By Collin Kelley
Last month, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed was named an honorary chairman of Southerners for the Freedom to Marry, a $1 million multi-state campaign to build support for same-sex marriage in Georgia and across the South.
Reed joins other honorary co-chairs in the bipartisan movement, which includes well-known Republicans and Democrats like Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), US Congressman John Lewis and former President George W. Bush’s media advisor, Mark McKinnon.
Like President Obama, Reed’s views on same-sex marriage have evolved. In 2009, Reed said he supported civil unions for the LGBT community (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender), but was not in favor of gay marriage. By the end of 2012, Reed had changed his mind and was calling for marriage equality.
Whether it was political expediency or a change of heart, Reed is not only standing up for human rights but also protecting the open climate for diversity and business in the city.
A pair of bills designed to “preserve religious freedom” died this past week in the Georgia Legislature. Those bills drew the ire of Atlanta-based businesses, including Delta Air Lines, which said the proposed laws would “violate Delta’s core values of mutual respect and dignity.” Other states, including Arizona and Kansas, have also seen businesses line up to decry legislation perceived as anti-LGBT. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed the religious freedom bill that arrived on her desk.
While the debate over same-sex marriage continues to rage, there has been a large shift in the mindset of Americans when it comes to gay marriage over the last few years. According to most major polls, a majority of Americans support it, while 17 states and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage. Courts are now regularly overturning bans on same-sex marriage – including Kentucky and Virginia – declaring them unconstitutional.
Mayor Reed has wisely acknowledged that Atlanta has one of the largest LGBT populations in the country (third, according to recent US Census data) and that welcoming everyone – regardless of religion or sexual orientation – is good for business.