Former state Sen. Mike Crotts dies at 75

Legislator was primary sponsor behind Georgia’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in 2004.
Republican state Sen. Mike Crotts in 2004. His death at age 75 was publicly announced by Gov. Brian Kemp on Saturday, July 9, 2022. (AJC file photo / Ben Gray)

Credit: AJC staff

Credit: AJC staff

Republican state Sen. Mike Crotts in 2004. His death at age 75 was publicly announced by Gov. Brian Kemp on Saturday, July 9, 2022. (AJC file photo / Ben Gray)

Mike Crotts, a former Republican state senator who pushed legislation enabling Georgia’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in 2004, has died at age 75.

His death was announced Saturday on Twitter by Gov. Brian Kemp, who as a state senator voted in favor of Crotts’ bill that year.

“Marty, the girls, & I are saddened by the passing of our friend & a great Georgian, Mike Crotts,” Kemp’s tweet said. “A former state senator, successful businessman, Coast Guard veteran, man of faith, & devoted husband & father, he served the people of our state well. We’re praying for his family.”

A real estate broker with deep Christian beliefs, Crotts served in the state Senate from 1992 to 2004, representing a district that included parts of Newton and Henry counties.

In his last year in office, he sponsored legislation that tacked a statewide referendum on same-sex marriage onto the November ballot in a presidential election year. Georgia voters that year overwhelmingly approved his proposed constitutional amendment outlawing gay marriage, with 76% in favor.

The statewide ban became Crotts’ lasting political legacy until, 11 years later, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges guaranteed same-sex couples the fundamental right to marry.

With the high court now controlled by conservatives, though, Justice Clarence Thomas has said the court “should reconsider” its Obergefell ruling.

At the time of Crotts’ legislation, many Democrats, including future President Barack Obama, still weren’t on board with the issue of legalizing same-sex marriage.

Then-President George W. Bush made it a campaign issue against Democratic opponent John Kerry, whose home state of Massachusetts became the first to legalize same-sex marriage. Although Georgia lawmakers had outlawed same-sex marriage in 1996, critics in Georgia and elsewhere pressed for constitutional amendments that would be more difficult for a court to overturn.

When Crotts, of Covington, proposed his amendment in January 2004, the measure narrowly gained the two-thirds majority needed to pass the GOP-held state Senate, and then it squeezed through the Democratic-held House on a second try.

“I think it’s a great day for the people of Georgia,” Crotts told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution at the time. “Georgia is in a position now that the people will have an opportunity to go to the polls and have their will heard instead of some possible activist judge.”

Crotts’ Senate district was carved up in redistricting, so he made a run for Congress later that year but lost. In 2008, he ran again for a state Senate seat but lost.

Crotts told the AJC in a 2013 interview, as the Supreme Court was meeting to hear a challenge to restrictions on same-sex marriage, that he remained opposed to gay people marrying.

“From my point of view, (growing support) shows the moral decay of what is happening in our country,” Crotts said.

But he also said Georgians could reverse the ban if they wanted to. “When I crafted that bill, I left it open that the bill could be changed if the people wanted to change it by a new referendum,” he said in 2013.

Crotts went on to become an inspirational speaker and he and his wife, Phyllis, wrote a book titled “Dead for 34 Minutes: A True Story of Life After Death,” which described Mike Crotts having an out-of-body experience and how he miraculously returned to life after a sudden heart block in 1990.

A website promoting the book described Crotts as “a rising star on the horizon of American politics and a major figure in God’s newest effort to re-establish the moral vision of our society through Christian influence on its power structures.”

The cause of death has not been released, and funeral services were still to be announced.

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