McKoon: Local Non-Discrimination Laws Shouldn’t Be Invalidated By a State RFRA

Republican State Senator Josh McKoon of Columbus says that local ordinances protecting the rights of gays and lesbians, like the one passed in the city of Atlanta, should be able to withstand a challenge under a proposed Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act. In a discussion on social media that was later confirmed with the senator, McKoon was asked if a local law protecting LGBT rights would be a compelling government interest as defined by the state RFRA. The senator responded, “So if say the City of Atlanta or another government entity chose to enact such a law it would meet the compelling state interest standard.”

McKoon’s position is significant within the context of the debate over religious liberty in the Peach State. When McKoon’s Senate Bill 139 was under consideration by the House Judiciary Committee, one of the reasons it was opposed was a fear that once it became law, the RFRA could be used to overturn local ordinances protecting the rights of minorities. This fear was the impetus behind the effort to amend the bill so it would explicitly define such ordinances as a compelling government interest. The amendment, which caused the entire bill to be tabled, read:

“Compelling governmental interest” includes, but is not limited to, protecting the welfare of a child from abuse or neglect as provided by state law and protecting persons against discrimination on any ground prohibited by federal, state, or local law.

The issue came up again in the debate over the Free Exercise Protection Act, which passed the legislature late in the 2016 session, only to be ultimately vetoed by Governor Deal. Section 6 of the bill, which contained the Georgia RFRA language, had a provision that it couldn’t be used to “permit invidious discrimination on any grounds prohibited by federal or state law.” Many of those who wondered whether the Free Exercise Protection Act could be used to undermine local anti-discrimination ordinances pointed to the omission of local laws in that section of the bill as a reason to oppose the measure.

Of course, Senator McKoon’s opinion would not be controlling on a judge trying to decide a free exercise claim seeking to overturn a local anti discrimination ordinance. It could, however, be used as evidence of legislative intent. McKoon claims he has consistently believed that local anti discrimination ordinances have a compelling government interest, but his position has not been reported in the media. The senator also said that his opposition to codifying local anti discrimination ordinances as compelling state interests as part of Georgia’s RFRA was to ensure the state and federal versions of RFRA each offered identical protections and similar language.

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Will DurantJohn KonopLTWillAndrew C. PopeChet Martin Recent comment authors
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Chet Martin
Chet Martin

I look forward to supporting Senator McKoon’s efforts to pass House Bill 757 exactly as written with the addition of the word “local” in Section 6, Code Section 50-15A-5, Subsection B, Clause (1)

http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/en-US/display/20152016/HB/757

Andrew C. Pope
Andrew C. Pope

“Republican State Senator Josh McKoon of Columbus says that local ordinances protecting the rights of gays and lesbians, like the one passed in the city of Atlanta, should be able to withstand a challenge under a proposed Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act.”

Which is why so many people opposed his vague and awful bill.

LTWill
LTWill

Then what was the point of this bill?

John Konop
John Konop

We have drive by politicians, pushing hot button issues, seeking headlines to further their career.We have no shortage on either side.

LTWill
LTWill

I don’t understand the false equivalency. Democrats (at least in the state) aren’t organized enough to create or take advantage of any wedge issue.

John Konop
John Konop

LT,

Hillary painted Sanders as a tool of the NRA, in the North East, using a tragic shooting that was 100 percent emotional, with no real facts. I am second amendment supporter, but no rational person would but Sanders in the club, with a D-, voting record from the NRA. the McKoon bs is about primary battles in the future……

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/fact-checking-hillary-clintons-claims-about-bernie-sanders-gun-record/

LTWill
LTWill

Empty rhetoric and slimy campaigning is not the same as actually passing inflammatory legislation. Yes, both sides say nutty and irritating things. Right now, in Georgia, only one side actually acts on these ridiculous ideas. Its why our Governor gets blasted for making reasonable decisions.

John Konop
John Konop

A very valid point, and I agree.

Will Durant
Will Durant

If the state Republican Party really wants to do some navel-gazing then start with this guy. I don’t know if he is considered an insider or outsider and don’t really care. I do care about the old axiom of not wanting Democrats in our boardrooms and not wanting Republicans in our bedrooms (with NC I suppose this should be amended with bathrooms as well). The duplicity shown by Josh McKoon on what should be a non-issue in this state reflects poorly on the party. Countless times last year he stated that his bill’s intention was not to allow discrimination while… Read more »

John Konop
John Konop

Very good comment all should read !