The sponsor of Georgia's controversial “religious freedom” bill says the measure is dead for this legislative session. That's the second consecutive year that the anti-gay bill has flamed out.
“I do not expect further developments,” Sen. Joshua McKoon, R-Columbus, said in an email about his Senate Bill 129. McKoon says the legislation would prevent government from intruding into religious practice, while opponents claim it would cause discrimination against gays.
The legislation has sparked a battle between anti-gay religious supporters and LGBT and progressive activists. The latest chapter came Tuesday when nearly 200 opponents of McKoon's bill marched to the Capitol.
McKoon – no stranger to political shenanigans to move his legislation forward – blamed political shenanigans on the bill's flop.
McKoon said he thinks his bill became entangled in the passage of the transportation spending bill Tuesday. “I believe Democrats received assurances that if they supported HB 170 that RFRA would be tabled for the year.”
But the bill ignited intense criticism from LGBT activists worried that McKoon's bill would further legalize anti-gay discrimination and gut gay-inclusive non-discrimination ordinances in place in Atlanta and nearly five-dozen other municipalities across the state. Critics – including tourism officials, businesses and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed – also denounced the bill in recent days as a threat to Atlanta's economy and the city's efforts to be inclusive.
McKoon denied that the legislation would open the door to anti-gay discrimination, but he fought attempts to amend his bill to provide LGBT protections. His ties to an anti-gay ministry were also exposed during the legislative dustup. Last week, conservative Republican supporters quickly moved to table the bill after a trio of GOP lawmakers – led by state Rep. Mike Jacobs – successfully amended the bill to add LGBT protections.
On Friday, McKoon lamented about the legislative roadblock but pledged that he would eventually prevail.
“We are going to keep working and at the end of the day, the truth of what Senate Bill 129 is going to do, is going to prevail. We are going to prevail in this debate. It may be this year, it may be next year but we are going to get there,” he said.
The legislative session ends on Thursday and Insider Advantage warned that state Rep. Sam Teasley could try and attach his failed “religious freedom” bill to other legislation in the closing hours of the session.
Last year, McKoon's attempts to attach his bill to another failed and Teasley's bill stalled after a contentious hearing.