Wan, Council Sit Silently Through Anti-Gay Rant

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(APN) ATLANTA — At the last Full Council meeting of the City Council of Atlanta, on June 06, 2011, citizen activist, Dave Walker, used his two minute public comment portion to make a series of anti-gay remarks.

“Mr. President and Council Members, a couple of weeks ago, a State Representative stood up and proclaimed that he was a gay American,” Walker said.  “I would like for the State Representative to know that to get up and announce such a thing is nothing to be proud of.”

“I’d also like to say to the individual that since you made it a public policy statement, I feel like I can stand here and talk about, because you came out and said you were,” Walker said.

“Now this question about whether or not the State Representative was using money to buy sexual favors.  The State Representative said the hardest thing for him to do first was to inform his mother of his lifestyle.  Well, I’d like to say to the State Representative, Mr. Representative, you still have to explain your lifestyle.  Only this time, it won’t be to your mother who caved in and agreed with you.  It’s gonna be with the creator of all things,” Walker said.

“What kind of world and what kind of elected officials do we now have, when we have one who stands up and proudly say [sic] I’m a gay Representative…?” Walker said.

[The Channel 26 video of the meeting posted online cuts out several second of Walker’s remarks.  APN has made several attempts to make Channel 26 aware of this ongoing problem, but they have failed to be responsive or correct the problem.]

“That’s not the point.  The point is, I’ve put it on the record, I would like to say to the gay representative, Sir, you need to repent and change your lifestyle,” Walker said.

“Thank you, Mr. Walker,” Council President Ceasar Mitchell said, before calling the next speaker.

At that point, any Council Member could have made a remark, but they all chose not to, including Councilman Alex Wan (District 6), who is openly homosexual, and several Council Members who claim to be pro-equality.

Dave Walker is one among a small group of citizen advocates who frequently speak at Atlanta City Council and Committee Meetings.  [The present writer, APN’s News Editor, is also part of this group.]

Walker, who recently returned to speaking at Council after a hiatus, sometimes speaks on local issues but also has used his two minute segments to predict the end of times and to question US President Barack Obama’s birth certificate.  Speeches like these have caused some Council Members to take Walker less seriously.

But at the same time, when Walker ran for City Council President in 2009, he got over ten percent of the vote, enough to force Ceasar Mitchell and Clair Muller into a Run-off.  Muller at the time surmised that it was a protest vote, but because Walker ran citywide, he received more actual votes than some of the District Council Members.

Atlanta Progressive News placed a call to the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) for their reaction to Walker’s comments.

Sharda Sekaran, Director of News and Field Media, asked to receive a copy of the remarks.  She said the remarks, when read to her over the phone, “sounded terrible.”

Sekeran said that GLAAD was aware of the situation involving State Rep. Taylor coming out of the closet and that they were “expecting some backlash.”  She said GLAAD would follow up with Georgia Equality.

Georgia Equality did not immediately return a voicemail from APN seeking comment.

While the remarks are likely hate speech, hate speech has generally been protected under the US Constitution, with some exceptions.

Atlanta’s City Charter prohibits discrimination on the basis of numerous classes including sexual orientation.  But it is not immediately clear whether Walker’s statements violated any policy or are prohibitable.

Still, it is difficult to imagine that if someone had gotten up and made racist remarks at a Council Meeting and on public access television, that all fifteen Council Members would have sat silently and said nothing.

(END / 2011)

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