Rep. Earl Ehrhart – a Georgia lawmaker who has mocked LGBT people for years – invoked the story of a gay college student to help him pass a campus rape bill on Wednesday just months after he labeled some LGBT students a “hate group.”
The Cobb lawmaker isn't afraid to be audacious or insulting. Just last week he mocked transgender students from the floor of the state House and has in the past called LGBT people “pansies” and labeled the work of a gay artist “sickening.”
In October, Ehrhart trolled LGBT students at Kennesaw State University and called them a “bigoted intolerant hate group” after they criticized the selection of former Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens as KSU's new president.
But that didn't stop Ehrhart from leaning on the story of a gay Georgia Tech student on Wednesday as he fought for House Bill 51. Ehrhart's controversial legislation restricts the ability of public colleges to investigate and punish campus rapes.
From the floor, Ehrhart told how the story of a gay student tugged at the lawmaker's heartstrings and helped convince him to sponsor HB 51. Using the plight of a gay man for sympathy and to curry political favor is a big change from Ehrhart's usual condemnation of anything LGBT.
“There was a young man at Georgia Tech, a very soft-spoken young man. He … it seemed he and his boyfriend had a falling out and he was accused of a sexual assault, this young man,” Ehrhart said.
“He went through the process at Georgia Tech, if you could call it that, and I'll get to a little bit of that at the time. Things have changed there, I will say that,” he added.
Then Ehrhart refocused and leaned in for the political score.
“But what he said in that story and the premise of the story was how unjust it was. But what he said that got my heart was he said regardless, this is not how I wanted my mom to find out I was gay. And I thought how cruel. Regardless of how you feel about an issue or a young person, how could you do that in a single investigator campus administrative proceeding. That's just not right,” Ehrhart said.
Ehrhart's concern for a college student outed to his family was hardly sincere. He's the longest serving Republican in the Georgia House and his anti-LGBT record is just as lengthy. Here's a rundown.
Ehrhart's antics on Wednesday were noticed – and quickly panned – on Twitter.
Erharts cites example where a gay man was outed as a result of campus rape accusation. Only time Rs care about gays is when useful. #gapol
— Kip (@UrbaneDoge) March 1, 2017
— Renitta Shannon (@RenittaShannon) March 1, 2017
Ehrhart's appeal to LGBT people didn't impress Reps. Park Cannon, Karla Drenner, Sam Park and Keisha Waites. The four LGBT lawmakers, all Democrats, voted no. The legislation passed anyway, 115-55, and moves to the Senate.
Regina Willis contributed to this report.