Georgia Republicans on Saturday overwhelming approved a resolution backing of a divisive religious liberty proposal, which critics warned could be used as license to discriminate against gays and lesbians, even as the party elected its first openly gay man to a senior statewide position.
The resolution–a largely symbolic show of support among the grassroots for the failed Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which cleared the state Senate but stalled in the House after non-discrimination language deemed a “poison pill” was introduced–was approved without debate, by a large majority and on a voice vote, during the party’s annual convention last weekend in Athens.
Republican activists in 11 of the state’s 14 congressional districts had earlier endorsed the proposal but the dramatic ease with which it cleared the state convention surprised some.
But despite the measure’s perception as anti-gay, delegates also anointed an out-gay man as one of the party’s principal officers.
Mansell McCord, a longtime GOP activist and former chairman of the Georgia Log Cabin Republicans, was elected treasurer of the Georgia Republican Party, edging out Gwinnett County GOP Treasure Brittany Marmol in a 770-596 vote.
McCord claimed the support of the five past state chairmen — and the two primary sponsors of the religious freedom bill.
“You need a man of unimpeachable integrity,” state Sen. Josh McKoon said of McCord before delegates voted. “You need someone who understands the complexity of campaign finance law. And you need someone who has been dedicated to the conservative movement for decades.”
McCord’s sexuality wasn’t a hallmark of the campaign–it wasn’t a fixture of his literature nor was it mentioned on the floor–and some delegates even mistakenly believed he was the husband of female candidate Debbie McCord, who was elected second-vice chair on the same day of balloting.
But cultural conservatives, aware but nonplussed by McCord’s earlier LGBT activism, mostly shrugged at his ascension Saturday.
“The state party has spoken. I’m good with that,” Virginia Galloway, a spokeswoman for Ralph Reed’s Christian conservative group Faith and Freedom, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “The great thing about [McCord] is that he doesn’t make a big deal of it.”