Georgia's religious conservatives, well practiced in spewing their venom at the gays, found themselves in an awkward dilemma on Thursday: Criticizing a fellow Republican who helped table an anti-gay measure after his attempt to make it less anti-gay failed.
So now they are rallying the troops, calling Sen. Bill Cowsert (photo) a gay-loving Democrat in disguise and searching for a head to put on their religious platter. In a moment of clarity on Thursday, Cowsert offered an amendment to undercut LGBT and progressive critics of a “religious freedom” bill by spelling out that it wouldn't allow discrimination. Cowsert also happens to be the Senate Majority Leader, one of the most powerful Republicans at the Gold Dome.
His amendment didn't gain support from two-thirds of the Judiciary Committee, so it failed. Cowsert then seconded a motion from LGBT advocate Sen. Vincent Fort to table the bill. That passed. Which in turn infuriated sponsor Sen. Josh McKoon, the Republican who also chairs the Judiciary Committee and presided over the hour-long hearing on Thursday.
“I’m certainly disappointed people that are in the same political party would vote to stop legislation that people in the Republican Party clearly want us to move forward on,” McKoon said afterward, acknowledging that he expected neither the amendment nor the rebellion. “It’s disappointing.”
Religious supporters of the bill, including Tanya Ditty of the Concerned Women for America and Mike Griffin of the Georgia Baptist Association, chided committee members after they tabled the bill. Then they went about rallying their troops to target Cowsert.
Ga Republicans should be concerned when there are Sen Republicans who support Sen Vincent Fort's motion to table a Religious Liberty bill.
— Michael R. Griffin (@mikegriffinsr) February 20, 2015
Their cause was supported by Erick Erickson, the WSB pundit who likens Atlanta's gay mafia to terrorists. Early Friday, he called Cowsert a political trickster and urged readers to lobby Cowsert and pull him back from the ledge.
Unfortunately, the Republican Senate Majority Leader, Bill Cowsert, joined Democrats yesterday to table the legislation in committee. According to two sources, Cowsert offered a poison pill amendment. Essentially, Cowsert embraced leftwing activists’ arguments that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act sanctions child abuse and discrimination and sought then to undermine the law.
Meanwhile, Georgia Democratic Party Chair DuBose Porter couldn't help but sit back and enjoy the intra-party squabble among Republicans.
“It’s interesting that all these ‘strict constructionists’ and ‘small government’ Republicans love to create unfounded controversy to put more legislation on the books. These legislators have 40 days where they can come together and do things that have a positive impact on the lives of Georgians. And most folks I talk to are more concerned with different moral tenets that are shared by the major religions—being good stewards of the planet, feeding the hungry, and providing health care for the sick.
“Hopefully, this move by the Senate Judiciary Committee is the death knell for legislation that is essentially a license to discriminate. Georgia Democrats are fine by adhering to the Great Commandment—love thy neighbor.”