Very good news to report from East Point, Georgia, an overwhelmingly black suburb adjacent to southwestern Atlanta. The city of approximately 40,000 joins only "a handful" of other Georgia municipalities to adopt protections for gay and transgender employees. The ordinance was supported by East Point's mayor pro tem, an influential black minister who once opposed gay rights, reports the Journal Constitution.
The local law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is almost an afterthought in a city that has offered same-sex domestic partner benefits for employees since 2005. The city charter also includes a Bill of Rights section that says the city will not adopt any laws that intentionally discriminate against gays and lesbians. In recent years, the city has gained a reputation as gay-friendly, which has led to some conflicts in and out of City Hall. The domestic partner benefit, for instance, won on a 4-3 vote. Councilman Greg Fann was among those who cast dissenting votes in 2005 on the domestic partner benefit. This week, one of his last votes on the council was to approve the nondiscrimination policy. Fann, a minister at Liberty International Church, said he supported the latest measure out of a sense of fairness. "My religious values do not afford me to agree with an alternative lifestyle, but that does not mean you can discriminate against someone for that lifestyle," Fann said. "I do not believe in discrimination, period."
The ordinance was introduced by openly gay councilman Lance Rhodes. The unanimous vote comres only a month after two openly gay candidates posted strong showings in City Council elections, though not enough to win office. One of the candidates, Eric Morrow, would have become the first black openly gay elected official in Georgia. That distinction went to Simone Bell, who, on the same day, became the first openly lesbian black state legislator in U.S. history.
Only last month, Chamblee joined Atlanta, Clarkston, Decatur and Doraville in prohibiting discrimination against gay employees. In addition to East Point, only Atlanta, Decatur and Doraville extend protections to transgender workers.
Congratulations to East Point and Rev. Gregory Fann for choosing equality.