“People have a tendency after elections to say, ‘OK great, election season is over, we’re all done. We’re all good. Everything’s great,” said state Rep. Renitta Shannon, one of seven LGBTQ lawmakers in Georgia’s legislature.
“You must stay engaged, because there are many, many, many serious fights that are coming up,” she continued. “People should not underestimate how consistently their right to participate in democracy is being attacked. It is well coordinated, it is consistent, and it is well-funded.”
That thread ran through the most recent episode of Q Conversations (watch below) a virtual event with Project Q Founder Matt Hennie. The session also included LGBTQ advocates Nse Ufot, CEO of civic engagement group New Georgia Project, and Jerry Gonzales, founder and CEO of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials.
The discussion centered around a litany of GOP-led efforts to restrict or restructure access to voting in Georgia. The panelists were unanimous that several bills before the legislature specifically sideline voters based on race and economic inequality.
“We are trying to build infrastructure designed to make sure that people can be treated with dignity, regardless of race, or gender identity and sexual orientation or wealth,” Ufot said. “I try to show up and make sure that [progressive organizations] can get together to defeat the enemies of progress.”
Voter issues are LGBTQ issues
The panel also warned that voting policies aren’t the only ones at risk in the current legislative session. Legislators redraw district maps in 2021, and it’s traditionally a hotbed of partisan politics.
“Yes, Georgia made history, but we can’t sit on our laurels to rest easy that everything’s good,” Gonzales said. “We have to continue to be involved… in the redistricting process to make sure that redistricting happens for our communities rather than for partisan purposes.”
Whether they realize it or not, all LGBTQ voters have a vested interest in legislative outcomes, the panelists said. The result is dangerous social policies that include anti-LGBTQ efforts, they said. The 2021 session already includes at least one anti-transgender bill.
“Republicans understand that the values that they are running on are not popular, so they are insistent on just making sure that less people can vote, that less of the public can actually participate,” Shannon said.
As a member of the House Government Affairs Committee, Shannon oversaw changes that increased voting access, streamlined election processes and defended Georgia from fraud accusations by Rudy Giuliani, an attorney for former President Donald Trump.
But the GOP did an end-run around the Government Affairs committee this session. It created the Special Committee on Election Integrity that stacks 10 GOP lawmakers against only four Democrats, Shannon said.
“Just to understand how insidious this entire thing is, the committees are always stacked three to one,” she said. “So just a handful of Democrats to defend Georgia’s democracy.”
Watch the full Q Conversations episode above. Catch up on past episodes, and click the timestamps below to jump directly into individual topics.