Jason Carter clarifies support for gay marriage, talks Olens lawsuit and protections for LGBT state employees

‘The debate is essentially over’


Jason Carter’s support for gay marriage in Georgia has come into question over the past week. The Atlanta state senator had reportedly failed to say the words “gay” or “LGBT” at a recent fundraising event with local LGBT supporters. In an editorial yesterday, the Georgia Voice called for the Candler Park attorney, who’s in the midst of a heated gubernatorial race against Gov. Nathan Deal, to clearly vocalize his support on the issue.

In response this morning, campaign spokesman Bryan Thomas wrote a short statement to the AJC defending Carter’s longstanding support of marriage equality. Earlier this afternoon, CL asked the Democratic gubernatorial candidate to elaborate on his stance toward same-sex marriage. We also chatted with him about the state’s efforts to uphold its constitutional gay marriage ban and LGBT workplace protections for state employees. Here’s what he had to say:

Do you support same-sex marriage?

I have, for a very long time, supported marriage equality. ... I didn’t understand the Georgia Voice’s editorial. Everybody who knows me knows where I stand on the issue. I haven’t had a conversion. My grandfather is 89 and supports marriage equality in part because of the influence we’ve had on him.

I do think it’s important for people to know that no one in the movement is talking about telling churches what to do. But as far as the government is concerned, marriage equality is something I believe in and have believed in for a very, very, very long time since before I got into politics.

What do you think about Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens’ attempts to defend the state’s gay marriage ban?

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It’s a legal question. Olens has an obligation because he is the attorney general. It’s a tough question legally. Nobody has won yet trying to defend the ban. At some point, it becomes a waste. That’s a decision where you’ve got to look at the law. He’s got to look at what his obligations are to make a decision. ... If there’s no defense, then there’s no defense. These courts of appeal keep coming out with decisions. I look at it like a litigator. As they go down the road, that issue is one that the debate is essentially over.

Last month, President Barack Obama signed an executive order that seeks to protect federal government workers and employees of federal contractors from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity. Georgia’s state employees don’t have those same protections in the workplace. Would you push for those kinds of protections if elected governor?

I’m against discrimination. How we get there with the Republican legislature is a question. But one thing I know for a fact is that, right now, there are state employees who are living double lives because they’re not allowed to be who they want to be, and who they are, when they’re at work. That’s something where if they know that they have someone in the governor’s office that is a friend, that will make a big difference in those people’s lives. That’s important to me. That’s important to a huge number of other people.