US: The Mayor of Atlanta announces support for marriage equality

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The Mayor of Atlanta has come out in support of equal marriage, after a period of “reflection”, saying that he thinks all couples “should have the right to marry”.

On Tuesday evening, Kasim Reed, Mayor of Atlanta, Georgia, said he supported equal marriage rights for gay couples as a “fundamental right,” reported

Atlanta City Council recently passed a resolution saying that gay and lesbian residents should have the right to equal marriage.

Mayor Reed agreed to sign the resolution on Tuesday, and said the occasion “marks an important day.” He said in a statement:

“It is well known that I have gone through a good bit of reflection on this issue, but listening to the stories of so many people that I know and care about has strengthened my belief that marriage is a fundamental right for everyone,

“Loving couples, regardless of their sexual orientation, should have the right to marry whomever they want.”

Mayor Reed was applauded by marriage equality advocates, as he is one of the highest-profile politicians supporting equal marriage in Georgia politics.

The US state of Georgia has a constitutional amendement that currently blocks same-sex couples from marriage.

Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality said that Mayor Reed’s announcement could be seen as symbolic, but that it does send a significant message to voters in the state.

“I think it’s important for everybody to understand we still have a long way to go here in Georgia,” Mr Graham said. “But having Mayor Reed, having the City Council so solidly behind this, it is a big first step to begin realizing the importance of marriage equality here in Georgia.”

Mayor Reed is up for re-election in 2013, which is a city with a majority black population, as well as a visible gay community .

Black voters have historically against marriage equality, there have been recent signs to suggest that those opinions are shifting. Back in July, a Pew Research Center study suggested that 51% of black Americans opposed equal marriage, compared to 40% support – this rose from 26% of support in 2008.

Political science professor at Emory University, Andra Gillespie, cited the The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) passing a resolution in May, endorsing equal marriage, just two weeks following President Obama’s move to do so.

She said those timings were significant, and the fact that President Obama was re-elected could have given comfort to black politicians, who, like Mayor Reed, had remained undecided about marriage equality.

“Obama making his announcement coupled with the NAACP endorsement suggests African-American politicians have greater cover to be able to come out in favor of gay marriage if they so choose,” Gillespie said.

She went on to say that she doubted Mayor Reed’s endorsement of marriage equality would effect his re-election bid, and that he could still be in good stead even if he ran for Congress in the state.