‘Stalwart’ LGBTQ ally giving up Atlanta-based state House seat

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State Rep. Pat Gardner is leaving the state legislature after nearly 20 years of fighting for same-sex marriage rights, increasing funding for HIV drugs and denouncing anti-LGBTQ “religious freedom” legislation.

Gardner (top photo) emailed friends announcing she would not run for re-election to her District 57 seat next year, according to the AJC. The district stretches from Southwest Atlanta through downtown and into Midtown.

Gardner backed LGBTQ rights ever since getting elected in 2001, according to Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality.

“She really ran as an ally to the LGBT community and she has been a strong ally to us ever since,” he told Project Q Atlanta.

Gardner fought for funding for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program, making her “one of the champions to help us push and secure the millions of dollars that we needed at the time,” Graham said.

Gardner also tried to defeat a 2004 amendment to the state Constitution that banned same-sex marriage.

“Not only did she vote against it, she worked very closely to try and convince many of her colleagues to vote against it as well,” Graham said.

The bill failed to pass on a first vote, but a second vote secured its passage.

In recent years she’s marched with LGBTQ activists to denounce anti-LGBTQ “religious freedom” legislation and sponsored a bill to ban conversion therapy.

No repeat District 57 run for Taylor

Openly gay Morningside resident Alex Wan lost to Gardner in the District 57 race in his first political campaign in 2004. He was later elected to the Atlanta City Council, then gave up the seat to run for council president in 2017.

Wan, who is now executive director of Horizons Atlanta, did not respond to Project Q’s questions about if he’ll run for Gardner’s seat again in 2020.

Another out former elected official — Rashad Taylor — will not run for Gardner’s seat. Taylor (second photo) served in the state legislature with Gardner from 2009 to 2013. He was forced out of the closet under pressure in 2011. Redistricting pitted the pair against each other in the District 57 race in 2012, with Gardner pulling out a win.

Taylor, who is now a senior advisor to Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, said he will not be running for Gardner’s seat in 2020.

“On another note, I think Pat Gardner has been an outstanding legislator and a great partner with the city and her leadership will be missed,” he said.

Graham couldn’t confirm the names of any candidates running for Gardner’s seat, but said it’s important that they continue her support for LGBTQ rights in a district with a large number of LGBTQ residents.

“Frankly, we will be looking at everyone elected in 2020 to be strong allies and supporters of the LGBT community,” he said. “But this is one district that —because of its historical significance — we’ll be paying special attention to.”

Gardner did not respond to Project's Q questions about her leaving office.

UPDATE | Wan followed up with Project Q after this story was published to say that he is “exploring running” for the House District 57 seat.

Top photo courtesy Georgia House of Representatives

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