This site contains archival material that chronicles the controversy created by the Cobb County Commission's approval of a "Family Values", anti-gay resolution in August 1993. Some of the images may be offensive.
UPDATE November 2015: The collection of papers from this period has been donated to Georgia State University Library's Archives/Women and Gender Collections/LGBT Studies.
A brief history of events follows.
Cobb County's Anti-Gay Resolution August 1993-1994
In the summer of 1993 in
Cobb County, Georgia; unknown to most residents, a seminar was held
at the Roswell Street Baptist Church by the newly powerful Christian
Coalition about the threat to "Family Values" from "The
Gay Agenda". Like other such campaigns, this was probably
primarily intended to elect religious and social conservatives to
office in the 1994 Georgia primary races. As events played out, the
normally low-key Cobb County Commission meetings became a soapbox for
competing political agendas, differing religious viewpoints, the
Klan, angry speakers on both sides of the issue and extensive media
began with the Cobb County Chairman Bill Byrne, questioning the Cobb
Arts Council awarding money to Theatre in the Square and the fact
that in one of their plays, Lips Together Teeth Apart had some reference to homosexual
characters in the play. He felt that the county should not be
supporting an organization that did not adhere to the family values
that he thought were appropriate. That
incident escalated into the Commission taking action under the
sponsorship of then-commissioner Gordon Wysong to take a position on
the gay community
Cobb Commission put two items on the August 1993 agenda; one was the resolution supporting community standards aka the anti-gay resolution and the other was a vote to remove all funding for the arts. Both votes were primarily symbolic since the resolution was non-binding and the funding for the arts was not a large amount. However, it was, in Byrne's words intended to send a message.
The first hearing was on August 10th and the commission meeting room was filled to capacity, primarily with church members who had been bussed to the hearing and who were wearing yellow tags saying "We support community standards". Supporters greatly outnumbered opponents to the resolution. Reporters from all local and some national media were present. There were many emotional speeches from those attending, most supported the resolution.
Chairman Bill Byrne read the following statement:
County openly and vigorously supports the current community standards
and established state laws regarding gay lifestyles; the Board of
Commissioners intends to send this message to policy makers of this
county such that a previously silent voice will now be heard”
Gordon Wysong the Commissioner from NE Cobb District 3 sponsored the resolution.
Citing local and national events related to gay issues, he said his concerns led him to draft the resolution. The events were (1) related to allowing gays to serve openly in the military; or “an effort to subordinate the national defense of this country to a social agenda”. (2) “The city of Atlanta has tried to sanction so-called gay marriages and then to fund this violation of state law with taxpayer money”. (3) Governor Zell Miller’s invitation to The Gay Olympics to hold the games in Atlanta; “It is mind boggling to imagine what activities constitute gay games”. (4) The 1993 Washington March for LGB Rights platform with 62 items; “there are people bringing this agenda forward and we are reacting to it”. “ Laws and policies about behavior always single out the group engaging in that conduct. This is true of drunk drivers, nude dancers, bigamists, racists and smokers. This should not be construed as an attack on homosexual individuals but it is to recognize the fact that long established community standards do not sanction the conduct, nor does it sanction that this is an acceptable model of conduct”. -Commissioner Gordon Wysong.
West Cobb Commissioner Bill Cooper made brief dissenting remarks: “I have no intention of using my office as a bully pulpit to challenge any group. I don’t care whether it/s American Indians, Jews, gays or WASPS, I would oppose it.” Cooper criticized Wysong’s action as “a political game with a self serving agenda” (MDJ 8/11/93 A-1).
Byrne called for the vote, the motion carried 3-1, Byrne, Wysong and Poole supported, Cooper opposed, Joe L Thompson did not attend the meeting.
packed room reacted with applause, laughter and “Amens” when the vote 3-1 in favor,
posted on the electronic board. Outside the chamber, anti-gay
protestor Clelland Jordan held a sign that read Praise God for Aids
story dominated print and broadcast media for the next two weeks. On
August 25th gay activist and spokesman Jon
Greaves debated Pat Buchanan on CNN Crossfire; ABC Nightline’s Ted
Koppel interviewed Gordon Wysong, and asked if he was going down a
Results of polling by the Atlanta Journal Constitution found that the public was “deeply divided” and most felt that “the Cobb commission’s resolution condemning the gay lifestyle did not truly represent the area’s standards” (AJC 8/24/93 C-1) 54% of Cobb respondents believed that the resolution reflected the activity of a few people. Only 33% of Cobb respondents believed it reflected community standards; 71% of respondents stated they had a gay friend or relative (AJC 8/24/93 p C-1).
The small group of gay and straight resolution opponents reacted quickly to mobilize public opinion against the Resolution. A large rally was immediately organized following the August 10th BOC meeting. The Sunday Marietta Daily Journal gave front page coverage to the rally on the Square that brought over 400 people to Cobb to protest the Anti Gay resolution (8/15/93 A-1). According to the article there was a group of hecklers that included J.B. Stoner’s White Power Association.
All of the Commissioners were expected to vote to remove funding from the Arts; the community standards debate had been joined by the fiscal conservative debate, whether funding the arts was a proper function of government. West Cobb Commissioner Bill Cooper, who had voted to oppose the Resolution on the 10th was quoted as saying “The arts funding issue is a taxation issue . . . We are responsible to those taxpayers and must listen to them.” Bill Byrne’s often replayed quote: “We have continued in reducing government. That again is not because we have to, because Cobb County is an affluent county. We did so because we chose to” (MDJ 8/25/93 A-1).
The Commission meeting room was packed again on the 24th, with supporters and opponents of “the gay lifestyle” and county funding of the arts lined up to speak.
were about 350 people outside the packed commission room, and 250 of
those carried signs or banners supporting funding of the arts, and
the gay lifestyle (MDJ8/25/93 A-1). After hearing many emotional speakers for and against removing the arts funding, Chairman Byrne got a unanimous
vote to remove the roughly $110,000 of county funding for the arts
and redirect it to Public Safety (ibid).
With both controversial hearings over, the County wanted to turn to other business and let the controversy die. But opponents of the Resolution and Cobb Commission’s attitude were just gearing up.
Cobb Citizen’s Coalition held its first organizational meeting on August 31st at Paisano’s Restaurant in Smyrna. The first Board of Directors included Co-Chairs Lynne Patterson and Noel Lytle, Treasurer David Mayersky and Secretary Karen DeLoria. Jon Greaves headed the Business Outreach Crew and Carl Lang of GLAD headed up Press Releases. Elaine Hill and Anne McPherson joined CCC not long after this, and when Lynne Patterson relocated, Elaine took her place as CCC Co Chair. CCC’s first project was a planned drive to Boycott Cobb County Galleria Convention Center.
Edna and Boyd McKeown were working with the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta to sponsor a workshop on how to deal with problems created by the religious right. The event took place in November and was well attended.
Rabbi Stephen Lebow of Temple Kol Emeth became an ally of Cobb’s gay community, and organized a group of 37 clergy, who publicly asked the Commission to rescind the resolution.
Two of the more newsworthy events carried out by CCC included sponsorship of a study exposing the number of Hate Groups based in Cobb; and raising funds for a highway billboard on I-75 near the South Loop reading “Stop the Hate- Rescind the Resolution”. In 1994 an Atlanta group formed, calling itself Olympics Out of Cobb, and pursued that mission. They joined with CCC on a number of events designed to keep awareness of Cobb’s Resolution in the public eye, and on the table for ACOG, Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games. One of the events was a “Rolling Roadblock” on I-75, designed to slow traffic on all lanes. This was done with police cooperation.
Citizen’s Coalition received national recognition in March 94, when
they were awarded the PEN/Newman “First Amendment Award” for
their courageous stand in Cobb County. The June Gay Pride Festival
in Atlanta brought further gratification when CCC was the featured
guest and was cheered by 100,000 attendees of the Pride Parade as
they marched down the parade route.
The fallout from the
county's Anti Gay Resolution and defunding of the arts lasted from
early August 1993, through the period leading up to the Atlanta
Olympics in 1996. Ultimately, Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games made the decision to move a
planned venue from Cobb County and the Olympic Torch bypassed Cobb as
The Resolution was never rescinded, but it was presumed to no longer be valid, since none of the original commissioners voting for it remained in office.
Marietta Theatre on the Square continued to operate until spring 2012 when it closed, due to the ongoing recession.
copyright 2012 Carol Brown