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Georgia GOP Elects First Openly Gay State Treasurer, Doubles Down On 'Religious Freedom' Bill

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It would appear as if Georgia’s GOP is having something of an identity crisis. SB 129, yet another "religious freedom" bill that would condone discrimination against LGBT people, failed to fully make its way through the state’s legislature earlier this year. Following last weekend’s statewide GOP convention, however, Georgia’s Republican legislators seem to have rallied around a “new” vision for future versions of the bill sporting more or less the same language. 

While the Right’s continued pursuit of institutional discrimination masquerading as religious freedom is troubling, the recent election of a gay man to Georgia’s Republican leadership is raising even more eyebrows.

Mansel McCord has been chosen as Georgia’s first openly gay GOP state treasurer and, in an interesting twist, he was nominated by Josh McKoon, the Republican state senator who authored SB 129. 

“You need a man of unimpeachable integrity. You need someone who understands the complexity of campaign finance law,” McKoon said of McCord. “And you need someone who has been dedicated to the conservative movement for decades.”

It’s unclear whether or not Georgia’s Republican congress was aware of McCord’s sexuality before voting him into his new seat. As the Georgia Voice points out it’s possible that people mistook Debbie McCord, another Republican politician on the ballot, for his wife, further confusing matters. 

European Human Rights Court Rules in Favor of Georgian Gay Rights Activists


Georgian gay rights activists won a small victory after the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled on May 12 that Georgian authorities must compensate gay-rights activists after they failed to protect them from assaults at a gay-pride event in May 2012 reports

The 2012 incident involved activists attempting to host the nation's first gay pride march in Tbilisi to celebrate the U.N.'s International Day Against Homophobia. However, orthodox clerics and activists attempted to block the peaceful LGBT activists; many of the LGBT activists suffered physical and verbal assaults at the hands of the orthodox activists. 

LGBT Tbilisi-based group Identoba and dozens of other activists are expect to receive between 1,500 and 4,000 euros ($1,675-$4,465) in compensation from the government. The ECHR also ruled that a violation of Article 3 occurred that prohibits individuals from enduring inhuman or degrading treatment in conjunction with a violation of Article 14 that bans outright discrimination.

Since 2012's event Georgian LGBT activists have experienced escalating violence at demonstrations and rallies from Georgian Orthodox Church clerics and proponents.

Georgia Pastor Defends Church Sign Calling for Death to Gays: VIDEO


A church in Georgia known for stating extreme beliefs has posted a sign threatening gay people with death, reports WXGA.

The sign which reads “Homosexuality is a death worthy crime!” was spotted outside the Ten Commandments Church in Milledgeville by local man Robert Owens.

Speaking with WXGA, Owens said:

"This is the first time that I have ever seen anything that actually crossed the line and was inferring death upon a group.

"If it said being bald or blind or short or fat or blue-eyed or red head, if any of those were death worthy crimes, if they were causing people think ‘wow those people really need to die’, that's a terrible thing, that's crossing line.”

LeeTen Commandments Pastor Robert Lee said there is nothing wrong with the sign which is just quoting Leviticus 20:13, a scripture in the Bible:

“If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.”

However, Lee said that “the institution of marriage was instituted by God and it should not be changed by people who deserve not to live.” Lee added he would die before he "accepted" homosexuality and welcomed gays into his church.

Watch a report, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Georgia Graphics Store Refuses To Print Gay Couple’s Wedding Invitations

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A Suwanee, Ga. gay couple is the latest victim of discrimination after the owner of a local AlphaGraphics franchise refused to print wedding invitations for them, citing his religious beliefs reports Paige Beckwith contacted the local chain after a friend referred her to the business to order intricate, custom wedding invitations however, owner Alan Akins refused her.

Said Beckwith:

"The owner called me back and let me know that he's not going to print our invitations because he does not support same sex marriage.

"I kept asking him how, why, how he could do this? He just basically stood on his religious beliefs, referenced the Bible, called it a sin, and I was basically in tears saying 'How could you treat me this way?'" 

Akins confirmed he denied the couple but that he would've printed other things for the couple except for the invitations. 11Alive Legal Analyst Philip Holloway says Akins was exercising his legal rights.

Said Holloway:

"Under Georgia law businesses do have the right to say I'm not going to do business with this sort of couple."

Beckwith took her complaint to AlphaGraphics' main office and received a full apology and the company produced Beckwith’s custom wedding invitations at no charge.

Said AlphaGraphics' spokesperson:

"We do not condone discrimination of any kind, and wish to make clear that customers of any race, religion, nationality, ethnicity or sexual orientation are welcome at our franchisees' locations nationwide.

"We also wish to apologize to the customers who were impacted by the actions of this franchisee, and hope that our response conveys the level of commitment we feel toward upholding our company's standards of inclusion, and that all members of the Suwanee community continue to feel welcome at AlphaGraphics."

Screen Shot 2015-04-26 at 11.12.25 AMAlthough the couple won a small victory, the "religious freedom" debate continues to rage in the state. Georgia Sen. Josh McKoon managed to get the state senate to pass S.B. 129 in March - a religious freedom bill similar to Indiana's. The contentious nature of the bill even gained the ire of former Georgia Attorney General Mike Bowers, known for defending the state’s sodomy laws in the 1980s, saying the bill would "give the opportunity to exclude in the name of religion, and I think that's a disaster." Luckily, the bill is officially dead this legislative session as of April 2, but McKoon vowed that he would attempt to fully pass it again in next year's legislative session. 

Editor's Note: A previous version of this post mislabeled Philip Holloway. He is a legal analyst for Atlanta outlet 11Alive. 

This Transman Is In Prison For Shooting The Man Who Raped Him: REPORT


On October 28th in 2011 Ky Peterson, then a 20 year-old transman living in Americus, Georgia, was followed on his way home, knocked out, and raped by Samuel Chavez, a Honduran immigrant. It was the second time that Peterson had been sexually assaulted while living in the small town. Peterson awoke to find his attacker naked and assaulting him both sexually and verbally. In a lengthy interview with The Advocate, Peterson describes how his rapist took him back to a trailer park near his own home and that his two brothers managed to find him during the attack:

He stood up, now on one side of the trailer with his two brothers flanking him. He saw the shadowed figure of the naked stranger charging forward. He didn't have time to think as his fingers grasped the smooth metal of the gun he'd started carrying in his backpack as a nighttime precaution ever since his first rape.

Then Peterson made a decision he'd hoped he’d never have to. He pulled the trigger.

Peterson killed his attacker in self defense that night, and he’s been dealing with the fallout of the events ever since. Peterson, who had been raped previously, found himself in a morally complicated situation. He was summarily ignored by the police after reporting his first assault, and feared that calling them again would prove to be an even worse experience. What would a police force who refused to even acknowledge that he’d been raped once do in response to finding out that he’d taken the law into his own hands when confronted by another attacker?  

"I tried to explain my story to [the police] and they didn’t listen, and that was the main reason I attempted to cover up what had happened," Peterson says. "It was because I knew they wouldn’t listen — that’s just the way the system is."

Disillusioned by his experiences with local law enforcement, Peterson did the only thing he could think of and attempted to dispose of the body on a nearby country road--a decision that would ultimately land him in prison. He’s now serving a 20 year-long sentence for involuntary manslaughter. 

Though Peterson insisted that he had been raped and shot Chavez in self-defense, police were doubtful of his story even after a rape kit corroborated his claims. According to Peterson his being a black, transgender man was one of the main reasons that his case was so grossly mishandled.

"What this case highlights, is from both a legal and a public perspective, how difficult it is for trans people of color to claim the status of victim," ACLU staff attorney Chase Strangio explained to the Advocate. "In so many ways, our conception of victimhood has always been taken away from people of color and taken away from gender-nonconforming people and taken away from women."

Peterson would eventually plead guilty to manslaughter charges, but as the Advocate found in the course of its investigative reporting, his sentencing contained a crucial technical error. According to court transcripts Peterson and his legal defense agreed to a deal in which he would cop to voluntary manslaughter, a crime that carries a maximum sentence of 20 years. The written court documents to Peterson’s case, however, list his having pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years.

"I have always said that all of these sentences need to be reviewed before they're submitted to the court to sign," said Assistant District Attorney Donald Lamberth. "I'm not sure, at this point in time, that we know what the ramifications could be from a sentence reconsideration, or reevaluation, but it does open a lot of interesting conversations."

Georgia Governor Vows To Abide by Supreme Court Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

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Georgia Governor Nathan Deal has vowed that his state will comply with the Supreme Court’s upcoming ruling regarding four states’ bans on same-sex marriage. Like Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee, Georgia currently bars gay couples from applying for marriage licenses and refuses to recognize same sex marriages officiated in other states. Echoing similar statements made by Georgia State Attorney General Sam Olens, Deal, is prepared to fall in lockstep with the Court.

“Federal constitutional issues trump state constitutional issues, " Deal said in an interview with A Closer Look. "So we will abide by whatever the Supreme Court rules as an interpretation of the United States Constitution.”

For a deeper dive into next week's court hearings check out our two part, in-depth analysis here and here.

(h/t WABE)


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