Georgia elects first openly gay man to state legislature
We keep looking for silver linings and we think we found one – the George Voice is reporting the Peach State has elected its first openly gay state legislator.
Sam Park, a 31-year-old first-time political beat out incumbent Republican state Rep. Valerie Clark in House District 101. The race was tight, with only 800 votes dividing the two.
Park joins three openly lesbian officials, state Rep. Karla Drenner (D-Avondale Estates), state Rep. Park Cannon (D-Atlanta) and state Rep. Keisha Waites (D-Atlanta), in creating four total LGBTQ elected officials at the state house.
“More than ever before I believe in the power of our voices and the duty we have to call people to the table,” wrote Park in a facebook post today after his win was made clear. He claimed the key to his success was reaching out to often ignored voters in his district.
“Nobody had ever asked for their vote,” he said. “We built a team from the ground up, people full of energy and passion, many of whom never canvassed or participated so fully in a campaign. They put their trust in me as a first-time candidate and I returned that trust.”
Check out video from Park’s win party below:
According to the Gwinnett Daily Post, Park’s campaign hinged on healthcare issues. He often told stories of having to take his mother, who was diagnosed with cancer, to chemo appointments. Georgia is one of many states that has refused to expand medicare, and the GOP majority bucked the expansion at every turn.
Georgia Equality, the state’s largest LGBTQ equality group, voiced their excitment at Park’s win in a statement released today.
“The election of an openly gay man to the Georgia General Assembly represents just one more step on the road to full equality for LGBT people in Georgia,” said GE Executive Director Jeff Graham. He said the legislator will “join a growing number of elected officials who will fight for the rights of LGBT people as we push for full state-wide nondiscrimination laws in the coming legislative session. Not only is the election of Sam important for the LGBT and Asian-American communities, it is also an acknowledgement that Georgia voters are rejecting the politics of discrimination.”
They also see hope for LGBTQ progress through park because his opponent had been among the conservative legislators who support a proposed “religious freedom” bill that made it to Governor Nathan Deal’s desk but was eventually vetoed after pressure from business interests.
A lifelong resident of the 101st district, Park previously worked for the Georgia House Democratic Caucus.
“Discrimination and intolerance have no place in the 21st century.”March 28, 2016
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