Remember those bright and sunny days when marriage equality became the law of the land and Georgia leaders like Gov. Nathan Deal and Attorney General Sam Olens were keeping the state out of any fight against the ruling? Well, clouds are moving in.
Everyone, meet Greg Kirk. Greg Kirk, everyone.
The Republican state senator out of Americus has officially become the face of Georgia’s opposition to same-sex marriage, as the AJC reports that the former Southern Baptist pastor plans on introducing legislation that would protect businesses and public employees who object to gay marriage on religious grounds.
The legislation has yet to be filed with the clerk of the Senate. Reached by phone in Americus, Senator Kirk said his measure was still being tweaked, but he confirmed that one aim would be to protect local and state employees with religious objections to gay marriage.
The bill is basically a state version of First Amendment Defense Act, a proposed federal measure that was introduced in June by Republican Senators Mike Lee of Utah and Paul Labrador of Idaho. Local LGBT leaders are obviously not amused.
“That sounds like it would be legislation specifically designed to target the LGBT community,” said Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality. “That would be of great concern to me.”
And Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who’s been throwing red meat to evangelicals by touting his opposition to same-sex marriage in recent fundraising efforts in the run-up to his bid for governor in 2018, appears to be on board with it.
“We have received a copy of this legislation and are currently reviewing it in preparation for the upcoming session,” said Irene Munn, the top policy aide for Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle. “Any legislation seeking to protect First Amendment freedoms deserves careful consideration and thoughtful debate. The lieutenant governor will work, in his role as presiding officer, to ensure that occurs.”
This all comes as the March 1 Republican presidential primary approaches, smack dab in the middle of the next legislative session. In other words, expect comment from Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and the others on this and other so-called “religious freedom” legislation as they stump across the state in the coming months.
Stay tuned for more from Georgia Voice on Kirk, his bill and other legislation affecting Georgia’s LGBT community as the next legislative session approaches on Jan. 11.