Republicans censure Nathan Deal over Georgia anti-gay ‘religious freedom’ bill veto

Conservative Republicans are still smarting about Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal’s veto of House Bill 757, the controversial anti-LGBT so-called “religious freedom” bill passed by both chambers of the state legislature. And they showed it as they censured Deal at one of the district conventions held over the weekend to select delegates to this July’s Republican National Convention.

The Third District, which covers parts of west Georgia and is represented by U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, made the move per the AJC:

Though it is purely symbolic, it’s a startling sign of the conservative backlash to Deal’s decision to reject the legislation – and another reminder that the debate over the measure never really ended.

Georgia's Third Congressional District (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)
Georgia’s Third Congressional District (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

But one key figure in the debate over so-called “religious freedom” bills the past three years spoke out against the move:

Just as surprising, though, was the conservative politician who spoke in Deal’s favor at the meeting. State Sen. Josh McKoon is an outspoken supporter of the legislation – and a constant thorn in the side of Deal and other GOP leaders. But the Columbus Republican urged his fellow west Georgia partisans to oppose the censure.

“I said that it was not constructive for the GOP to lash out at the governor, and that if we want to pass conservatives initiatives next year, we need to make a positive case for their adoption,” he said after the vote.

It was perhaps an olive branch from McKoon, who was at odds with Deal, House Speaker David Ralston and others throughout this year’s session and paid a steep price for it. $8 million in funding in McKoon’s district was pulled on the next-to-last day of the session, and state Rep. Richard Smith went on record as to why, per the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer:

Smith outlined two high-level meetings in which he was told that McKoon’s behavior was an issue and it was going to cost the Columbus region state funding.

And where did word come down from?

“The governor and his chief of staff made it clear they were not giving any money and the reason was Sen. McKoon,” Smith said.

The censure of Deal passed overwhelmingly despite McKoon’s objections.