Vice President Mike Pence, a far-right evangelical Christian and religious right darling, used anti-LGBTQ dog whistles to rally Georgia Republicans to vote in the upcoming special election.
And while Jesus may have condemned the rich, saying they rarely go to heaven, Pence was there to lift up two billionaires with a history of shady financial dealings and contempt for civil rights. One of the Democrats running is the respected senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, the church where Martin Luther King Jr. was pastor.
As Trump supporters threaten to boycott the election, Pence rushed to the Peach State to stump on behalf of Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue. The beleaguered Republicans face off against Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff respectively.
“We need to send them back because the Republican majority could be the last line of defense to preserve all we’ve done to defend this nation, revive our economy, and preserve the God-given liberties we hold dear,” he told a crowd gathered at a local airport to hear him speak.
“Religious liberties” has become a well-known euphemism for opposition to LGBTQ and women’s rights. Evangelicals and Catholics have started to demand exemptions from civil rights laws, arguing that treating people equally would violate their religious beliefs. The two groups have pushed numerous court cases trying to overturn LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections in multiple states.
If both are elected, Ossoff and Rev. Warnock would bring the Democrats’ numbers in the Senate to 50. In that event, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would be able to break any tie votes in favor of the Democrats in the Senate. They could rescue LGBTQ progress from almost possible defeat in a GOP-controlled Senate.
Neither Ossoff nor Rev. Warnock has been elected to office before, but both have pledged to be strong allies for LGBTQ causes in the Senate.
Rev. Warnock in particular has a long track record in support of LGBTQ people. As the senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, the church where Martin Luther King Jr. was pastor, he has carried on King’s tradition of advocating civil rights, while including the LGBTQ community.
“There are gay sisters and brothers all around us,” Warnock told his congregation in 2012.“The church needs to be honest about human sexuality. Some of them are on the usher board, they greeted you this morning.”
After the Pulse nightclub massacre in 2016, Warnock noted how anti-LGBTQ rhetoric contributes to hate crimes. “This is a time to grieve, to mourn and to consider what it means to stigmatize people,” Warnock said. “Religious communities have played a particular role in… marginalizing gay and lesbian and transgender people.”
Ossoff was an investigative reporter and Congressional aide before running for office. “I will fight for marriage equality. I will fight for adoption rights for gay couples,” Ossoff told Project Q Atlanta in September, “and I will oppose cynical legislative efforts to marginalize and discriminate against LGBT Americans.”
His campaign has hammered Perdue over questionable stock trades that appeared to show the Senator was capitalizing on inside Congressional information. After a briefing in January about the coronavirus, Perdue executed a series of stock trades that looked like he was betting on how the pandemic would affect certain businesses, like Netflix. (Loeffler did as well, and claimed that it was the result of unrelated consultations she received.) Ossoff has branded Perdue “a crook” for his dealings.
Last September, Loeffler sponsored a bill to ban trans women from school sports. The bill, which served to signal Loeffler’s allegiance to the Trump base, would actually require genital exams for athletes. The irony is that Loeffler is the co-owner of Atlanta’s WNBA franchise, whose players have organized for her opponent, Warnock.
After initially telling reporters that he didn’t support Trump’s plan to ban transgender military personnel, Perdue quickly flipped. Once Trump instituted the ban, Perdue said “I think [Trump] is well within his rights [to impose the ban].” He earned a zero on the Human Rights Campaign’s congressional scorecard.
“With the support of people all across this state, and with God’s help, we’re going to keep on winning,” Pence said. “We will win Georgia and save America.”