Why President Obama and Georgia Need the LBGTQ Community in November. Will your vote count?

Shirley FranklinIn a tongue-in-cheek, but pointed article, Newsweek Magazine nicknamed President Obama as “the first gay President.” This was an editorial comment on President Obama’s firm support of same-sex marriage, employment non-discrimination, HIV/AIDS funding and tthe Departments of Justice and Defense efforts to grant LBGTQ citizens, servicemen and servicewoman “full citizenship” in their interactions with the Federal Government. Many are not aware that President Obama is also the first President to invite transgendered children to the annual White House Easter Egg Roll. The invitation did not cause a “flap” in the press and was a non-issue because it is a well-known fact the President practices the “politics of inclusion”.

Here in Georgia, the campaign for inclusion has yet to be realized for minority communities. This includes Hispanics, Asians, Africa Americans and the LBGTQ community. Georgia ranks dead last with the highest unemployment rate in the nation with some 380,000 plus Georgians out of work. The majority of Georgia’s unemployed are minorities. In education we rank 35th in per student spending. We have cut teachers’ pay and have 6,500 fewer teachers in Georgia’s classrooms. We have refused to expand Medicaid to grant healthcare to the working poor, which has an adverse impact on Grady Memorial Hospital as well as our rural health system – resulting in hospital closings in some rural communities. And to add insult to injury Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp is stonewalling efforts to register more than 600,000 minority voters. He is holding up approximately 51,000 registration applications under the pretense of “voter fraud”. The Republican effort to suppress minority voters and the Democratic vote in Georgia is reminiscent of literacy tests that were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court. As Atlantans celebrated Pride this past weekend, LBGTQ residents in Georgia LBGTQ cannot marry, cannot file joint state taxes, are unprotected in the workplace against employment discrimination and generally confess to not feeling “safe” outside major urban areas. Here in Georgia, there is still work to be done before President Obama’s vision of an “Equal America” is realized.

If President Obama is going to continue his efforts to level the playing field of minority participation, Democrats need to maintain control of the U.S. Senate. A vote for Michelle Nunn, who is endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign, a national LBGTQ lobby, is a vote to maintain Democratic control of the U.S. Senate. Control of the House and the Senate are important to the President; it is the difference between success and failure. The Democratic-controlled Senate passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in as a bipartisan measure. However, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) announced immediately after the Senate vote that ENDA was “dead on arrival” in the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives. It is no secret the Republicans have tried consistently to derail the President’s federal non-discrimination agenda. In November, it is important to send a strong message that Georgia isn’t the presumptive “Red State” that Republicans thought it was … your vote can make a difference in all the state-wide contests from the U.S. Senate, the Governor’s Office and the State School Superintendent’s race.

In Georgia, if we want to improve and reform our educational system, if we want to expand Medicaid and strengthen our healthcare system, if we want to fairly register all voters, if we are tired of being dead last in healthcare, education and employment, if we want to pass State Representative Karla Drenner’s Fair Employment Practices Act in the Georgia General Assembly to protect LBGTQ state employees, and if we want a better quality of life for our husbands, our wives, our friends and our families, we need Jason Carter as Governor. It will take strong leadership to change Georgia’s direction. President Obama needs a Governor who will work with him. The President does not need a Governor who jousts at windmills and accuses the President’s Administration of “manipulating” Georgia’s unemployment rate to change the outcome of an election.

President Obama needs LBGTQ Georgians to register, to vote and to be a part of the statewide coalition to retain control of the U.S. Senate and to right the ship of the state of Georgia. President Obama needs Michelle Nunn and Jason Carter.