When Republican leaders of the General Assembly planned Family Day at the Capitol for Saturday — an invitation for parents and children to witness their elected officials in action — they envisioned a nonpartisan, family-friendly morning under the Gold Dome.
The invitation may draw more people than the leaders dreamed.
Source: AJC [Link]
Busloads of Georgians from Macon, Albany, Savannah, Augusta and elsewhere are expected to converge on the Capitol to protest many of the GOP's policies. Georgia Equality, the state's largest gay rights organization, is urging gay families to come as a demonstration to legislators that their households are as important as anyone else's.
The Georgia AFL-CIO and other groups, including the Legislative Black Caucus, are calling on working families across the state to participate in a morning march from Turner Field to the Capitol for a rally.
"We want to give people who are unhappy with the way things are going in the General Assembly with certain bills an opportunity to be seen and heard," said Richard A. Ray, president of the Georgia AFL-CIO.
The groups are protesting numerous GOP-sponsored measures, including last year's constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, an abortion bill recently approved by the House and Senate, and efforts to curb health care spending.
Last month, Senate Majority Leader Bill Stephens (R-Canton) and House Majority Leader Jerry Keen (R-St. Simons Island) said they organized the rare Saturday session to give families a chance to see how laws are passed — a sort of real-life social studies lesson. Only bipartisan, noncontroversial bills to repeal antiquated laws are on the calendar, including a bill by Reps. Tyrone Brooks (D-Atlanta) and Mike Coan (R-Lawrenceville) to strike Jim Crow laws from the Georgia code.
Both the House and Senate are scheduled to meet from 10 a.m. until about noon. Then, Georgia families are invited to a free lunch, courtesy of The Varsity, Chick-fil-A Inc., Harold's Barbecue and Mayfield Ice Cream. The secretary of state's office will conduct tours of the Capitol.
Stephens said Tuesday that all Georgians are welcome.
"The First Amendment is a good thing," Stephens said. "So is showing common sense. I hope anyone who wants to attend will, but I hope that they will treat the occasion with the dignity it deserves."
State Rep. Stan Watson (D-Decatur) chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, said that while he plans to bring his family to the Legislature's Family Day, he's also helping with the march.
"I think people need to see working people," Watson said. "There are people struggling with health care and Medicaid cuts. We need to bring all families up to the Capitol and show the good, the bad, and the ugly."
Just about every group with a bone to pick with the GOP is involved in the march, from the Georgia Hunger Coalition to the Georgia Coalition for the Peoples Agenda. Becky Rafter, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Georgia, an organization that favors reproductive and abortion rights, said supporters of the organization will take part in the march.
"We want to ensure that Family Day at the Capitol has a solid representation of all of Georgia's families," Rafter said. "There are going to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, working, labor, low-income and African-American, Latino and pro-choice families."
The Senate last week approved House Bill 197, a measure requiring a 24-hour waiting period before a woman can have an abortion. The bill becomes law once Gov. Sonny Perdue signs it.
Chuck Bowen, executive director of Georgia Equality, said that the group is not planning a formal protest or rally. Gay and lesbian families are encouraged to meet at Central Presbyterian Church at 9:30 a.m. and then try to get some face time with their legislators at the Capitol.
"We're raising kids, we're paying taxes, and we're facing the same daily challenges as every other family in Georgia," Bowen said. "I think it's clear the majority of the members of the General Assembly don't recognize us with the same parity as they do with most other families. I'm sure when they planned this day, they were not thinking of including us."
Many gay rights activists still are smarting over last year's legislative battle over a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in Georgia. Voters overwhelmingly approved the measure on Nov. 2.
This year, gay rights activists are opposing several House and Senate bills, including a measure introduced by Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs). The bill would nullify the city of Atlanta's human rights ordinance, which compels public organizations to provide equal treatment for gays and others. The bill would apply to local governments across the state.
Craig Pigg, 49, and Michael Prudent, 42, of Atlanta said they plan to attend Family Day because they closely follow state politics and want to see the Legislature in action. The couple, parents of 5-year-old Cooper, say they also worry about how certain bills directly affect their family. For example, they were married in August in Massachusetts, but Georgia does not recognize their union.
"We want to attend to see what's going on down there," Pigg said. "There are many conversations at the Capitol these days that seem to affect the future of families like ours. It's important we be noticed. We're not invisible."
GRRRR!!! Why didin't I know about this sooner? The Christian Coalition is going to be there!! *wheels turning*