ATLANTA, Georgia — A reshuffle in the Atlanta municipal government has given the city its first director of LGBTQ affairs, a full time advisory position to the mayor and city government at large.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms appointed Malik Brown to serve in the historic role, promoting him from his previous position as LGBTQ affairs coordinator.
Brown told NBC News that his position will involve advising Bottoms and City Hall staff on LGBTQ initiatives, while also proposing legislative ideas to the city council and state government.
“My hope is that we create institutional and equitable change for LGBTQ Atlantans,” Brown said. “One day Mayor Bottoms and I won’t be at Atlanta City Hall anymore, but our hope is that the LGBTQ-supportive infrastructure that we’ve created will still be here.”
He said his appointment also gives LGBTQ Atlantans a “direct line” to the mayoral administration that did not previously exist.
“This will include continuing lobbying to ban conversion therapy in Georgia, support for LGBTQ elders and fighting the spread of HIV,” Brown told NBC News. “When it is safe to do so, we look forward to partnering with our friends at Discover Atlanta, and other stakeholders, to bring more LGBTQ tourism and conferences to our city.”
Previously, Brown had served as a member of the national board of governors of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest LGBTQ rights group, in addition to his work as Atlanta’s LGBTQ affairs coordinator.
Brown said his immediate areas of focus when assuming his new position will be addressing housing discrimination for LGBTQ people, focusing on “cultural humility training” for city employees when it comes to transgender and nonbinary people, fighting the epidemic of violence against trans people and ensuring that LGBTQ people are protected during the fight against Covid-19.
He also said queer youth will “remain a key focus” of his work.
“We are working to create mentorship opportunities for LGBTQ youth, as well as leadership development programming,” he said. “Additionally, we are brainstorming innovative ways to get resources in the hands of LGBTQ youth who may be experiencing homelessness.”
Brown said his new role “builds on the Bottoms administration’s equity agenda” and called on cities around the country to adopt similar positions in municipal structures.
While Atlanta maintains it's the first city in the Southeast to have this type of senior-level municipal role, at least two Northeastern cities — Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. — have director-level LGBTQ affairs positions. And Birmingham, Alabama, also in the Southeast, has had an LGBTQ liaison since 2018. A number of cities across the country have LGBTQ advisory councils that provide guidance to city government.