Josh McKoon likes to portray himself as the champion of "religious freedom" at the State Capitol. But his smug approach earned him a political smackdown on Thursday. It was so much fun to watch.
The state senator, a Republican from Columbus, has been pushing his "religious freedom" legislation for three years – and in the process, dragging the State Capitol into turmoil and a pitched battle between religious conservatives afraid they will be forced to gay marry, LGBT activists demanding the equality the U.S. Supreme Court promised them, and business leaders worried about the impact of the fight on the state's economy.
And this session, like the past two, McKoon hasn't been getting his way. So he pouts. Like he did on Thursday, when he took to the Senate floor to politically disembowel the Pastor Protection Act. Trouble is, that legislation is backed by House Speaker David Ralston and the House would later that morning pass the bill 161-0.
Nevertheless, McKoon launched his broadside against it, Ralston and anyone else standing in his way.
"The best thing I can say about that piece of legislation is the name. If we were to be accurate about what the bill is really intended to do we would call it the Politician Protection Act. The protection that is being afforded in this proposed piece of legislation is not meaningful," McKoon said.
"Why is it racing through the legislative process at warp speed? The answer would be that those who originally opposed any effort to move this issue forward now recognize that something must be done. The people are demanding that something be done. And now we have a bill that is tailor-made for direct mail pieces. It is tailor-made for people going back home to campaign. But it does not one thing to protect religious freedom," he added near the end of his five-minute assault.
He closed by urging lawmakers to pass his "religious freedom" bill or any of the others out there, as well as the Frist Amendment Defense Act, which is one of two sweeping, anti-gay bills that would protect businesses and people who discriminate against gay marriage.
And in case he wasn't clear, McKoon called the Pastor Protection Act the "height of political arrogance" and a "cheap political trick."
If there was a relationship between McKoon and Ralston, he torched it on Thursday. But there's likely little love lost between the two Republicans. Ralston put an end to a "religious freedom" bill from Rep. Sam Teasley last year and is likely the force keeping McKoon's version bottled up inside the House Judiciary Committee. Ralston pushed the Pastor Protection Act as a compromise to the "religious freedom" debate.
But he didn't take kindly to McKoon's attack. Ralston's legal counsel, Terry Chastain, confronted McKoon after his remarks with a profanity-laced dressing down. At least that's how McKoon told it when he played victim in front of a WSB camera.
"First he called me a dumb ass, then he said if I wanted to shit on House bills that I should run for the House," McKoon told WSB.
There's a dose of schadenfreude in watching McKoon get smacked down by Ralston's enforcers. He is smug and disingenuous in his repeated defense of his legislation most everyone knows is anti-gay but he won't say so. And like his presidential pick Ted Cruz, he's making more enemies than friends among lawmakers.
So yes, we relish in his smackdown. He came for Ralston and wasn't ready for what he got in return. Tsk, tsk.
@JoshMcKoon As an atheist this doesn't worry me so much because I don't intend to need a pastor when my day comes to get married.— Corey Lovins (@C_Love1986) February 11, 2016
Led to a salty rebuke of McKoon. Which, in turn, had McKoon whining to the press.
And that brought the best political moment of the day – McKoon's political perp walk in a Capitol hallway. Because in the end he's a sad, mad, lonely man when he gets bested by a bully better than him.