State Sen. Josh McKoon (File photo)

Georgia GOP elects openly gay party leader, endorses ‘religious freedom’ bill

So that happened. On the same day that Georgia Republicans endorsed a so-called “religious freedom” bill without an anti-discrimination clause, they also elected an openly gay man to their leadership team for the first time.

It all went down over the weekend at the party’s statewide convention, held May 15-16 in Athens. Endorsement of the bill wasn’t unexpected, considering 11 of 14 GOP district conventions passed resolutions last month calling for passage of the bill without anti-discrimination language.

But the election of openly gay tax attorney Mansell McCord as state treasurer of the GOP was, considering the tone and tenor of the debate surrounding the bill and the party’s record on LGBT issues.

Even more surprising was who nominated McCord—none other than state Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus), author of SB 129, the “religious freedom” bill that failed in this year’s legislative session.

“You need a man of unimpeachable integrity. You need someone who understands the complexity of campaign finance law,” McKoon told delegates according to the AJC. “And you need someone who has been dedicated to the conservative movement for decades.”

It’s true, McCord is no slouch when it comes to Republican party politics in Georgia. He’s a longtime GOP activist, has served as the executive director of Republican Leadership for Georgia for the past six years and is former chairman of the Georgia Log Cabin Republicans.

But it’s unclear if many of the 770 delegates who voted for McCord even realized they were electing a gay man, with many reportedly assuming that Debbie McCord, who was on the ballot and was elected second vice-chairman, was Mr. McCord’s wife.

State Rep. Sam Teasley (R-Marietta), who sponsored another “religious freedom” bill that died in the legislature this year, knew McCord was gay and supported his nomination.

“He’s committed to conservative principles. He’s very capable at doing the work, and he’s got strong character. He’s a good friend,” Teasley told the AJC.

But perhaps the most telling reaction to McCord’s election was that of Virginia Galloway, spokesperson for the Faith and Freedom Coalition.

“The state party has spoken. I’m good with that,” she told the AJC. “The great thing about [McCord] is that he doesn’t make a big deal of it.”