A Cobb County lawmaker who trolls LGBT people as "pansies" and calls the work of gay artists "sickening" now has a new target – LGBT students at Kennesaw State University.
State Rep. Earl Ehrhart – the longest-serving Republican in the Georgia House – called the students a "bigoted, intolerant hate group." His rant came in response to the students organizing against the appointment of Attorney General Sam Olens as the new president of Kennesaw State. LGBT students and others concerned about the hire launched a petition drive to oppose Olens' selection, they rallied against him on campus and they protested at the Oct. 12 meeting when the Board of Regents picked him.
The petition has received nearly 17,000 signatures. Ehrhart was unimpressed. Via the Marietta Daily Journal:
“A parade of hypocritical, bigoted, intolerant ignorance on display for all to see from this hate group,” Ehrhart said. “They lash out with intolerant hyperbole and lies against a good man and claim they are tolerance and inclusivity paragons. They are the opposite in their views, and their own words convict them as the intolerant bigots against all who disagree with their narrow cultural orthodoxy.”
Except the anti-LGBT record of Olens is actually factual, even if Olens wants to explain it away.
But lashing out against LGBT issues is, sadly, nothing new for Ehrhart, who has fought equality issues for more than a decade.
In 2005, he helped gut an Atlanta non-discrimination ordinance after the city imposed fines on the Druid Hills Golf Club for not granting spousal benefits to the partners of LGBT people.
In 2012, Ehrhart called Bryan Long – the gay executive director of Better Georgia – a "pansy."
In 2013, Ehrhart pushed for the expansion of a state program that allowed people and corporations in Georgia to divert a portion of their state taxes to scholarships for students to attend schools with anti-LGBT policies.
In 2015, Ehrhart punished Delta Air Lines for opposing an anti-gay "religious freedom" bill a year earlier. Republicans swatted back at the Atlanta-based company by targeting a lucrative fuel tax break that saved Delta about $23 million a year.
And earlier this year, Ehrhart mustered outrage over the art exhibit "Art AIDS America" during its show at Kennesaw State and criticized a gay professor at the school. Via the Georgia Voice:
State Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs), who chairs the Georgia House committee that funds universities, called the exhibit “sickening” and “a blatant political statement” and threatened the school about having such exhibits in the future, according to the Marietta Daily Journal.
“I’m going to make it real clear, let’s just put it that way. I had a lot of success in getting Tech’s attention in spending taxpayer money on ridiculous things,” said Ehrhart, referring to his criticism of how the Georgia Institute of Technology handles accusations of sexual assault. Ehrhart said when Georgia Tech ignored his requests, he eliminated the university’s request for a $47 million building.
Ehrhart also criticized KSU art professor Robert Sherer, who is known for using unconventional media like HIV-positive blood and whose work is featured in the exhibit:
Ehrhart said painting with infected blood should be against the law.
“I mean, you could infect somebody and kill them with that. Why don’t we just paint with the Ebola virus?” he said.
And he capped it off by saying “a fully loaded porta-potty would be a better artistic expression” than the exhibit at Kennesaw State.
In February, Ehrhart also made it clear during a House Rules Committee meeting that he didn't want a sweeping civil rights bill from state Rep. Rich Golick, a fellow Cobb Republican, to protect transgender people. Via WABE:
Ehrhart said he's concerned the bill could be interpreted more broadly to protect people who are transgender.
“I don’t know that I’m ready to make transgender a protected class because I’m not sure what that means. Is there 'transpecies?' I mean, I’m not being facetious. We’re continuing to add conceptual definitions to that. Things that I don’t even understand,” said Ehrhart.
He called himself a “rabid equalist,” who wants everyone treated the same under the law.
Rep. Rich Golick, the bill’s sponsor, responded to Ehrhart during a committee hearing.
“It’s already defined, it’s not the type of thing at this point where – it’s one or the other, I mean, it’s male or female,” said Golick. “Sex doesn’t really necessitate a definition, although I don’t think it would be harmful."
Ehrhart then interrupted, “Ask Bruce Jenner.”
That’s a reference to celebrity Caitlyn Jenner, a transgender woman, who recently went through a high-profile gender transition. She was previously known as Bruce Jenner.
A Kennesaw student, Morgan Tamayo, noted the irony of Ehrhart calling LGBT students a "hate group":
Saying that we, the opposition, are a hate group and "a parade of hypocritical, bigoted, intolerant ignorance" because we don't want a homophobe and a transphobe as the university president is like saying "stop oppressing my oppresion of you." It takes a special kind of evil and willful ignorance to think this way.
And that, in a nutshell, is Earl Ehrhart.