Po­lit­i­cal new­comer takes on RFRA

Les­bian fam­ily mem­bers in­flu­ence Tay­lor Ben­nett’s House Dis­trict 80 run

GA Voice - - Georgia News -


Heads didn’t so much turn as snap when the re­sults came back in the July 14 race for House Dis­trict 80, and sit­ting on top was Tay­lor Ben­nett, the 29-year-old for­mer Ge­or­gia Tech quar­ter­back who is now a la­bor and em­ploy­ment lawyer.

Ben­nett, a Demo­crat in his first run for of­fice, bested three Repub­li­cans and will have a tough fight on his hands when he faces for­mer Brookhaven mayor J. Max Davis in an Au­gust 11 runoff.

Should he pre­vail, he plans on fight­ing some­thing that’s caused an up­roar in each of the last two leg­isla­tive ses­sions—state Sen. Josh McK­oon’s (R-Colum­bus) so-called “re­li­gious free­dom” bill, which many be­lieve will lead to more anti-LGBT dis­crim­i­na­tion.

Ben­nett has made the is­sue the cen­ter­piece of his cam­paign, and not just be­cause he’s an em­ploy­ment lawyer who has rep­re­sented peo­ple fired for their sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion or gen­der iden­tity—both his mother and sis­ter are gay.

“As a la­bor and em­ploy­ment at­tor­ney and ob­vi­ously my per­sonal con­nec­tion to the is­sue, watch­ing the Ge­or­gia leg­is­la­ture lit­er­ally try to fig­ure out ways to dis­crim­i­nate, es­pe­cially to the LGBT com­mu­nity, I didn’t want to sit by and just watch this un­fold in front of me,” Ben­nett tells Ge­or­gia Voice. “I’m think­ing, is my mom go­ing to be able to come to Ge­or­gia and have lunch with her son and have to face dis­crim­i­na­tion to come see me? That was some­thing that got at me pretty deep.”

The House Dis­trict 80 seat car­ries with it some history as it re­lates to the Re­li­gious Free­dom Restora­tion Act ( RFRA) fight. State Rep. Mike Ja­cobs (R-Brookhaven), Tay­lor Ben­nett, 29, also fa­vors a hate crimes law and an LGBT anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion law in Ge­or­gia. (Cour­tesy photo) who held the seat un­til be­ing ap­pointed by Gover­nor Nathan Deal as a judge on the DeKalb County State Court ear­lier this year, amended the bill in this year’s ses­sion to add an anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion clause. The amend­ment ef­fec­tively killed the bill, but McK­oon has vowed to pro­pose it again in 2016.

“We need to en­sure that the next rep­re­sen­ta­tive from HD 80 is equally com­mit­ted to fight­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion, es­pe­cially as it re­lates to the LGBT com­mu­nity. Tay­lor Ben­nett is that per­son,” says Jeff Graham, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Ge­or­gia Equal­ity, who en­dorsed Ben­nett. “His mother is a les­bian and he un­der­stands first­hand the strug­gles of the LGBT com­mu­nity here in Ge­or­gia.”

Ben­nett also con­firmed his sup­port for a hate crimes law and an anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion bill that would cover em­ploy­ment, hous­ing and public ac­com­mo­da­tions.

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