Candidate Kemp’s Bizarre Stances on Civil Rights, Economics

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp is known for his unconventional approach to federal and state law. The Republican gubernatorial nominee for Georgia, Kemp has yet to recuse himself from his duties as Secretary of State. As the top voting official, Kemp would oversee the very election he is hoping to win. Kemp is currently running against Stacey Abrams, the Democratic nominee.

Now it seems that Kemp is bringing his signature controversial flair to his interpretation of human rights — specifically laws which effect the dignity of LGBTQ Georgians.

In a series of words lobbed in the direction of the Roswell Rotary Club, Kemp, a Trump endorsee, told the club that if he is elected governor, he would sign any “religious freedom and restoration bill” put on his desk.

Current Governor Nathan Deal was sent two such bills during his time in office. He vetoed them both. According to a 2017 Atlanta Journal-Constitution article, Deal said: “I didn’t want there to be any confusion about where I stand on the RFRA bill. I have no desire or appetite to entertain that legislation.” Deal added that such bills were not something that was part of his agenda, and “something [he does not] view as being beneficial to the state.”

Kemp, who aired campaign ads with him pointing a gun at a gentleman who portrayed a potential suitor to one of his daughters, said that he would support any bill which backed “religious freedom” under the United States Constitution. quoted Kemp: “I don’t know what other provisions that may have been in [the bills Deal vetoed]. But I would support a bill that is in line with federal law. It would be simply codifying what is already in the Constitution.”

Among other rights enumerated in the Constitution, the phrase “promote the general welfare” is included in the Preamble. Although it is widely accepted that LGBTQ Americans are included in the People portion of “We the People,” it is unknown if the Secretary of State had a Constitution in front of him at the time he made that Deal-opposing statement.

The Georgia Republican Party decided to broadly endorse such a bill in August, but did not require its candidates to support such legislation. It was a curious lapse in a movement which has proclaimed its concern for religious freedom in recent years.

However, the GOP may have been made aware of the ramifications of such support from the significant corporate community in Atlanta. The businesses of Atlanta have traditionally frowned upon discriminatory legislation being codified in law. This influence was widely credited with pushing Deal to veto the religious bills during his time in office.

It is generally agreed that business interests play a significant role in the conservative politics of Georgia, among other states. Furthermore, Georgia’s generous tax cuts on film, television, and digital entertainment make it a prime spot for the industry — one that yields an economic footprint estimated at $9.5 billion in 2017.

A Louisiana example may be instructive: Until Louisiana passed a “religious freedom” bill, the state ranked second in filming, behind California. The passage of the bill became Georgia’s windfall — the LGBTQ community and the entertainment world have been known to overlap, and until our state officials enact anti-LGBTQ legislation, the “Hollywood of the South” appears without risk of losing its moniker.

Kemp did not offer an argument in favor of giving up this income. The economic impact of Kemp, or of any possible “religious freedom” businesses, were not offered as remedies by the Secretary of State. Nor has the Kemp campaign offered any economic ideas to offset the expected loss of 25,000 entertainment jobs, should a “religious freedom” bill be signed by a theoretical Governor Kemp. Additionally, Kemp, who opposes Medicaid expansion, did not offer an argument for Georgia surrendering the future Super Bowl, the future Final Four, and a possible College Football Championship, if a proposed “Kemp Bill” goes through.