I’ve never wanted to vote for a person more than I want to cast one for Stacey Abrams to be the next governor of Georgia. She’s locked in a very tight race against challenger and current Georgia Secretary of State, Brian Kemp. In his current role, Kemp has come under fire for overseeing the purge of thousands of Georgia voters, many of them Black, under the guise of guarding against voter fraud. To be clear, the person in charge of Georgia elections is suppressing the votes for an election in which he is a candidate.
In midterm elections, high turnout usually favors Democrats. So far, Georgia has registered thousands of new voters, and participation during the early voting period has been higher than expected. Abrams comes to the table with bold progressive bona fides on issues like affordable housing, criminal justice reform, economic mobility and jobs, public education and debt free access to higher education. If she wins, Abrams will not only be a rising star of progressive politics, she will also be the nation’s first Black Woman Governor, and will upend Georgia’s identity as a bastion of traditional southern politics.
In the wake of last weekend’s New York Times report about the Trump Department of Health and Human Services attempting to define transgender identity out of existence, the stakes are too high to fall into cynicism about political leadership. Legislative allyship is important.
Last December, Abrams’s opponent said that as Governor, he would sign a bill that allows businesses, medical providers, and government agencies to refuse services or refuse to render services that violate their religious beliefs. Even Nathan Deal (also a Republican), the governor Abrams and Kemp hope to succeed, backed away from a version of the bill, citing its potential for discrimination. But discrimination is what Kemp wants. It’s what he’s doing now with the voter registration rolls. Under Kemp’s leadership, if you’re a Democratic-leaning voter in Georgia, then casting a ballot carries an undue and unnecessary burden that serves only the political agenda of the Republican Party. Stacey Abrams is the opposite of all of that.
There are always unintended consequences to policymaking. Legislation that claims to “protect” religious liberty in the U.S. is in practice both arbitrary and disingenuous. Are the firmly held beliefs of all religions considered? If not, are we choosing preferred dogmas, thereby violating the Constitution’s establishment clause? And what about firmly held beliefs against religious expressions, which the Constitution’s free exercise clause also gives?
While the concept of protecting religious liberty is arbitrary, the targets of said policies are not. They are often members of groups that society has already decided it’s ok to marginalize. Those who seek shelter for their religious certitude don’t want to be burdened with being inclusive. They manipulate the federal government into legitimizing false victimization. That’s the jig. Because imagine if a subgroup of Americans invoked religious freedom against a dominant group. Imagine if gays used their understanding of Christianity to counter the interpretation of Christianity that leaves them out.
A medical doctor believes the only purpose of sex is procreation. Her patient, a married 67-year-old man, worries about his risk of erectile dysfunction and wants to discuss his options. The doctor won’t hear of it because the man’s wife has passed childbearing age. In the doc’s understanding of Christianity, sex without the possibility of reproduction is futile. She sees no moral or medical value to honor his request.
A lesbian couple runs a popular bed and breakfast on Cape Cod. Bill and Mary, married 40 years, want to get away from the hustle and bustle of their Boston lives. They book the B&B and send a message to the couple thanking them for providing the perfect place for a mini vacay. “God bless you,” they say, not knowing those same words were the last uttered before she was disowned by her mother for being gay. Triggered, the couple cancels Bill and Mary’s booking. “Sorry,” they write back, “we are a welcoming, anti-religious space. I’m afraid we can’t accommodate your stay.”
I like politicians with the courage to buck tradition. In red state Georgia, Abrams has run an unabashed progressive campaign. And, at her historic appearance at Atlanta’s October pride celebration, she vowed that the LGBTQ community would have an ally in the Governor’s Mansion. No Georgia Governor ever has stuck their neck out this far to curry favor with us. Abrams’s reasoning is what inspires me most; she’s not just pandering to the LGBTQ community for votes. She understands that gay people thrive with a great education and job opportunities just like anybody else. Our families need affordable housing and healthcare, just like anybody else. And, sometimes, we get screwed by the criminal justice system, too. Under Abrams’s leadership, Georgia’s LGBTQ communities are included in their government’s priorities, and not ostracized by them.
In Georgia, Abrams is not the lesser of two evils. She is the choice. If you value access to opportunity, dignity, and mobility for all Georgians, there is no alternative.