A gay rights group’s surprising tacit endorsement of an Atlanta Republican

State Rep. Joe Wilkinson, R - Atlanta, confers with Rep. Beth Beskin, R - Atlanta, early in this year’s session. Bob Andres, bandres@ajc.com

State Rep. Joe Wilkinson, R – Atlanta, confers with Rep. Beth Beskin, R – Atlanta, early in this year’s session. Bob Andres, bandres@ajc.com

Against most other candidates, Bob Gibeling would seem to be a shoo-in for the endorsement of gay rights advocacy Georgia Equality. He’s one of two openly gay men running for a state legislative seat, and a victory in the Buckhead-centered district would make history. No openly gay male has ever been elected to the Georgia Legislature.

But Georgia Equality issued a surprising non-endorsement in the race between Gibeling and Republican state Rep. Beth Beskin, who has had a somewhat tumultuous relationship with the gay community.

The GA Voice explains why:

Beskin riled LGBT activists last March during a House subcommittee hearing when she failed to support amendments to SB 129, state Sen. Josh McKoon’s (R-Columbus) “religious freedom” bill, that would have added protections for the LGBT community.

The move even led Georgia Equality Executive Director Jeff Graham to tell the Georgia Voice after the hearing, “I applaud the efforts of Mary Margaret Oliver and Stacey Evans to try and ensure that the bill would not be used to discriminate, and I’m incredibly disappointed in Rep. Beth Beskin, who time and time again voted to support discrimination against the LGBT community.”

However, in a hearing before the full House Judiciary Committee the following day, Beskin was one of two Republicans who joined seven Democrats in passing an amendment that added anti-discrimination language into SB 129, leading the bill to be tabled and eventually failing to pass.

This year, Beskin was one of the co-sponsors of a measure that banned clergy from being forced to perform a same-sex wedding ceremony. That measure, though, soon morphed into another “religious liberty” proposal and she became one of a handful of Republicans who voted against it.  It passed both chambers anyways and was quickly vetoed by Gov. Nathan Deal.

Gibeling has his work cut out for him. Beskin has raised about $200,000 for her re-election bid – about 10 times more cash than Gibeling has generated.

McKoon, the chief sponsor of the legislation, said there’s no mystery why Georgia Equality made its decision.

“Because of Beskin’s vote alone, Georgia Equality has been able to continue to demagogue this issue and raise money from the good people they are scaring to death for two more years,” McKoon said. “I’m surprised they wouldn’t send Beskin a cut of the proceeds.”By the way, some readers noted that former state Rep. Rashad Taylor was also an openly gay male lawmaker. But, according to GA Voice, he was outed in 2011 while in office, and he did not win re-election.


Atlanta Magazine editor Steve Fennessy was in Texas over the weekend to catch Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s panel. Here’s a few of his takeaways:

Some Democratic candidates see an opening to lure away some independent voters by appealing to unease over Gov. Deal’s proposed Opportunity School District.

Daniel Blackman, who is fighting an uphill battle against Republican state Sen. Michael Williams of Forsyth County, sent an open letter to educators over the weekend praising the Forsyth school board’s decision to condemn the school takeover plan.

Wrote Blackman:

“I want you to know that I am fully committed to supporting Forsyth’s teachers and parents to make sure our children receive a world-class education so they can make good decisions and pursue limitless opportunities once they graduate. Our state’s teachers are charged with the great responsibility to prepare the minds of our children, and you are giving them the advantage each and every day you show up.”


Another sign Georgia is getting some national love:

NPR Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep is hosting the national show from the station’s WABE studios in Atlanta on Monday and Tuesday, and he and a team of reporters will be talking to several Georgia voters.

The stories on Monday’s lineup include “the view from Macon” and a profile of a Georgia farmer. You can find all the stories by clicking right here.

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