Georgia business groups prepare for RFRA fight

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With a RFRA fight looming, whether gay Atlanta wants it or not, its allies in business are already strategizing on how best to defeat the anti-gay proposal or choke it down with as little reflux as possible.

The legislation from state Sen. Josh McKoon, twice defeated, is coming back for a third round in January when lawmakers return to the Gold Dome. Business groups are gearing up for the fight no doubt in some part to combat McKoon, who in August blasted businesses and LGBT groups who opposed his proposal.

So the Atlanta business groups are quietly meeting their counterparts in Indiana to try and avoid the sort of national embarrassment – and hit to the economic wallet – that the state experienced earlier this year when it passed a RFRA. And they heard a stark warning, according to the AJC:

Thus only beginneth the lesson, Indianans told Georgia business types. Katie Kirkpatrick, the chief policy officer for the Metro Atlanta Chamber, said Indiana lecturers made three points.

“The economic consequences are real. Social media is a game-changer. And that this issue negatively affects talent recruitment and retention,” Kirkpatrick said.

In the seven days following passage of the Indiana religious liberty bill, capped by Pence’s TV appearance, Indianapolis Chamber officials counted 800 million “negative Twitter impressions,” Kirkpatrick said. More than half used the rallying hashtag “#boycottindiana.”

“Our intent right now is that we can look and learn from Indiana, and the possible consequences that we may face — to ensure that we get this right for Georgia,” Kirkpatrick said.

Economic blowback weighs heavy on the business groups, the AJC reports.

Chris Clark, the president and CEO of the Georgia Chamber, spoke of the price tag. “In Indiana, they quantified $1.5 billion of negative economic impact since the bill was signed,” Clark said. “They think it might be another year or two before they get a full picture because of other lost opportunities that they didn’t even know they were in the running for — primarily in the convention business.”

Earlier this year, both business groups supported adding LGBT protections to McKoon's bill. He resisted and when the protections were added, anti-gay lawmakers shelved their own bill.

McKoon's pet project is likely to gain attention from anti-gay presidential aspirants, too. He's got a growing bromance with Ted Cruz, who along with other GOP contenders is making “religious freedom” a rallying cry ahead of the SEC presidential primary on March 1. That includes Georgia and other Southern states.

McKoon is ready to bask in the attention. Via the AJC:

As a conversation piece for visiting GOP presidential candidates, SB 129 may be irresistible — and as far as McKoon is concerned, desirable. “Anything that gets this issue more attention helps move the bill forward,” he said.

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