The lesson some Georgia lawmakers learned from North Carolina descending into political chaos this week was this: Move forward with an anti-LGBT law that has cost the Tar Heel state millions of dollars in lost jobs, events and boycotts.
On Wednesday, Republican lawmakers in North Carolina backed out of their promise to repeal House Bill 2 if the Charlotte City Council repealed its own anti-discrimination ordinance. The city did so with votes on Monday and Wednesday.
In return, GOP lawmakers held a special session Wednesday and then failed to repeal HB 2, which forced transgender people to use the bathroom that matched the gender assigned at birth and banned cities in the state from passing anti-discrimination ordinances. The law's reach is wide-ranging.
Nevermind the economic impact North Carolina has suffered since the bill was passed earlier this year. Or that it cost Gov. Pat McCrory his job. Or that Republican lawmakers broke the deal they promised and generated another batch of negative headlines for the state.
State Sen. Josh McKoon (photo), the Georgia lawmaker who has pushed anti-LGBT legislation for three years, said he'll write his own North Caroline-styled legislation for Georgia – or back a similar bill sponsored by a colleague. Via the AJC:
That does not mean, however, that attempts won’t be made to pass a similar bill here in 2017. State Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, a key supporter and sponsor of similar bills in past years, said he has not yet decided whether to introduce his own version or to sign on to a colleague’s bill.
McKoon previously has questioned what has become conventional wisdom about the impact of these types of bills.
The media, McKoon said in September, has sensationalized fallout in North Carolina, including decisions by the National Basketball Association, the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the Atlantic Coast Conference to move marquee events from the state because of its HB 2, which bars transgender people from using public bathrooms for the sex they identify as.
He and others note job gains in Florida, Texas and other states with “religious liberty” statutes in the books.
“I think it’s absurd to suggest anyone is making a multimillion-dollar decision based on Deal vetoing an innocuous piece of legislation,” McKoon said.
The bill Deal vetoed in March – House Bill 757 – was hardly innocuous. And a sweeping anti-LGBT bill similar to the North Carolina law would be in addition to an anti-gay "religious freedom" bill McKoon has already promised will return. McKoon, after all, doesn't care for "aggressive" LGBTs, claims they blackmail him and questions whether LGBT people face discrimination.
LGBT activists took note of the political drama in North Carolina on Wednesday and urged lawmakers in Georgia to avoid it.
"With HB 2 still on the books, state-sanctioned discrimination remains the law of the land," Jeff Graham, who heads up Georgia Unites and Georgia Equality, said in an email blast to supporters. "The economy remains in jeopardy. And the state politics are declining into chaos. The question is: Is the Georgia Legislature listening?
Graham cautioned that HB 2 has cost North Carolina jobs, $600 million in frozen investments and cancelled events, and "irreversible national reputational damage."
"Will Georgia lawmakers heed this lesson? For three years, we’ve had to fight at the Capitol to beat back attempts to codify discrimination into Georgia law. And this year, we very narrowly avoided North Carolina’s fate when Republican Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed anti-LGBT HB 757," Graham said.
"In 2017, our lawmakers have a choice: Drop the anti-LGBT attacks. Or continue to push discriminatory legislation – and put Georgia’s economy on the line," he added.
Graham also urged supporters to tell lawmakers to avoid "making the same mistakes as North Carolina."
LGBT activists are bracing for a legislative fight when lawmakers return to the Gold Dome in January. Atlanta business groups want to avoid anti-LGBT legislation, as does Republican House Speaker David Ralston. But McKoon and other lawmakers are already plotting their anti-LGBT legislative assault. Sen. Fran Millar has called the North Carolina law a principled stand.