The Mayor of Atlanta, who recently announced he had changed his stance to support equal marriage, has said he feels he “was wrong” to have opposed equal marriage in the past, in favour of civil unions.
Kasim Reed, Mayor of Atlanta, reflected on his evolving stance on equal marriage in an interview with Brandon Rudat, of CBS Atlanta.
“For many years, I – as a lot of other folk – thought that civil unions were appropriate and did the job. The fact of the matter is, I was wrong. It doesn’t do the job. There are rights that come with having a relationship recognized under the law as a marriage, that are different from civil unions….I ended up believing I was wrong. So I changed my mind.”
When asked whether he thought the equal marriage was a civil rights issue, Mayor Reed said: “I do. I think this is an equal protection issue.”
Discussing the issue of support for equal marriage within the black community, Mr Reed suggested that people could change to support it, but that there needed to be a more open dialogue about it, for that to happen on a larger scale.
He said: “One, there hasn’t been a lot of conversation in the black community about this issue. And I do think that people need to be sensitive to the fact that on a lot of issues, black people are very conservative. And because of the long-standing, deep and abiding faith in the black church, many folks are in the same position that I was in.
“I know, in point of fact, that, being a member of a black church that this issue and this topic is not discussed, so there’s not a full airing of it…There needs to be a more open conversation about why this is important.”
Asked by Mr Rudat about President Obama’s announcement in May 2012 that he supported equal marriage, the mayor reflected on the time it can take to come to such a decision.
He said: “I think you are better off reaching a conclusion that you reach, comfortably and in your own space and time. My friends in the GLBT community value truth and authenticity. I don’t think they want folks to be for marriage equality if that’s not where you are in your heart. I think the president arrived at a place in his heart, and he ignored the political repercussions for that.”
Mayor Reed came out in support of equal marriage in December, and reiterated his support, and gave his reasons for changing his stance shortly afterwards, saying that “gay and lesbian couples deserve the same protection” as straight couples.
The mayor 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, but there have been recent signs to suggest that those opinions are shifting.