Josh McKoon: Bigotry too ‘elastic’ for me to care

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Josh McKoon reminded the gays that it's legal to discriminate against them in Georgia. And since his “religious freedom” bill wouldn't change that, what's all the fuss about?

The Republican sponsor of the controversial legislation offered that insightful nugget during an 18-minute interview with WABE on Monday. He also discussed the resurrection of his tabled bill, how civil rights and discrimination are too “elastic” to be concerned with, and that people of faith shouldn't be “held hostage” by sexual orientation – nevermind LGBT people of faith or religious leaders who support them. 

McKoon was repeatedly pushed by “A Closer Look” hosts Denis O'Hayer and Rose Scott about concerns that his bill would allow for anti-gay discrimination and gut gay-inclusive protections put in place in nearly 60 municipalities across the state.  And what about that Georgia florist who told CNN she won't serve gay couples? McKoon doesn't care – that has nothing to do with bill, he argued. 

“That florist that was interviewed by CNN under current Georgia law may do exactly what she said,” McKoon told WABE. “That is the current state of Georgia law. I'm not saying that's good or bad or indifferent. What I am saying is there is nothing about this bill that impacts the current state of Georgia law as to whether or not we're going to recognize sexual orientation as a protected class. I think that is a fundamentally different debate.”

Besides, who can really define discrimination, McKoon asked. Those five-dozen governments across the state with gay-inclusive non-discrimination policies? Certainly not them, McKoon said.

“The term discrimination or the term civil rights – and those are a couple of the amendments that we had a discussion about – those are very elastic terms. And when we start talking about local governments being able to enact ordinances defining what they consider to be civil rights or anti-discrimination, we have 159 counties in this state. We've got hundreds of municipal governments,” McKoon said.

Trust him, the lawmaker said. Because after all, he knows anti-gay people. In fact, he's worked for them. And his “religious freedom” bill won't help them be more anti-gay than they already are. 

“Under the bill that we have passed, no one will be conferred a so-called right to discriminate. That will not happen under the language that passed the Senate,” he said. 

McKoon is so sure that he's fought – and still fighting – any effort to add language to the bill adding LGBT protections. Too muddy, too elastic, he argued. 

“The language of this bill does not in any way allow for discrimination but adding language that is nowhere in any other state RFRA will introduce a great deal of uncertainty,” he said. 

And really, he's offended that you keep asking about sexual orientation and making it a protected class.

“I don't think that that is the discussion that this bill is supposed to be generating,” McKoon said.

The lawmaker added that he would be “delighted” to have a debate about legislation protecting LGBT Georgians, but no lawmaker has introduced any such proposal. 

“That has not happened yet,” McKoon said.

Except it has. State Rep. Karla Drenner, one of three openly gay Georgia lawmakers, introduced a bill banning discrimination against LGBT state employees – with Republican co-sponsors – and it stalled. Just like it did in 2012. And a delighted McKoon was nowhere to be found and debate.

So McKoon, his sleazy legislative shenanigans and his “religious freedom” bill will return next year. Grab a Coke and get ready. He's promised a resurrection and confirmed again to WABE that the fight is on for 2016.

“Absolutely,” he said.

Listen the full WABE interview.

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