Press

Torch Out But Tolerance Shines: Olympics Pull Torch Relay From Anti-Gay Cobb County

Date: 
April 19, 1996

To the relief and gratification of gay and lesbian people everywhere, the Olympic torch will not pass through Cobb County, Georgia, announced the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games (ACOG). ACOG stunned the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (g/l/b/t) community when last July it announced the Torch Relay would pass through Cobb County, which in 1993 passed a resolution condemning the "gay lifestyle" as incompatible with the community's standards. County officials have refused to rescind the measure despite mounting opposition against it.

The announcement last year that the torch would pass through Cobb County sent gay activists reeling. Only a year had passed since ACOG finally agreed, after an intense and protracted battle with Olympics Out of Cobb Coalition (OCC), a group of g/l/b/t activists, and NGLTF, to move the prelimnary competition volleyball games from Cobb County. OCC quickly regrouped and began its campaign once again to prevent an official Olympic event from occurring in a county that officially condemns gay people.

ACOG released the following statement:

ACOG has decided not to run the Torch Relay through Cobb County. The decision is based on the fact that the Cobb County Commission has not changed its non-binding resolution since July 1994 when ACOG relocated the preliminary volleyball venue from Cobb County to Athens, Georgia. It is our goal to make the torch relay an exciting and memorable experience. We want to focus on the excitement of the event and not be distracted by other issues.

The Torch Relay will arrive in Georgia on July 9, and for 10 days will traverse the state, allowing hundreds of torch bearers to participate in this great occasion, including many from Cobb County.

NGLTF has worked with OCC since 1994 when the fight against the resolution began. The two organizations collaborated to challenge the Cobb County resolution by pressuring the Olympic Committee to remove its events from the county. Most recently, OCC and NGLTF were organizing protests along the Torch Relay route throughout the country to demonstrate nationwide opposition to bringining the torch to Cobb County. The two organizations responded jointly in applauding ACOG's decision.

"We commend ACOG's decision. ACOG has heard our call for justice and will not dishonor the spirit of the Olympics, symbolized by the torch, by honoring the bigotry in Cobb County, said Melinda Paras, NGLTF executive director. "Let the light of tolerance and fairness shine in Cobb County, not the Olympic torch," added Paras.

"We applaud ACOG and gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender people and our allies around the country who answered our many calls for justice and action," stated Pat Hussain, NGLTF board member and co-chair of OCC. "We will continue to fight until the resolution is rescinded and all Georgians can live free from discrimination," added Hussain.

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The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.