Marriage Equality Campaign Launched

By: Mandi Milligan
By: Mandi Milligan

ATLANTA (CBS ATLANTA) - Mayor Kasim Reed and Southern LGBT equality groups joined with Freedom to Marry to launch a $1 million multi-state campaign to build majority support for marriage in the South.

Southerners for the Freedom to Marry is a first-of-its-kind major public education effort to build majority support for marriage across Georgia and in the South.

Bipartisan co-chairs across the region include civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), who kicked off the campaign in a web ad; U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA); and George W. Bush advisor Mark McKinnon from Texas.

"Our investment in the South comes at a pivotal time in the marriage movement," said Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry. "The South is home to hundreds of thousands of loving, committed same-sex couples – and to a majority of the nearly 50 federal marriage cases now underway in courts across the country. Our new campaign will give voice to the many in the region now ready to move forward, including clergy, business leaders, conservatives, and family members, to show that all of America is ready for the freedom to marry."

The historic campaign spans Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.

Not every public official stands with Lewis and Reed.

Gov. Nathan Deal, an alley of Reed, has said that marriage is between a man and woman.

On the heels of that campaign, at 4 p.m., Georgia's General Assembly will hold committee hearings on HB 1023 and SB 377, otherwise known as the "Preservation of Religious Freedom Act."

According to the Democratic Party of Georgia, the potential impact of both bills is far-reaching. Under the proposed laws, individuals and private organizations could claim an imposition on their religious freedoms to make decisions otherwise protected by current law. For instance, both of these bills would allow employers to discriminate against potential employees based on current protected legal statuses — like race, sex, age, pregnancy, sexual orientation, nationality and even religion under the guise of protecting the employer's religious freedom.

Much like bills proposed in Arizona and Kansas, these bills would grant business owners from serving LGBT people, as well as a host of other discriminations.

"These bills are dangerous and virtually immeasurable in scope," said Democratic Party of Georgia Spokesperson Michael Smith. "What makes this even more alarming is the fact that Republicans are using a tactic they seem to be quite fond of lately by scheduling the hearings in tandem to sidestep opposition testimony."

Posted by Greg Palmer

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