Georgia’s 2017 legislative session is less than a week away, and already one rogue lawmaker is angling to make passing a “license to discriminate” his top priority.
State Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, has spent the last three years promoting legislation that would write discrimination into Georgia’s laws. He was a strong backer of HB 757 and sponsored similar legislation in the Senate that would have allowed individuals to claim religious exemptions to lawfully discriminate against gay and transgender Georgians.
Early on, leaders in the business community—including the Metro Atlanta Chamber and the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau—predicted a bill like HB 757 could cost Georgia up to $2 billion. Now, since watching North Carolina’s economy grind to a shuddering halt after lawmakers passed HB 2 (one of the most discriminatory laws in the country), we know for certain that anti-LGBT legislation like HB 757 has dire economic consequences.
But that hasn’t stopped Sen. McKoon, who is spoiling for a fourth year legislative fight in efforts to advance discrimination in the state of Georgia. He began floating the idea of again introducing an anti-LGBT bill almost as soon as the ink was dry on Governor Nathan Deal’s veto of HB 757. In an interview he gave with WSB-TV in May, Sen. McKoon indicated that not only did he want to introduce an anti-LGBT so-called “religious liberty” bill in 2017—he also wanted to promote North Carolina-style legislation specifically targeting transgender Georgians for discrimination by denying them access to bathrooms.
To date, North Carolina’s House Bill 2 has cost the state $600 million in revenue from lost tourism and investment opportunities, and it has pushed the state into nationwide notoriety. This is why several of Georgia’s LGBT lawmakers are already warning against attempting to pass similar legislation in the Peach State, warnings that Georgia lawmakers on both sides of the aisle appear prepared to listen to—except for Sen. McKoon.
Sen. McKoon’s GOP colleagues have already signaled they’re not taking up his fight—and rightly so—even going so far as to punish Senator McKoon for his continued insistence. After Sen. McKoon recently reiterated his desire to introduce another “religious liberty” bill in 2017, the Senate Republican Caucus moved to combine the body’s two judiciary committees. This would boot Sen. McKoon out of his chairmanship—a position he used in 2015 to advance Senate Bill 129, a bill that was nearly identical to the disastrous HB 757.
Sen. McKoon is ready to risk Georgia’s economy and its national reputation over an issue that has been rejected strongly multiple times by lawmakers and by the public. At this point, he’s merely representative of a small fringe group of lawmakers who want nothing more than to write LGBT discrimination into our state’s laws, no matter the cost to Georgia’s citizens and businesses.
The fight to pass legislation that discriminates against LGBT Georgians is bound to fail, as it has again and again. But in the meantime it could do serious damage. Our elected leaders are doing to right thing by nipping this last-ditch effort by a few fringe lawmakers in the bud while there’s still time.
Instead, Georgia’s lawmakers should focus on passing proactive, comprehensive bills that protect LGBT Georgians from discrimination. Help us push them to action by joining our coalition and signing the pledge to support LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination protections.SHARE THIS STORY