The Log Cabin Republicans' Georgia chapter has endorsed Republican Brian Kemp for governor even though he supports anti-LGBT "religious freedom" legislation.
Kemp, currently secretary of state in Georgia, won the gubernatorial nomination in a runoff last Tuesday, and he then reiterated his support for a Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
"My position on RFRA is not going to change. I'm not going to change," Kemp, who is also endorsed by Donald Trump, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution last week. "It's the same thing that Gov. [Nathan] Deal voted for in Congress. It's the commonsense thing to do, and I will do that as governor. And I'll be glad to sit down with any business entity in the state and talk them through that."
However, when Deal, as a congressman, supported the federal RFRA in 1993, such legislation was not being used as a weapon against LGBT people. It mandated that the government show a compelling interest if it takes any actions limiting religious liberty, and use the least restrictive means of doing so. It and similar state laws were originally intended to make sure the government didn't interfere with private religious practices, such as Native Americans' use of hallucinogenic drugs in religious ceremonies or the Amish's prohibition on certain types of technology.
Only recently have such laws been proposed as a way for business owners or public employees to refuse service to those who pose a conflict with their religious beliefs -- say, a same-sex couple ordering a cake or flowers for their wedding. Indeed, Deal, a Republican, in 2016 vetoed a "religious freedom" bill that would have prohibited the government from taking any punitive action against an individual or faith-based organization that speaks or behaves according to a sincerely held "religious or moral conviction" that marriage should only take place between two people of the opposite sex, or that sexual relations should be limited to such a marriage.
Opponents of the legislation feared it would have a negative impact on Georgia's business climate, and those fears are emerging again now, especially as Georgia is a finalist for Amazon's second headquarters.
The Georgia Log Cabin Republicans quickly endorsed Kemp after he won the GOP nomination (Deal is prevented by term limits from running again). This is the first time in its 23-year history that the Georgia Log Cabin chapter has endorsed a candidate for governor, Project Q Atlanta reports.
"We offer him our full endorsement and look forward to working hard to help him win in November against radical liberal Stacey Abrams," said a press release from the group. Abrams, a Democrat and former state legislator, is the first black woman to win a major party's gubernatorial nomination and the first woman of any race to do so in Georgia. Abrams is opposed to the Georgia RFRA and is a strong LGBT rights supporter.
When Project Q Atlanta asked the Georgia Log Cabin group about Kemp's stance on the RFRA, it did not address the issue but released the following statement from spokesman Cameron Mason: "Georgia Log Cabin Republicans endorsed Brian Kemp because our organization is based on Republican principles, and Brian Kemp represents many of those principles. He is a small business owner who wants to put Georgians first and not pit them against each other. Kemp will continue the amazing legacy of Gov. Deal by creating jobs and making Georgia a great place to start businesses.
"Meanwhile, Stacey Abrams is supported by out-of-state liberals and socialists. The Democratic Party seeks only to exploit the LGBT community by putting identity politics over the real needs of Georgians. Republicans across the state are ready to stand firm and united to help Brian Kemp win in November."