It started with Nathan Deal playing “gotcha” with Karen Handel by highlighting her willingness to play footsie with the Log Cabin Republicans in 2003. The LRC represents gay Republicans. Handel was running for office at the time in Fulton County, home to Atlanta, America’s Gayest City.
I asked Handel about it as her campaign bus rode from Duluth to Monroe last week. Before the camera rolled, I told her we’d be covering this topic. She seemed unconcerned. Yet within two and a half minutes, she tried to steer the conversation elsewhere.
Rather than espouse any openmindedness on gay issues, Handel backpedaled into Christian Coalition territory. Still, some voters continued to give her credit for at least acknowledging gay issues. She was able to have it both ways.
It’s easy to demonize gays when you aren’t around them. In the 50s, many white people weren’t around blacks. “It’s not an issue for me,” I hear Republicans say about the gays. Out of sight, out of mind.
Many private companies offer spousal benefits to gay employees. Some governments do, some don’t. Aside from that, the only real issues that uniquely affect gay Americans are their inability to enter into legally binding spousal relationships, and the hurdles they frequently face when they adopt children.
I asked Karen Handel about the latter two issues. She took the anti-equality position, and was unwilling or unable to give a rational explanation for it. Her words echoed those of Robert Byrd and others who invoked Scripture to justify segregation, only to renounce it years later. Handel seems like an enlightened woman, but appears stuck pandering (along with her GOP opponents) to voters unwilling to grant equality to people who scare them because they mostly don’t know them.
We put the unedited interview on 11alive.com/bullpen (transcribed here). Jim Galloway at the AJC picked it up. Luckovich drew a cartoon. Laura Douglas-Brown at the Georgia Voice wrote a complimentary yet angry piece about it. It was rather stirring to see the reach of an unedited interview that never actually aired on TV.
(About that Luckovich cartoon: It’s a first for me, something I never dreamed would happen, and it’s certain to make me even more of an insufferable egomaniac than I already am. I’m just grateful I didn’t get the Justin Farmer treatment.)
I also questioned John Oxendine about gay adoption. Because another TV crew was lined up behind me, and because I wanted to question Oxendine about other issues, I was unable to press him as I would have liked.
Oxendine also told me he was against gay adoption. When I told him that some studies had shown gay parents raised children just as effectively as straight parents, he said he had no expertise on gay adoption.
Oxendine and Deal are now running laughably disingenuous commercials meant to frighten GOP homophobes about Handel, who clearly stated her disinterest in giving gays equal spousal and adoption access.
It’s reasonable to ask: Why question right wing candidates about an issue mostly important to the left? The answer is: They raised it.
If Democrats used gun rights / gun control as an issue for internecine party warfare (“Augustus Ankle has a carry permit! You can’t trust Augustus Ankle!”), it would be reasonable to question Democrats on second amendment issues.
If they’re going to clobber the other guy with an issue — or play footsie with a group espousing it — it seems like they ought to know what they’re talking about.
I’m not “the gay avenger,” but the person with whom I enjoy a legal, spousal relationship called me that on the Facebooks. Here’s a hat-tip to the Georgia Voice, which began publication last year after the Southern Voice abruptly folded. America’s Gayest City needs a solid gay newspaper, and they’re making it happen.