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Atlanta Drag Race Queens: Lives Depend on Georgia Senate Vote

Atlanta Drag Race Queens: Lives Depend on Georgia Senate Vote

LaLa Ri and Tamisha Iman
From left: LaLa Ri and Tamisha Iman

Tamisha Iman and LaLa Ri urge voting in the Tuesday runoff that will determine control of the U.S. Senate.


With a runoff election in Georgia on Tuesday determining control of the U.S. Senate, Atlanta-based queens from RuPaul's Drag Race's new season are speaking out on the importance of voting in the race.

Anthony Ramos, GLAAD's head of talent, interviewed contestants from season 13 of Drag Race and asked Tamisha Iman and LaLa Ri why it's so crucial for LGBTQ+ people and allies to vote in the runoff (see video below). Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, both LGBTQ+ allies, are challenging anti-LGBTQ+ Republican incumbents Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, respectively; the race has gone to a runoff because no candidate received a majority of the vote in November, as Georgia law requires.

"Just going through the last four years and seeing that everything ... we always stand on other shoulders, where people have fought to actually obtain for us to be who we are today being stripped piece by piece, brick by brick," Iman said.

"It is important that everybody get out and vote to continue the fight for the LGBTQ community," Iman continued. "And not just that, I'm a Black person. As a Black drag queen, it is very important that our voices be heard as well. The thing that I love about Atlanta and the world -- after George Floyd's death we saw the unity that we knew that was always there, but it formed right in front of our eyes, so therefore it showed us that we are much more as one than we are as individuals. So to get the rights and to get back on the right path to making this country acceptable for all of us, we have to vote. Our voice is our vote. We have to get out there and continue to fight so everybody will experience equality. I'm an advocate in my city, I'm one of the pillars of the community, and I'm always fighting for fairness and everybody's rights. So it is very important. If you don't vote, you don't count."

Ri commented, "Our lives depend on it. Point blank. I made sure that I early voted. ... Our lives literally depend on it, so go out and vote, honey. Vote if you can! Vote for your lives!" Early voting has now closed, with more than 3 million people participating, but polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday for Election Day. Those in line by 7 p.m. can vote.

Perdue has a string of zeroes on the Human Rights Campaign's Congressional Scorecard, which rates members of Congress on their positions on LGBTQ+ rights; he has been a senator for one term, which began in 2015. But he has earned perfect ratings from anti-LGBTQ+ groups such as the Family Research Council Action and Family Policy Alliance. He has voted to confirm anti-LGBTQ+ federal judges nominated by Donald Trump, including Andrew Brasher, who has called same-sex marriage harmful to children. Brasher is now a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

Loeffler has not been in office long enough to be rated on HRC's scorecard; she was appointed to the Senate by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp to replace Johnny Isakson, who retired in December 2019 due to health problems, and had to run in a special election in 2020 to determine who'll serve the last two years of Isakson's term. Because of her wealth, she pledged to donate her Senate salary to charity, and the beneficiaries have included an anti-LGBTQ+ adoption agency and antichoice crisis pregnancy centers. Also, in September, she introduced legislation aimed at preventing transgender girls and women from competing with cisgender females in school sports.

Loeffler was investigated by the Senate Ethics Committee last year because of stock trades she made after receiving a briefing on the COVID-19 pandemic, raising the question of whether she acted on information that wasn't available to the general public. Perdue's trading also came under investigation, both because of the pandemic and possible conflicts of interest. Both have said the committee concluded there was no wrongdoing, but an examination by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution "found the panel almost never finds fault in members it investigates," the paper reports.

If Warnock and Ossoff win the runoffs, the Senate will have a 50-50 split between Democrats and Republicans (the Democrats' numbers include two independents who caucus with them), and Kamala Harris, as vice president, will have the tie-breaking vote. This would bode well for pro-LGBTQ+ legislation, which would likely be blocked if the Senate has a Republican majority.

Last week GLAAD and Georgia Equality put out recorded calls featuring other celebrities with ties to the state -- queer actor Tommy Dorfman and actress-ally Kat Graham -- encouraging Georgians to vote in the runoff, saying, "Don't sit this one out."

"According to exit polls, LGBTQ voters made up 7 percent of Georgia's electorate in the general election," Georgia Equality Executive Director Jeff Graham said in a GLAAD press release. "Making sure these voters, along with our allies, vote in this runoff will send a strong message that pro-equality voters are a crucial voting bloc that can no longer be ignored."

"Georgia's LGBTQ community can make a real difference if they turn out for the Georgia senate runoff election, which will help determine many issues critical to the LGBTQ community including the Equality Act, as well as COVID-19 relief and health care in Georgia and around the country," added GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. "It's thanks to LGBTQ voters, our allies, and other diverse voters that a pro-equality candidate won the White House and will put an end to the Trump administration's persistent attacks on LGBTQ Americans and other marginalized communities. Now Georgia voters are poised to determine control of the U.S. Senate."

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Trudy Ring

Trudy Ring, The Advocate's copy chief, has spent much of her journalistic career covering the LGBT movement. When she's not fielding questions about grammar, spelling, and LGBT history, she's sharing movie trivia or classic rock lyrics.
Trudy Ring, The Advocate's copy chief, has spent much of her journalistic career covering the LGBT movement. When she's not fielding questions about grammar, spelling, and LGBT history, she's sharing movie trivia or classic rock lyrics.