Posted: 5:47 pm Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

The sexual politics behind Tuesday’s vote 

By Jim Galloway

Two separate state Capitol races on Tuesday offered up a lesson in sexual politics in metro Atlanta, and how the language we use to discuss the topic is rapidly changing.

This is a tale of two anonymous robocalls — those annoying, automated messages that dog your home land line every election season. Both were last-minute attacks, and each was designed to anger opposite sides of the gay marriage argument.

Neither worked, and many would say this is the good news. At the very least, take it as a sign of shifting attitudes even in one of the reddest states in the nation.

House District 34 is a decidedly conservative district that sits astride both Kennesaw and Marietta, and until Tuesday was held by state Rep. Charles Gregory, a libertarian-inclined Republican. His primary challenger was Bert Reeves, a Marietta attorney and first-time candidate.

Sometime on Monday afternoon in the two o’clock hour, answering machines in District 34 began absorbing this automated message from a lisping male voice:

“Global Action for Trans Equality would like to endorse Bert Reeves for the seat of your next state House representative. Bert Reeves and his partner Matt have been well-respected attorneys in Marietta for a long time….”

Whisper campaigns involving sexuality are nothing new in politics – and this was no whisper. What was different was the reaction of both candidates.

Gregory immediately recognized the robocall as a threat to his own campaign, and denounced it as “complete nonsense.” He wondered aloud whether the robocall might even be the work of his opponent to generate sympathy.

bertamy

Bert Reeves, a Republican newly elected to House District 34, and his girlfriend Amy Owens.

Now, ponder Gregory’s theory. Not about who paid for the automated calls – chances are that it was the work of one of Gregory’s own friends, an ill-judged attempt to help the incumbent.

But look at Gregory’s suspicion that the calls were intended to provoke sympathy. That implies a widespread acceptance, in a right-leaning GOP district, of a “lifestyle” that only a few years ago was gently condemned as “alternative.”

Reeves, too, was thrust into a quandary. In years past, the proper way to respond to an accusation of homosexuality would be a public burst of testosterone – perhaps a dead deer slung across one’s shoulders.

But Reeves no doubt has gay friends he didn’t want to offend. “I’m not interested in alienating myself from anyone,” he said Wednesday. “Hate speech is never appropriate.”

Reeves’ pre-election reaction to the robocalls was limited to a discrete reference to his longtime girlfriend, Amy Owens.

She and many other women were at Reeves’ campaign party off the Marietta Square on Tuesday night. All introduced themselves as “Matt.”

Reeves beat Gregory by 245 votes. There is no Democrat in the race.

Then we have the case of Decatur-centered Senate District 42, held by the exiting Jason Carter. The row between Democrats Elena Parent, a former state representative, and Kyle Williams, a Decatur attorney, was epic.

The gay vote is strong in District 42, and Williams showcased his ambition to be the first openly gay man to serve in the state Senate.

On Monday, a robocall hit the district, from a group calling itself DeKalb Citizens for Elena. The message essentially endorsed Parent as a model heterosexual – a “straight-shooter” who “knows what it takes to raise a family.”

Parent denied having anything to do with the automated message, and denounced it – particularly the phrase “straight-shooter.”

“The way it was used with the other language implied an anti-gay message,” Parent said Wednesday, adding that she didn’t suspect her opponent of generating the robocall.

But Parent theorized that one of Williams’ friends might have been responsible.

“None of us has a clue about where it came from or who did it,” said Beth Cope, Williams’ campaign manager.

The robocall raised the level of tension in the gay community to the point that the Georgia Voice, as it condemned the “straight-shooter” robocall in an editorial, also pointed a finger at state Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver.

The Decatur lawmaker had written an emailed endorsement of Parent that included this line: “We attend the same church, she has two beautiful children and she and her husband and boys live in Druid Hills.”

The response from the newspaper: “Please, this is gay baiting at its worst.”

We know gay people who have children. This is, in part, what the fight over marriage is about. We know that gay people go to church. Several schisms prove it. “Mary Margaret is not anti-gay,” said state Rep. Karla Drenner, D-Avondale Estates, who has two children and has been known to breach a sanctuary door or two.

This is the South. We invented the use of code words that give a polite veneer to discrimination. But clearly, we need to have a discussion of what this new vocabulary might be, or we will be quickly talking past each other.

Parent, by the way, crushed Williams with 65 percent of the vote. There is a Republican in the race, Gregory Williams, but he stands little chance in November.

One final note: Both Parent and Reeves say they are already in conversations with attorneys to track the sources of the offending robocalls, which are regulated by the Federal Communications Commission.

26 comments
Disgusted Veteran
Disgusted Veteran

Had a problem signing up to post comments. The age part only goes to 1929 and I was born in 1927. Hope the AJC doesn't discriminate against us old WW ll vets. Not! Like many of you I got a lot of calls to vote for the different Republican candidates in the US Senate race. Finally voted for Gingery knowing he could not win but for his support for the Trinka Davis Veterans Village, in Carrollton, where I live with 20 other 100 percent disabled vets from different wars.. As for the General Election I am reserving my decision but I did like Michelle Nunn's comment asking the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to resign. She went on to display wide knowledge on veterans issues and the need to straighten out the mess over medical care. Since I am a 100 percent service-connected disabled war veteran I have first hand experience with problems that sometimes arise in attempting to get timely medical care from the VA and am reluctant to vote for someone who has been part of the problem instead of part of the solution.

Sam_Hill
Sam_Hill

The demographics in places like Candler Park are definitely changing.  A lot of families with kids have moved in because of the high-performing grade school (despite being part of APS).  The neighborhood association even vetoed showing "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" in the Park because the mommies thought it was "inappropriate". 

Closeted homophobia plays well inside 285 just like overt homophobia plays well outside 285.  I doubt that Elena Parent is actually troubled by the robocall.  Her overblown reaction to the Log Cabin Republicans and Stonewall Democrat making a joint endorsement of Kyle Wlliams for a non-partisan city council seat is plenty of evidence of that.

Maybe Elena is not a homophobe, but she sure wants their votes. 

Infraredguy
Infraredguy

I kept waiting for the robo call from the homosexual transgender straight latte drinking alcoholic old fart environmentalist tree hugger coalition and finally I got their recommendations, what suspense !!!  

petel
petel

We got 3 or 4 calls a day asking us to vote for Handel. They were very annoying, and. as far as we were concerned, they backfired.  There was no way we would've voted for her because of them.   

MiltonMan
MiltonMan

Who in the world has a land line anymore???  If you do, you deserve to be swamped with robo-calls.

EdUktr
EdUktr

How about all the effort expended in this column to force Gov. Deal into a runoff? Where's a result?

The_Centrist
The_Centrist

Other than negative runoff coverage we are entering the summer doldrums of political news coverage until September.  Look for more junk blogs until then.   All enjoy the respit and vacations.


Nobody_Knows
Nobody_Knows

What is the latest on Barge?


Is he in a run off or did he get run off? 


Wonder how that Facebook page worked out for him.

linuxfanatic
linuxfanatic

Is there anyone on this entire Political Insider blog that is capable of talking about anything that conservatives care about? I am not saying that this blog should stop talking about race issues, women's issues, gay issues, Obamacare, Medicare expansion, gun control, transportation spending, education spending, global warming. etc. I just state that a political blog should occasionally cover conservative issues, and do so from a conservative perspective (not the usual "coverage" that treats conservative issues as if they are specious, wedge issues, reactionary politics, uninformed or simply wrongheaded from the outset and proceeds from there). 

NWGAL
NWGAL

Now we can't even trust robocalls? What is the world coming to?

DannyX
DannyX

Political robocalls are getting out of hand and do nothing but alienate voters.  I won't listen to them.

Charles50
Charles50

@MiltonMan  I have one because cell phone service at my house is intermittent at best.  And if I really wanted one just because, that's my right.  How arrogant!

NWGAL
NWGAL

Many security systems require a land line. And land lines are more secure for banking. They can't be cloned.

honested
honested

@Nobody_Knows  

To quote Delmer's cousin in 'Oh Brother Where Art Thou' he has been 'runnoft'.

CuriousPrime
CuriousPrime

@linuxfanatic 1. Since Georgia is in total control by conservatives, this blog is reviewing political situations, not views.  2. If you want to conservative views, go to Kyle Wingfiled's blog and be bored out of your mind.  

honested
honested

@linuxfanatic  

Civilization in Georgia has been compromised by spending entirely too much time worrying about 'anything conserrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrvatives care about'.

If you are fixated on wrong-wing mythology (from an entirely positive bias) you might want to concentrate on the wrong-wing fantasy spots that are attuned.

This blog tends to get to the truth, an issue that is entirely antithetical to conserrrrrrrrrrvative mythology.

Kamchak
Kamchak

@linuxfanatic  

1. Go to blogspot.com.

2. Create you own blog.

3. Choose the issues that you wish to discuss.

It's not complicated.

Just sayin'.

honested
honested

@NWGAL  

It's a dang shame.

Years ago, you could trust the anonymous computer dialed voice on the other end of a random outreach call.

td1234
td1234

@DannyX  If you are not in my contacts list then I do not even answer my personal phone. Voicemail is your friend. 

MiltonMan
MiltonMan

...and many security sytems do not require a land line.  I have had one for 2 years now that uses GSM with zero problems.

ByteMe
ByteMe

@td1234 @DannyX  Exactly.  My phone went to voice mail a LOT over the past month, especially when the caller was in the 770-584 exchange or from a Maryland area code.

honested
honested

@MiltonMan  

I'm glad you comprehend the right of Americans to chose the communications sources that meet their needs.

Now if you could only comprehend that not everyone shares your notion of the best source.

It helps to understand why you raced out to the hinterlands to hide.

NWGAL
NWGAL

Does that somehow negate my statement? In disasters cell towers can go down and more often get swamped with too many calls. Land lines are less vulnerable. I guess anybody who isn't exactly like you is wrong?