Columbus, I Want You to Run Against RFRA

This November, all seats in both chambers of the General Assembly in Atlanta are up for election, as they are every two years.

According to The GA Voice:

[Lesbian family law attorney Valerie] Vie is the fifth openly LGBT candidate to make a run for office in 2016.24-year-old queer woman Park Cannon is running to replace former state Rep. Simone Bell in a special election in House District 58 on Jan. 19. [Gay flight attendant and community advocate Rafer] Johnson and minister Josh Noblitt are running in District 62 and District 59, respectively. And Marckeith DeJesus will face off against incumbent state Rep. Mable Thomas in District 56.

If elected, DeJesus, Johnson and/or Noblitt would become the first openly gay men elected to the Georgia legislature. Former Rep. Rashad Taylor came out while in office in 2011, but subsequently lost in 2012 after redistricting pitted him against state Rep. Pat Gardner (an LGBT ally) in House District 57.

Rep. Karla Drenner (D-Avondale Estates) and Rep. Keisha Waites (D-Atlanta) remain the only openly LGBT members of the state legislature and both have reelection campaigns this year.

In Columbus, we have legislators who voted against RFRA: Reps. Debbie Buckner (D-Junction City), Carolyn Hugley (D-Columbus) and Calvin Smyre (D-Columbus), as well as Sen. Ed Harbison (D-Columbus). Write thank you letters to these folks.

However, we have legislators who did not speak against RFRA: Reps. John Pezold (R-Fortson) and Richard Smith (R-Columbus), and especially the author of the legislation Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus).

If that is the case, and RFRA and other legislations are a threat again this year, what should be done?

We need LGBT and allied candidates to run against those who did not speak against RFRA during last session.

This has nothing to do with partisanship, but with ideology. If you’re a Republican who finds fault with RFRA, primary those incumbents who don’t. If you’re a Democrat who wants to get a non-discrimination bill like the Fair Employment Practices Act passed at the state level, pressure your local incumbent to do so. If you’re a Democrat who finds fault with RFRA, don’t be afraid to run in a “safe Republican district” like McKoon’s.

But make sure that your platform is distinct from your opponent. Make sure that it is inclusive of issues which affect the lives of all LGBT people.

That’s how Democrat Taylor Bennett won in Atlanta last year to succeed retiring Republican Mike Jacobs (surprisingly and thankfully, the crucial amender of the RFRA bill in the House Judiciary Committee last year) in House District 80 (Brookhaven): Bennett ran on the issues and his opposition to RFRA.

If you are LGBT or an ally of LGBT people, you have a responsibility to vote for, support, or even stand as a candidate in the upcoming election.

Run against RFRA in Columbus. Show no fear. This is the time. This is the place.

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