Gay marriage trolls in Georgia promise an onslaught of anti-gay legislation if the U.S. Supreme Court legalizes gay marriage, including protections for anti-gay pastors and adoption agencies along with a renewed push for a failed “religious freedom” bill.
Take it from state Sen. Josh McKoon (photo), whose “religious freedom” proposal roiled the State Capitol earlier this year, split Republicans, drew the ire of business leaders and prompted rallies on both sides. His bill – which came a little too close to passing – is just the start, he tells the AJC:
Among the more immediate possibilities conservative lawmakers are considering: legislation to enable some government officials to opt out of gay wedding ceremonies if it violates their faith; another to safeguard faith-based adoption agencies that reject gay couples; and another to enact a “covenant marriage” statute that is harder to dissolve and appeals to the deeply religious.
“I anticipate if the court moves in this direction, we’re going to see a bunch of legislation related to religious liberty and around same-sex marriage,” said state Sen. Josh McKoon, a Columbus Republican who sides with opponents of gay marriage.
A ruling from the high court legalizing gay marriage in Georgia and the other 12 states without marriage equality so concerns anti-gay conservatives that they are no longer trying to mask their motives behind McKoon's “religious freedom” bill. Throughout the legislative debate, McKoon refused to add LGBT protections to his bill yet insisted it wouldn't allow anti-gay discrimination and wasn't a pre-emptive strike at a gay marriage ruling.
That facade has been stripped away.
The proposal’s staunchest supporters are careful to say gay marriage has nothing to do with the push for the law. McKoon, the measure’s sponsor, said about half the states where same-sex marriage is legal also have passed similar legislation. Other backers, though, see them as intrinsically connected.
“They are absolutely intertwined,” said state Sen. Mike Crane, R-Newnan. “Ultimately at the end of the day, the Supreme Court is ruling on what God says is valid or not. And this is very much a question of faith.”
U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, a Cassville Republican, cast religious freedom measures as an “anti-government bullying bill” that in some instances has to do with gay marriage — such as the archetypal baker who refuses to make a cake for a gay wedding.
Georgia Unites Against Discrimination, a coalition led by Georgia Equality to fight the “religious freedom” legislation, also warned that state Rep. Ed. Setzler has “no qualms in underscoring that RFRA is about allowing for discrimination.” The group points supporters to a May 30 interview with the Marietta Daily Journal in which Setzler describes calls to add non-discrimination to McKoon's bill a “red herring.”
“You put a non-discrimination clause in a religious freedom bill, it simply means if someone brings a case against you and claims discrimination, you can’t defend your religious freedom,” Setzler said.
Georgia Unites says Setzler's comments show that the bill, despite McKoon's past pleas, is a gateway drug for anti-gay discrimination.
“And there you have it. From the mouth of a supporter himself, RFRA would not protect against discrimination—because allowing a “license to discriminate” is the true intent of the bill,” the group says in a June 3 alert to supporters.
Anti-gay conservatives are even invoking Roe v. Wade in warning of their response to a Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage. The Faith & Freedom Coalition, the Duluth-based group with mean lady Republican Virginia Galloway, tells the AJC it'll be all shock and awe if gay marriage goes national.
Tim Head, Faith and Freedom Coalition’s executive director, said a constitutional amendment, and state-level pushes for religious freedom bills could be on the group’s agenda. He said he hopes the Supreme Court doesn’t repeat the “mistake it made in Roe v. Wade,” the landmark decision that legalized abortion.
“We continue to believe this issue is best resolved in the political system by state legislators and the people,” he said in a statement. “But if the court over-reaches, the marriage debate will continue for years if not decades, and we will not abandon our support for marriage as the sacred union of a man and a woman.”
Someone needs to tell them it's time to join everyone else getting on board with gay marriage in Georgia.