The Georgia lawmaker who sponsors anti-LGBT "religious freedom" bills promises to wage the battle again next year, arguing that “people of faith have been under assault,” while denying that LGBT people face discrimination.
State Sen. Josh McKoon, a Republican from Columbus that has backed the bill for the last three legislative sessions, said he'll do so again in 2017. And in a 22-minute video about the legislation for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, McKoon called the LGBT community "aggressive" for apparently standing up for their civil and human rights.
“We need to acknowledge that while the narrative they [LGBT opponents] were pushing was a false narrative, that they were very aggressive in pushing that,” McKoon says in the video. “They were present at the Capitol, they were making their voice heard, they were very much influencing the Governor’s office.”
Earlier this year, McKoon also complained that LGBT activists were blackmailing him to quash his anti-gay bill.
Yet it's the same Capitol that hosts a pastor to open each legislative day – like the one that called homosexuality an "abomination" earlier this year – and the same place where Georgia Baptists have waged "war" on LGBT issues and where anti-LGBT televangelist Franklin Graham attacked transgender people and snuck Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle onto his tour bus for a chat.
Despite the significant and vocal presence of conservative Christians – and the frequency with which homophobic and transphobic remarks are made under the Gold Dome – it’s the very presence of LGBT people that seem to make them “aggressive” in McKoon’s eyes.
McKoon also implores supporters of "religious freedom" legislation to “communicate with the Governor directly” to prevent another veto like the one Gov. Nathan Deal issued that tanked House Bill 757 in March. That measure attempted to extend “protections” to multiple groups that might come into contact with LGBT people, allowing them to deny services to LGBT people.
McKoon argues that those "aggressive" LGBT activists and their supporters convinced Deal to veto the legislation with their false arguments about it.
"One of the false narratives that’s been out there about this legislation is that it is going to injure Georgia’s reputation for a being a good place to come and do business," McKoon says.
Nevermind that Georgia saw the beginnings of economic blowback when the legislation passed, that Indiana experienced economic backlash to its RFRA when Gov. Mike Pence, now the Vice President-elect, signed it into law in 2015, and that Gov. Pat McCrory lost his re-election bid in North Carolina last month after signing into law the transphobic and anti-LGBT House Bill 2.
Some top Republicans in Georgia have taken note of McCrory's defeat. McKoon, however, rages on.
“Georgia historically has not been a place where people of faith have been under assault,” McKoon says. “But what we’ve seen in the most recent years – and every year it seems to get worse – is that there is a more aggressive push from secular humanist, militant atheist groups to push people of faith out of the public square.”
McKoon goes on to claim that the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act has never been used to successfully discriminate against LGBT people. He offered to “make a donation to the charity of your choice,” to any religious freedom opponents that can identity, “a single instance where Religious Freedom Restoration Act laws have been used to enable discrimination.”
McKoon might need to get his checkbook ready. In August, a federal court dismissed the case of Aimee Australia Stephens, a transgender woman in Detroit, who sued her funeral home employer after announcing her sex reassignment surgery. R.G. &. G.R. Harris Funeral Homes cited the federal RFRA law in its defense and the judge concurred that the law protected the business. Via the Washington Post:
“Requiring the Funeral Home to provide a skirt to and/or allow an employee born a biological male to wear a skirt at work would impose a substantial burden on the ability of Rost [the owner of the funeral home] to conduct his business in accordance with his sincerely-held religious beliefs.”
McKoon, in the video, explains that RFRA “is an anti-discrimination bill, it prevents the government from discriminating against people of faith.” Nevermind that McKoon fights every attempt to include protections in his legislation to ensure that LGBT don't face discrimination under it.
As McKoon notes, school boards, county commissions, and agencies of the state government would all be impacted by a state-level "religious freedom" law. Given how school systems in Georgia are treating transgender students, providing them more latitude to justify anti-LGBT policies for the sake of "protecting" Christians is disturbing.