With a potentially bitter battle looming in next year’s General Assembly between those who want to protect gay Georgians from discrimination and those who demand a government-guaranteed right to discriminate, Gov. Nathan Deal has stepped forward to play mediator:
“As long as we follow the federal model, which has not produced the kinds of catastrophic results that maybe both sides are predicting that legislation of that type would do, I think we stand a very good chance of getting a piece of legislation accomplished that will rightfully protect people from government in terms of their religious beliefs and at the same time not be disruptive to commerce.”
Deal’s framing of the issue strikes me as odd but unintentionally revealing. He casts it as a debate with two sides and two valid interests at stake. On the one hand he wants to “protect people from government in terms of their religious beliefs,” but he also wants to make sure that any resulting legislation doesn’t anger major Georgia corporations and interfere with the bidness of making money.
Maybe I’m wrong, but … aren’t there gay people involved in this somewhere? Isn’t that what this REALLY is about?
Where is Deal’s concern for gay Georgians who fear being fired from jobs or being denied marital benefits, the right to rent or buy a home, the right to adopt or just the right to be treated like everybody else? Do they not exist? Don’t they have rights that also should be “rightfully protected”, as the governor puts it? Shouldn’t they at least be acknowledged by their governor as people with more at stake than any other party?
The answer appears to be no. Gay Georgians are invisible to Deal. In the governor’s formulation, this is strictly a struggle between religious conservatives and commerce, with no acknowledgement of the underlying civil rights and anti-discrimination element. He is concerned about the issue, but only to the degree that it might cost the state jobs, money and economic development.
And by trying to ignore the real issue, Deal highlights it.