Prominent Georgia evangelist, Bishop Eddie Long, is on the defensive this week after three former parishioners filed a lawsuit alleging that Long "utilized his spiritual authority as Bishop [. . .] to coerce certain young male members into engaging in sexual acts and relationships for his own personal sexual gratification." [Matteucci, Megan and Boone, Christian (2010-9-22). Bishop Eddie Long | Third sexual coercion lawsuit filed. Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved on 2010-9-22.]
The allegations, which Long "adamantly denies," resulted in Democratic gubernatorial nominee Roy Barnes cancelling a fundraiser where Long was to serve as a co-host.
Before these claims of sexual misconduct came to light, though, Barnes touted Eddie Long's endorsement of his candidacy to the press [Metro Atlanta faith leaders back Roy Barnes for governor. Chattanooga Times Free Press. Retrieved on 2010-9-22.].
"Roy is the only candidate in this race who has consistently been a friend to our community," Long said in a press release announcing his endorsement of Barnes. "He is the only one I trust to guide our state in a better direction."
Bishop Eddie Long and his wife also put their money where their mouths were, donating a total of $11,100 to the Barnes gubernatorial campaign [SOURCE: State Ethics Commission].
What's interesting about this situation is that Roy Barnes was also endorsed by a leading GLBT newspaper [Douglas-Brown, Laura (2010-7-23). Editorial: Roy Barnes for governor. The Georgia Voice. Retrieved on 2010-9-23.].
The Georgia Voice is one of the largest and most widely read GLBT publications in the Peach State. And Bishop Eddie Long hasn't had the best relationship with Georgia's GLBT community.
In 2004, Long led a march through the streets of Atlanta in support of the federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages. The march was roundly criticized by GLBT advocates across the state [Barry, Ellen (2004-12-11). March Clouded by Stand on Gay Unions. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved on 2010-9-23.].
Long defended the march saying, "A strong segment of society wants to go back to basic, fundamental moral beliefs."
The 2010 Georgia gubernatorial election is expected to be close, with both Democrats and Republicans doing everything they can to turn out their base.
Four years ago, Democrat Cathy Cox lost a close primary to Mark Taylor due in part to a backlash in the GLBT community after Cox flip-flopped on her opposition to Georgia's gay marriage ban [Associated Press (2006-5-29). Gay Voters May Boycott Primary, Hurt Cox Campaign. First Coast News (Jacksonville, FL). Retrieved on 2010-9-23.].
In a tight election, where every vote will count, will Barnes' association with Bishop Eddie Long --hardly a friend to the gay community-- cost him support among GLBT voters?
We'll just have to wait and see.