For a brief moment, a group gathered in the city of Augusta got a lot of attention this week.
But it’s probably not for what you think.
For once, it has nothing to do with golf or the Godfather of Soul.
Everyone will probably remember this past April when Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal made the controversial move to veto the “religious liberty” bill.
Now, there were a lot of supporters and opponents of that bill throughout the state.
But basically the proposed legislation, called HB 757, would allow faith-based organizations to deny services to those who violate their “sincerely held religious belief” and preserve an employer’s right to fire employees who weren’t on the same page as those beliefs.
Needless to say, the bill was heavily criticized by gay rights groups in Georgia and many business leaders who were concerned the legislation would hurt the state’s economy.
And the business leaders weren’t wrong.
Earlier this year, the governor’s office was bombarded by dozens of big-name companies, including Disney, Apple, Time Warner, Intel and Salesforce, insisting the governor veto the bill.
In fact, the NFL warned the bill could risk Atlanta’s bid for the Super Bowl and the NCAA suggested it could influence Georgia’s ability to host championship games.
With so much pressure coming down on the state, Deal decided that the religious liberty bill did not reflect Georgia’s welcoming image as a state full of “warm, friendly and loving people,” according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“Our people work side by side without regard to the color of our skin, or the religion we adhere to. We are working to make life better for our families and our communities. That is the character of Georgia. I intend to do my part to keep it that way,” Deal reportedly said. “For that reason, I will veto HB 757.”
Many Georgia Republicans have been fuming ever since.
Some even purposed a resolution to censure the governor.
So, several Republican groups were ready to fully express their disappointment to the governor’s face at the GOP convention this weekend in Augusta.
But guess what?
Deal wasn’t there.
According to the governor’s office, Deal was hosting elite high school students at the governor’s mansion this weekend and couldn’t attending the GOP convention.
“Unfortunately, the state GOP convention and the annual Valedictorian Day fell on the same weekend this year,” the governor’s office stated to the AJC this week in a press release. “The governor and Mrs. Deal are hosting Valedictorian Day. (They) have hosted this event at the Governor’s Mansion since he took office, and it’s a very special tradition. This year, we expect more than 1,200 students and families to attend over the course of the weekend. Gov. (Zell) Miller began this tradition in 1993.”
So, no Deal in Augusta this weekend.
But, while there were several Republican groups prepared to pounce on Deal for vetoing the religious liberty bill, guess which herd of elephants praised the governor for his decision?
The Georgia Republicans for the Future made its voice known during the convention here in Augusta.
The group hung a large banner stating, “Thank you, Governor Deal” to greet participants at this weekend’s convention in the Garden City.
“There are many delegates in attendance that agree with the courageous leadership of Governor Deal,” Allen Fox, director of the Georgia Republicans for the Future told the AJC this week. “But there are thousands more that are not in attendance who support his leadership. We agree with him that Georgia is a welcoming, loving and inclusive place. That sentiment, along with Governor Deal’s conservative leadership, has made Georgia the best place in the nation to do business.”
Of course, this isn’t your typical Republican group, per se, in the Peach State.
The Georgia Republicans for the Future say the group is all about expanding opportunity and reaffirming individual liberty, which they believe are founding principles of the Republican Party.
But, at the forefront, the group believes discrimination of any kind is wrong, and it is bad for a growing Republican Party competing for the future.
The group believes LGBT Georgians are “our friends, neighbors, family, co-workers and fellow Republicans.”
Its website specifically states that when it comes to being able to earn a living or be served by a business the LGBT community should be treated like everyone else and not be discriminated against.
Obviously, some fellow Republicans in Georgia were not thrilled with the Georgia Republicans for the Future’s banner.
Specifically, State Sen. Josh McKoon, a Republican from Columbus, Ga., was offended by the banner, according to the AJC article.
“Here early for this weekend’s Georgia Republican Convention. Allen Fox and ‘Georgia Republicans For the Future’ (the shadowy group whose donors are secret) have hung a banner thanking Governor Deal for killing the religious freedom legislation passed overwhelmingly by the Georgia General Assembly earlier this year,” McKoon wrote on his Facebook page. “What a slap in the face to grassroots Republican leaders!”
So what was Allen Fox’s response?
“Worth every penny,” Fox said, according to the AJC.
Well done, Mr. Fox. Well done.