Attorney General Sam Olens – the man who waged legal battles against gay marriage and transgender students in Georgia – is about to be named the new president of Kennesaw State University.
That ought to concern all those LGBT Owls at KSU. And there are plenty of them.
The appointment – a rumor swirling around the State Capitol for months – was confirmed Tuesday by the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Olens will replace former KSU President Dan Papp, who retired in June after a payroll flap.
Olens resigning as the state's top elected attorney would allow Gov. Nathan Deal to appoint a successor – nearly two years from the next election. The ABC reported that Deal has already picked his man for Olens' job – Chris Carr, the state’s economic development chief.
The governor nominated Carr commissioner of economic development in 2013 when then-Commissioner Chris Cummiskey took a job with Southern Co. affiliate Southern Power. Before that, Carr served as chief of staff for U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga.
Carr also has worked for Georgia-Pacific Corp., the Georgia Public Policy Foundation and in the Atlanta office of Alston & Bird LLP. He earned a law degree from The University of Georgia.
Olens has fought LGBT equality since his statewide election in 2010. He argued that gay marriage is not a "fundamental right" and refused to relent even as the U.S. Supreme Court slowly nicked away at gay marriage prohibitions in several states.
"The right to marry is, of course, a fundamental right. But that right has never previously been understood as extending to same-sex couples," Olens wrote in a 2014 brief in a federal lawsuit challenging Georgia's gay marriage ban.
He also mocked LGBT people in 2014, arguing that gay Georgians can legally marry – to opposite sex partners.
As explained in the State’s opening brief, the challenged laws do not discriminate on the basis of sex; they apply equally to men and women.
And poked at gay couples some more.
Plaintiffs and the State agree on a fundamental principle: the vital importance of marriage and the role it plays in our society. Plaintiffs believe that importance bolsters their claim of access to marriage. The State, on the other hand, believes that the importance of marriage and the critical role it plays in our society demands caution before expanding its scope beyond the definition that, until quite recently, “was an accepted truth for almost everyone who ever lived, in any society in which marriage existed.”
He also advised the U.S. Supreme Court to keep its nose out of gay marriage or risk doing "incalculable damage to our civic life in this country." Fortunately, Olens ended up on the wrong side of history when the Court legalized same-sex marriage in 2015.
Olens, though, wasn't quite done with fighting LGBT equality. After losing on gay marriage, he joined with other conservative elected officials in Georgia and threw a fit over transgender students. He joined Deal in blasting new federal guidelines concerning the fair and equal treatment of transgender students. Then he joined several states in suing the federal government over the guidelines.
“The guidance letter is yet another example of the President’s unconstitutional overreach," Olens said in May. "The Constitution gives only Congress the power to write and rewrite laws. Threatening to withhold taxpayer dollars from schools if they don’t comply with this new and legally unsound mandate is unconstitutional. I will continue to defend the Constitution on behalf of Georgians.”
Though he's out as attorney general, his departure opens up a 2018 race he would have likely won for a third term. Who might run now? Anti-gay troll state Sen. Josh McKoon, the public face of "religious freedom" legislation at the State Capitol. Via the AJC:
Any choice Deal makes, of course, would have the 2018 election at the top of his mind. [Rep. B.J.] Pak and Carr are among the many Republican names swirling for a possible AG run then. And so is state Sen. Josh McKoon, the chief proponent of the “religious liberty” bill and a top adversary of Deal in the Legislature.
If the dominoes fall, look for Deal to anoint a replacement that could also serve to block McKoon. After all, as one well-connected Republican told us, “there’s a better chance that Gov. Deal appoints Barack Obama” to the seat than McKoon.
Olens heads to a KSU campus that knows how to throw a good drag show and art exhibit. In May, anti-gay Republican lawmakers ginned up controversy over an AIDS exhibit at KSU’s Zuckerman Museum of Art that included the work of gay artist Robert Sherer.
As attorney general, Olens refused to meet with LGBT activists who wanted to talk about gay marriage. Here's hoping he's more open to gay KSU students.