Hopes dashed for bullying bill at the General Assembly

Crossover Day, the thirtieth day of the 40-day state legislative session, is traditionally a marathon event at the Georgia General Assembly. It is the last day that bills can cross from one chamber to the other, meaning bills that aren’t approved by either the House or the Senate by the end of the day are essentially done for the year.

But while lawmakers met until nearly midnight on March 26, their efforts to push through pet legislation were overshadowed by news of the death of former state Sen. Nancy Schaefer, an outspoken opponent of LGBT rights.

State Rep. Rick Austin (R-Demorest) confirmed from the well at the General Assembly at about 7:30 p.m. on Crossover Day that Schaefer and her husband had died, but did not offer any details.

Officials with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation have since said that Schaefer was killed by her husband, Bruce, who then shot himself in a murder-suicide at the couple’s Habersham County home.

Nancy Schaefer (Photo via Eagle Forum)

A Republican, Schaefer served two terms in the Georgia Senate representing District 50. She won election in 2004 and lost her seat in 2008.

In 2005, she struck out at gay families in a column in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“To ban children being adopted by same-sex couples is solid policy,” Schaefer stated in the column, although an expected legislative fight to ban gay parenting never materialized.

Schaefer also sponsored legislation to require parental notification for students to join school clubs. The measure was introduced in the wake of controversy over a Gay-Straight Alliance at White County High School that led to a federal lawsuit.

Rep. Karla Drenner (D-Avondale Estates), Georgia’s first openly gay state lawmaker, served in the General Assembly with Schaefer and remembered her as a fierce critic of gay issues.

“Nancy Schaefer was our staunchest opponent,” Drenner said in an interview at the Gold Dome. “She was against us on every single issue out there, from gay-straight alliances in schools to same-sex marriage to same-sex adoption. I think she was probably opposed to the fact that we could even breathe air.”

Drenner  said the two lawmakers occasionally crossed paths, but never exchanged words.

“I was in meetings where she was and she walked the other way when I walked in the room. Same way with being in the elevator, if I was in the elevator and she saw me she would never get in,” Drenner said. “I must have made her a little uncomfortable.”

Schaefer’s work against lesbian and gay issues began well before her legislative career. Schaefer founded Family Concerns, an arch-conservative lobbying group, in the late 1980s. She was also a leader in the Southern Baptist Convention, and for years was considered a prime opponent of Atlanta gay rights activists.

Before winning a seat in the Georgia Senate, she ran failed campaigns for Atlanta mayor, lieutenant governor and governor.

Bullying bill stalls out

Despite building momentum and bipartisan support for a bill to increase anti-bullying regulations in Georgia’s schools, Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-Atlanta) was unable to get his bullying bill to the House floor for a vote.

“I’m frustrated,” Jacobs said minutes before the day was gaveled to a close. “I’m angry and frustrated.”

The bill was supported by Georgia Equality, a statewide LGBT political group. Barring any unforeseen maneuvers to tack the legislation onto another bill, it is likely defeated for the year.

— Laura Douglas-Brown contributed