The woman who could be Georgia’s first black female governor was also the first to march in the Atlanta Pride Parade this weekend.
Democrat Stacey Abrams made history on Saturday by addressing the exuberant crowds gathered in midtown for the 48th annual LGBTQ event. In a speech to the estimated 300,000 attendees, Abrams — who arrived in a white SUV — pledged to uphold the rights of queer and transgender people if elected to office next month.
“We’re here because we stand together, because we know that allies do not run from fights and because we know we all have pride in Georgia,” she said, in comments first reported by the Atlanta Constitution-Journal.
“We stand with you and not against you,” Abrams added.
— shon gables cbs46 (@shongables) October 14, 2018
The candidate expanded on those sentiments in comments shared exclusively with INTO, in which she pledged to be an “ally in the governor’s mansion.”
“I am running to be the governor for all of Georgia because I am committed to making our state an inclusive place where everyone — no matter who you are, who you love, or how you identify — feels welcomed and has the opportunity to thrive,” Abrams said in a statement.
“As a woman of faith, I believe in standing up for everyone and ensuring they can live up to their highest potential,” she continued.
Prior to this weekend’s Pride parade, Abrams pledged her support for “robust anti-discrimination laws” which protect the rights of “all workers.” As the minority leader in the Georgia House of Representatives for six years, she voted against the passage of a 2016 bill combining anti-LGBTQ elements of the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) and the Pastor Protection Act.
If passed, the proposal would have allowed people of faith to deny services to LGBTQ people on the basis of their “sincerely held religious beliefs.”
In 2015, Abrams co-sponsored legislation which would have prevented state government employees from being fired or denied employment on the basis of their sexual orientation. Georgia is one of 30 states which lacks fully inclusive statewide laws preventing discrimination against LGBTQ workers.
These positions place Abrams in stark contrast to her Republican opponent.
Republican Brian Kemp has voiced his support for a “religious liberty” bill if he is tapped to replace incumbent Gov. Nathan Deal next month. Kemp stated that he hopes to sign a “mirror image” of the federal legislation President Bill Clinton signed into law in 1993, which states that the government “shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion.”
“It’s time to do that, put that behind us so we can move on. It’s the same bill Nathan Deal voted on when he was in Congress,” the conservative said in August. “That’s all I’m committing to do.”
“Anything else, I’ll veto it,” he promised.
In 2016, Deal vetoed a Georgia RFRA bill after companies like Disney and Marvel threatened to pull out of the state in protest. The superhero movies Captain America: Civil War and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 were both filmed in the state, bringing in millions of dollars in revenue.
While Kemp suggested any bill would be more limited in scope than that effort, the candidate’s actions send a decidedly mixed message.
On Oct. 11, Vice President Mike Pence appeared at a “Victory Dinner” in support of Kemp’s gubernatorial bid — the second time this year he stumped for Kemp. The fundraising event, which was rescheduled due to flooding from Hurricane Florence, just happened to coincide with National Coming Out Day.
As governor of Indiana, Pence signed into law a controversial RFRA bill which led to a $60 million boycott of the state. Provisions allowing people of faith to discriminate against the LGBTQ community were later removed.
The local Democratic party alleged Kemp was “trolling Georgia’s LGBTQ community” by inviting Pence to the state just days before Pride.
“By inviting the pioneer of RFRA to Georgia on the eve of Pride weekend, it seems Brian Kemp is trolling Georgia’s LGBTQ community and the 400+ major Georgia employers who oppose his plan to sign RFRA into law after all the chaos this law wreaked on Indiana’s economy,” said Seth Bringman, a spokesperson for the Georgia Democratic Party, said in a statement to the LGBTQ website Project Q.
“Unfortunately for Mr. Kemp, Georgians won’t stand for discrimination,” he added.
Kemp did not appear at Atlanta Pride this weekend, nor did organizers say he reached out about doing so. In contrast, Saturday’s event actually marked the second time that Abrams has marched in the parade; she first appeared alongside Democratic primary opponent House Rep. Stacey Evans last year.
Recent polls show that Abrams and Kemp are statistically tied in an extremely close race. According to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution survey, he leads by just 1.4 points.
If elected, Abrams would be the first black woman to serve as governor of a U.S. state.
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