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Is Antigay Georgia Candidate Cruising Grindr for Votes?

Brian Kemp

Brian Kemp, the less than gay-friendly Republican nominee for governor of Georgia, is reportedly using Grindr to drum up votes.

A news tip came to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The Advocate that an ad for Kemp’s campaign turned up on Grindr, a dating and hookup mobile app for gay, bisexual, and transgender men. It surprised the Grindr user because Kemp, who is currently Georgia’s secretary of state, has expressed support for Georgia’s version of a Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which would allow individuals and faith-based organizations to discriminate against LGBTQ people and others who offend their religious beliefs about marriage and sexuality. Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican who is leaving office due to term limits, vetoed such legislation in 2016.

Kemp’s campaign declined comment on the matter when a Journal-Constitution reporter reached out, but an adviser told the paper the ad could have turned up on Grindr because the user had visited Kemp’s website previously. Tracking technology makes it possible for advertisers to target internet users as they go from one site to another. The Advocate has sought comment from Grindr on whether the ad appeared for this reason or Kemp’s campaign had actually bought advertising on the platform, but has yet to receive a response.

The ad in question attacked Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams for her position on sex offenders and sex trafficking. She has been subject to several attacks on these issues. As a state representative, she voted no a decade ago on a measure that barred those offenders from living within a certain distance of public libraries. A Georgia Republican Party ad asserted she wanted to allow sex offenders to live near schools and child care facilities, an issue that was not in the bill she voted on, leading both Abrams and independent fact-checkers to call the claim false. The Republicans have also assailed her for failing to vote on a 2017 measure providing for prosecution of those who patronize sex trafficking victims; she has said she did not support the bill because it limited judges' discretion.

The Georgia Democratic Party had strong words regarding the juxtaposition of Grindr and Kemp’s anti-LGBTQ stances. “Instead of cruising for votes on Grindr, Brian Kemp should stand up for LGBTQ Georgians and promote a strong economy by committing to veto RFRA — just as Nathan Deal did,” Democratic Party of Georgia spokesman Seth Bringman said in a press release.

The party also noted that Vice President Mike Pence, who signed a discriminatory RFRA (later amended) into law as governor of Indiana in 2015, will be a guest at a Kemp fundraising event Thursday, which is also National Coming Out Day and the eve of Atlanta Pride.

“Kemp should use this occasion to reject RFRA, which major Georgia employers have warned would kill jobs and send conventions, tourism, and film industry dollars to other states,” the release said. Concerns about this type of economic backlash influenced Deal’s veto of the legislation and the amending of Indiana’s RFRA.

There is at least one LGBTQ group that supports Kemp, even with his RFRA position, and that’s the Log Cabin Republicans’ Georgia chapter. It had never endorsed a gubernatorial candidate before, but this year it endorsed Kemp over Abrams, who happens to be the first black woman to receive a major party’s nomination for governor in any state. In endorsing Kemp, the Log Cabin chapter denounced Abrams as a candidate “supported by out-of-state liberals and socialists.”

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