I am a big fan of Sen. Josh McKoon, the rabidly anti-gay Georgia Republican legislator who sponsored a failed “religious liberty” bill last spring. Like most conservatives, McKoon initially peddled the laughable line that his bill wasn’t intended to undercut LGBT rights. But when a moderate Republican called his bluff, proposing a simple amendment to clarify that the bill did not legalize discrimination, McKoon let the façade drop. “That amendment,” he fumed, “would completely undercut the purpose of the bill.” With those words, McKoon finally admitted what so many would not: The whole point of “religious liberty” bills is to nullify LGBT nondiscrimination measures.
Since then, the Georgia GOP has split wide open over McKoon’s bill. Religious conservatives in the party vehemently support it; business-minded moderates, who fear an Indiana-style backlash, vigorously oppose it. (The latter camp was, until recently, led by Jewish Rep. Mike Jacobs and supported by the Anti-Defamation League, which has led to some disturbing dog whistles.*) Now McKoon is lining up his soldiers for the next charge—and, in doing so, dropping all pretexts about the true intentions of his bill. In a remarkable speech, McKoon pilloried companies like Delta, Coca-Cola, and Home Depot, which are headquartered in Georgia and spoke out against the bill. These companies, McKoon claimed, are the main roadblock to the bill’s passage: