Dispatching his top gay staffer to the airport left Mayor Kasim Reed without a high-profile LGBT person at City Hall. That changed Wednesday with the appointment of a longtime lesbian attorney as his LGBT advisor.
“I am pleased that Robin Shahar will assume this vital role in my administration,” Reed says in the announcement released late Wednesday. “In addition to her keen legal mind, she is well-respected in the community and will be an effective ambassador. My administration and I are dedicated to eliminating barriers to equality, fighting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and engaging the LGBT community across the city.”
Shahar is a chief counsel in the city's law department and joined the office in 1993, two years after she was offered a job in the office of then-Georgia Attorney General Mike Bowers. When he discovered she was planning a commitment ceremony, he rescinded the job offer. She sued and lost.
“I am honored and privileged to work with a Mayor who cares deeply about LGBT equality, and who values diversity as integral to Atlanta’s strength and vibrancy,” Shahar says in the announcement.
As a city attorney, Shahar in 1999 helped sue then-Georgia Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine over his attempts to block implementation of the city's domestic partner ordinance that allowed insurance benefits to partners of gay city employees. The city won.
But Shahar has served as a city attorney as Reed stubbornly refused to settle lawsuits stemming from the police raid on the Atlanta Eagle in 2009. Investigations into the raid showed that police officers consulted with city attorneys during their undercover operation and ahead of the raid, yet they weren't warned to obtain a search warrant for the bar and still breached Fourth Amendment prohibitions on search and seizures, search warrants and probable cause. During the litigation, city attorneys fended off allegations that the city destroyed evidnce in the case.
The city law department also fought a lawsuit that exposed HIV bias within the city's police department until it settled in October for $250,000.
The full announcement about Shahar's appointment:
Mayor Kasim Reed Names City of Atlanta Chief Counsel Robin Shahar asMayor’s Advisor on LGBT Issues
ATLANTA – Mayor Kasim Reed named Robin Shahar as the Mayor’s Advisor on LGBT Issues on Monday. In this role, she will counsel the Mayor on LGBT issues arising on the local, state and national levels and she will work with community groups to identify strategies for achieving equal protection and treatment for Atlanta’s LGBT residents, workers and visitors.
Robin Shahar is a Chief Counsel in the City of Atlanta’s Department of Law. A Woodruff Fellow at Emory University School of Law, she began her tenure with the Law Department in 1993. Among many legal victories, Shahar successfully represented the city against then-Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine in 1999 when he refused to approve the city’s plan to provide insurance benefits to domestic partners. At the time, the City of Atlanta was the first government in Georgia to provide insurance benefits for domestic partners. The victory cleared the way for employers across Georgia to grant domestic partnership benefits.
“I am pleased that Robin Shahar will assume this vital role in my administration,” said Mayor Reed. “In addition to her keen legal mind, she is well-respected in the community and will be an effective ambassador. My administration and I are dedicated to eliminating barriers to equality, fighting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and engaging the LGBT community across the city.”
Mayor Reed has been a long-time advocate on behalf of LGBT issues. During his terms in the Georgia House of Representatives and Georgia State Senate, he sponsored the only hate crimes bill ever to pass the General Assembly and defended the LGBT community’s right to adopt children. As a co-sponsor for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, Mayor Reed proposed a measure that would prohibit discrimination in hiring and employment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity by civilian and nonreligious employers. In 2004, Mayor Reed also voted against the constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in Georgia. In 2012, Mayor Reed announced his support for marriage equality.
“I am honored and privileged to work with a Mayor who cares deeply about LGBT equality, and who values diversity as integral to Atlanta’s strength and vibrancy,” said Robin Shahar.
In keeping with Atlanta’s rank as one of the highest LGBT populations in the country based on U.S. Census and other data, Atlanta’s city government has long been a leader on LGBT issues, including numerous provisions that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity by businesses, stores, hotels, restaurants and other public accommodations, and in housing sales and rentals. Atlanta’s City Code also prohibits sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in the city’s employment decisions, and the city offers its employees the ability to enroll a domestic partner for health insurance coverage and to name a domestic partner as a pension beneficiary. In addition to Ms. Shahar’s role as Mayor’s Advisor on LGBT Issues, the Atlanta Police Department’s LGBT Liaison Unit is comprised of two sworn officers and an advisory board whose goal is to improve the relationship between the LGBT community and the Atlanta Police Department.