State Rep. Rashad Taylor Comes Out of the Closet
By Arit Essien, Special to The Atlanta Progressive News, with additional reporting by Matthew Cardinale
(APN) ATLANTA — In a noon press conference today, State Rep. Rashad Taylor, who has worked extensively with Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, told reporters, “I am a gay man.”
Rep. Taylor stood next to his mother, and was surrounded by supporters and fellow legislators as he made the announcement.
Taylor is the first openly homosexual male serving in the State legislature. He joins two openly homosexual female legislators in the State House, State Reps. Simone Bell and Karla Drenner.
“People say this is a political liability, but to me it is a gift from God. This is who I am, and I have nothing to be ashamed of.” He added, however, that his goal is not to encourage others who may not be ready to come forward.
“I don’t want to expedite anyone else’s journey, people should not be forced into anything, but serving in a political capacity, part of my personal life has to be revealed to the public,” Taylor said.
The press conference stemmed from an email circulated throughout the Georgia Capitol which accused Taylor of several things, including being homosexual.
Taylor says the email was an effort to intimidate and harrass him.
Taylor–who denied the allegation for a long time–was accused also of inappropriately using his office for unethical conduct.
According to Georgia Voice magazine, the email was from the ex-boyfriend of Taylor’s current partner, and it alleged that Taylor offered employment opportunities in his office in exchange for sex.
Taylor denies that allegation, however.
Taylor says that he has spent the past few days with family, friends, and his pastor, and that he has nothing to hide.
“I will not buy into idea that being gay is something to be ashamed of. Being gay for a long time has been something to hide and ignore, but that is an all too prevalent and wrong belief for people in the community to have,” Taylor said.
“To be gay, is not a horrible secret. I will continue to serve my constituents with integrity,” Taylor said.
Taylor represents a House District which covers much of Atlanta’s Vine City neighborhood. Former State Rep. “Able” Mable Thomas represented the District before challenging US Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) in the 2008 Democratic Primary. Taylor defeated Thomas when she ran for her old seat again in 2010.
Taylor has a long history of service to the Democratic Party of Georgia, has worked for Planned Parenthood and US Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), and has served key roles in numerous campaigns, including Kasim Reed for Mayor, John Eaves for Fulton County Chairman, and Georganna Sinkfield for Secretary of State.
State Sen. Vincent Fort served as Taylor’s political mentor.
As previously reported by APN, Fort and Taylor worked together with Khaatim El to help orchestrate a takeover of the Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education. Taylor and El used to be roommates.
There are also unresolved questions regarding where Taylor currently resides and whether he has consistently resided within his own State House District. Taylor only lists a Post Office Box in his official legislative records.
Taylor states that had it not been for the recently circulated email confronting his sexuality, that he would not have come out.
He further stated that he did not want anyone to feel as though they had something to hold over his head and now feels at peace with his decision.
Taylor has no intentions to seek litigation regarding the email and expressed that he wants to keep further discussions personal for the time being. His family did not know until yesterday.
“Representative Rashad Taylor is a trusted lawmaker, a good son, and an excellent friend to Georgia. Today, he emphasized that he is a brave advocate as well,” Mike Berlon, Chairman of the Democratic Party of Georgia, said in a statement.
“As citizens of the greatest country on Earth, we must remind ourselves that we still fall short of true equality for all. With Representative Taylor’s statements today, we find ourselves a step closer,” Berlon said.
“Rashad’s words today add to his stature as a true leader. His journey is an extremely personal one, and I hope that all Georgians will show him the same kindness and support that he has shown his constituents during his tenure in the General Assembly,” Berlon said.
“Coming out is never easy. It is an intensely personal decision. We stand with those that make this difficult choice, and we continue our strong support for the LGBT community and Rashad personally.”
(END / 2011)