Georgians are fed up of anti-LGBTQ political games. It’s time for extremists to move on.

LGBTQ activists protest March 6, 2023, outside the Georgia Capitol against SB 140. (Miguel Martinez /

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

LGBTQ activists protest March 6, 2023, outside the Georgia Capitol against SB 140. (Miguel Martinez /

Last month, I stood inside our Capitol well past midnight, anxiously watching lawmakers debate and counting down the minutes until the end of our legislative session. When thousands of papers were tossed into the air by assembly members and advocates alike, I took what felt like my first deep breath since January.

Despite nearly 20 anti-LGBTQ bills being introduced throughout the session, not one passed. There’s been a worsening onslaught of hostile legislation targeting LGBTQ youth in Georgia -- and nationwide -- for many years now. Just last year, our lawmakers passed a law banning parents from obtaining essential health care for their transgender kids. So for me, it took a minute for it to sink in: anti-LGBTQ extremists are finally losing their steam.

It’s certainly not for a lack of trying. When it became obvious that these measures would fail to pass in Georgia this year, extreme politicians began throwing spaghetti at the wall. A ban on forms of medical care for transgender youth was tacked onto an essential public health bill; an amendment targeting transgender kids attached to a bill aimed at improving student-athletes’ mental health. Politicians knew well that these measures failed to pass through our democratic process because they’re vastly unpopular and harm kids. Yet they tried using sneaky political maneuvers to shove them through anyway, shamelessly sacrificing good bills that could have helped thousands of Georgians.

What’s more, they failed to give proper public notice and denied experts the chance to testify in opposition to these anti-LGBTQ bills while doing so. And even then – these bills failed.

The way I see it: the dying mule always kicks the hardest.

Jeff Graham

Credit: handout

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Credit: handout

Georgians are fed up with government overreach, baseless fear-mongering and -- to put it plainly --politicians who are more concerned about the limelight and their political careers than solving real issues.

Throughout the session, I spoke with medical experts frustrated by partisan bills that conflicted with standards of medical care and faith leaders exasperated by the purposeful manipulation of their religious texts and values. I met with tired-eyed Democrats and Republicans alike, who wished their colleagues would set aside sensationalist political stunts to address the actual problems facing their constituents.

It’s undeniable that the tides are shifting. Support for LGBTQ rights in the United States is now higher than ever. Across the South, where record numbers of anti-LGBTQ measures sailed through statehouses last year, we’re seeing victories similar to ours here in Georgia. Advocates in Florida and West Virginia defeated nearly every harmful bill in their sessions, and Kentucky is poised to follow suit, with zero anti-LGBTQ bills passed before the governor’s veto period.

After the massive spike in anti-LGBTQ bills last year, millions of Americans now know firsthand that these bills don’t solve any problems; they only push things like quality health care and education farther out of reach for everyone. And now that voters see these attacks for what they are, they’ve had enough.

With the same energy and collective power we saw from Georgians this year, we can continue to build on this momentum. We can change the fact that Georgia lags far behind other states on civil rights protections and work toward a reality in which we all can live freely, healthfully and happily. We can push our elected officials to pass nondiscrimination ordinances that would help finally make our home state one where every person can thrive.

Years from now, I hope we feel the impact of the common-sense legislation that our lawmakers will be able to prioritize when they’re no longer focused on attacking LGBTQ youth. I hope we witness how Georgia’s families, communities, businesses and economy flourish when we prioritize protecting and investing in our communities rather than creating division.

For now, I look forward to a legislative session in which we’re not holding our breath for months on end, in which misinformation takes a backseat to truth and in which Georgia families aren’t kept up at night, terrified by the thought of what rights they might lose by the spring. We’re not there yet, but we’re closer than we’ve been in years. And we’ll keep fighting until we get there.

Jeff Graham is the executive director of Georgia Equality, the state’s largest advocacy organization working to advance fairness, safety and opportunity for Georgia’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and allied communities.