to DOMA from Day One.  As a candidate for United States Senate, I fully support the Libertarian Party position on marriage equality.”

“One of the hallmarks of my campaign for the Senate is to recognize that the fundamental role of government is to preserve our individual rights.  Consequently, on issues such as marriage, child custody, adoption, immigration, or military service laws, an individual and their sexual orientation, preference, gender, or gender identity should have no impact on the government's treatment toward them on those issues.”


Jason Carter came out for gay marriage (after a little push).


The Democratic candidate for governor was quiet on LGBT issues until media coverage of a fundraiser that bought in nearly $90,000 for his campaign. The crowd of hundreds was mostly gay, yet Carter didn't mention LGBT issues. Media coverage of the event, and a little prodding from Project Q and the GA Voice, prompted the campaign to clumsily speak out in favor of gay marriage. That left Nunn as the last prominent Democrat seeking office not fully backing marriage equality. (DuBose Porter, chair of the Democratic Party of Georgia, also backs gay marriage and other LGBT issues.)


Non-gay press is picking up on Nunn's gay problem.


On Wednesday, the AJC's Political Insider shined a light on the gay criticism of Nunn, highlighting Stadtlander's page.

“We’re not going to give her a free pass in the LGBT community. We’re going to go after her,” Stadtlander said.


Her nuanced position changes, but it's still nuanced.


The AJC coverage prompted Nunn's campaign to react, issuing a statement that drops Nunn's support of “state's rights” on gay marriage and for the first time, points out that she voted against the ballot measure in 2004 that enshrined a gay marriage ban in the state's Constitution.

“Michelle has said time and again that she believes that all Georgians should be allowed to share in marriage as she and her husband have done. She also believes that is not only a legal construct, but a sacrament, and every religious institution has to be able to define it for themselves. The reality is that Georgia voters have spoken on this issue — passing a constitutional ban on same sex marriage.

“Michelle voted against it, but Georgia voters came to a different conclusion. Now it’s up to the courts to decide whether amendments like this are constitutional. In the Senate, Michelle would continue to stand for the equality of all Georgians. She would oppose any law that does not respect the right of all people to marry and would vote to repeal any discriminatory federal laws that have not yet been struck down by the court. There is a big difference between her and David Perdue on this issue.”

The statement this week is a slight, though distinct, change in past statements from Nunn on gay marriage. How she has framed her position in the past to the AJC:

On gay marriage: Nunn said she agreed with the U.S. Supreme Court decision that left the definition of marriage to the individual states. “I also believe that marriage is not only a legal construct, but a sacrament, and every religious institution has to be able to define it for themselves,” she said.

But on a personal level, Nunn said she favors marriage equality.

And to WVTM:

“Marriage has traditionally been decided by the states, and I support that process.  In addition to being a legal commitment, marriage is also a sacrament.  I would oppose any proposal that required a church to act outside its beliefs.  Personally, I believe that all Americans should have the opportunity to share in the commitment and responsibility that my husband and I have shared for the past 12 years.”


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