Sen. Josh McKoon made another push for "religious freedom" legislation, invoking the Super Bowl, dismissing the concerns of critics as "empty threats" and humbly describing a sweeping anti-LGBT bill as "modest."
Just another day of "alternative facts" for the Republican lawmaker and public face of anti-LGBT "religious freedom" legislation in Georgia.
McKoon's pitch came Tuesday from the Senate floor, at least the third time during the legislative session that he's tried to make the case for the bill. He's leaned on Nabila Khan, a Georgia State student, and anti-LGBT pastor Eric Walsh in recent speeches to bolster his arguments.
On Tuesday, McKoon took aim at the Super Bowl and critics who have said his anti-LGBT legislation could imperil the big game being held in Atlanta in 2019. He pointed to Houston, which hosted the Super Bowl on Sunday – 14 months after voters there rejected the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance.
Supporters of HERO said repealing the ordinance could cost the city its Super Bowl bid. McKoon said that undermines his opponents in Georgia who have argued his legislation would prompt the NFL to pull the game fom Atlanta.
"The City of Houston, the voters in the City of Houston voted 61 percent to 39 percent to repeal a local ordinance making LGBT status a protected class within the City of Houston. The day after that occurred, and actually all through the campaign up until that point, people said, 'You know if you do this you are going to lose the Super Bowl. You know if you do this you are going to lose all kinds of economic activity," McKoon said.
"And yet the voters in the City of Houston rejected those threats and chose to pass a repeal of that ordinance by an almost two-to-one basis. And yet about 14 months later, last Sunday the Super Bowl was still played in Houston, Texas," he added.
Then McKoon compared Houston's ordinance to the anti-LGBT bill that Georgia lawmakers passed – and Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed – last year.
"Now we heard last year when we passed a modest religious freedom bill that would not have impacted any such ordinance in the City of Atlanta or elsewhere in our state that it would unleash economic armageddon," McKoon said.
He then closed with this.
"I just hope we'll take note of what happened this past Sunday, that these empty threats are just that. And while we go full speed ahead on repealing the last vestiges of the Sunday laws, while we go full speed ahead hurdling towards legalization of gambling in this state that perhaps we could spend a little time, a little energy on protecting the basic, fundamental human freedom of the right of free exercise."
Yet McKoon, who bends facts to fit his "religious freedom" arguments, did so again Tuesday by misrepresenting the Houston ordinance, the impact of his legislation and the arguments of opponents to it. Here's how:
The Houston Equal Rights Ordinance was a progressive measure that not only protected LGBT people from discrimination but some 15 other groups of people, including veterans and pregnant women. The measure, approved by the City Council in 2014, also protected transgender people in restrooms, a piece of the ordinance that opponents misrepresented to help defeat it – similar to how opponents helped push for the passage of the anti-LGBT House Bill 2 in North Carolina.
The "modest" legislation that passed in Georgia was hardly that. It would have codified discrimination against LGBT people and others, and could have gutted LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination policies in Atlanta and other municipalities across the state. Unlike the Houston measure – which proactively protected 16 classes of people – McKoon's legislation regressively targeted LGBT people and others for discrimination. McKoon has over the years repeatedly refused to include LGBT protections in his legislation.
So voters rejecting an LGBT-inclusive ordinance in Houston isn't comparable to Georgia lawmakers passing an anti-LGBT law. A better comparison for McKoon's legislation is House Bill 2 in North Carolina. And that measure, which targeted LGBT people, led the NBA to pull its All-Star Game later this month from Charlotte and move it to New Orleans. So the threats aren't all that "empty."
Not that McKoon really cares about the Super Bowl or its economic impact on Atlanta. In 2005, he said passing a "religious freedom" law would be worth losing the Super Bowl.
McKoon has also questioned if anti-gay discrimination is really a thing and claimed that "aggressive" LGBT people were blackmailing him over the "religious freedom" legislation. He has bristled at being labeled "anti-gay," despite this collection of anti-LGBT accomplishments.