Byline: BRIAN BASINGER
ATLANTA -- One of the nation's most prominent outdoor advertising companies said Friday that it refused to rent billboard space in South Georgia to a gay and lesbian advocacy group because the proposed signs didn't meet "community standards".
James Locke, general manager for Lamar Outdoor Advertising's operations in South Georgia, said he declined to sell ad space to Atlanta-based Georgia Equality because of the wording that would have been featured on the signs.
"We just didn't feel the copy was right for those markets," Locke said. "These are the markets we do business in, and I know the community standards of these markets."
The billboards proposed by Georgia Equality feature images of professionals, such as a male firefighter and a female doctor, and include tag lines that read, "I protect you. And . . . I am gay. We Are Your Neighbors."
Similar messages are already being seen in eight counties throughout metro Atlanta, but are displayed on billboards owned by a different company.
Chuck Bowen, executive director of Georgia Equality, expressed disappointment over Lamar's decision not to sell ad space to the organization in 38 South Georgia counties, which include the cities of Albany, Columbus, Douglas, Homerville and Valdosta.
"Lamar's decision is unacceptable and is further evidence of the hostility and discrimination gays and lesbians face every day," Bowen said.
Bowen claims he was in negotiations for about a week with Lamar representatives based in Lake Park before he was told the company had decided to decline Georgia Equality's business.
"We wanted to do this in October," Bowen said of the ad buy. "They initially came back and said they didn't have any [space] available in the month of October. We went back and said we could do them in either September or November."
Bowen said he was never given an exact reason from Lamar as to why the ad sale was rejected.
Bowen added that Georgia Equality will try to find another billboard company to run the ads in South Georgia, and may ask …