Rolling Stone has a fascinating piece on Tim Gill, the mega-donor who pumped more than $422 million of his fortune into the cause of equal rights for the gay community.
One of his main goals was to block “religious liberty” bills in state legislatures across the nation that critics saw as thinly-veiled attempts to legalize discrimination against same-sex couples.
And one of the group’s biggest battlegrounds was Georgia, where Republican lawmakers had pushed for years to adopt a version of the measure – and in 2016 aimed to finish the job.
In response, the Gill Foundation helped form a new front group called Georgia Prospers, and settled on a strategy that eschewed noisy, colorful protests in favor of a state-centric approach led by businesses. “You can get money from outside,” Gill explains, “but the state has to own it.” Gill also knew the importance of finding the right face for the effort, in this case, Ronnie Chance, a former Republican state Senate majority leader under the current governor, Nathan Deal.
In January 2016, Georgia Prospers kicked off with more than 100 businesses signed on, including Coca-Cola, Google and Marriott. As the RFRA fight played out in Atlanta, Chance’s phone never stopped ringing, he says, with companies clamoring to sign his group’s pro-equality pledge. But the full genius of the approach wasn’t clear to him until another dad at his daughter’s basketball practice mentioned reading about the effort in a companywide e-mail. The man worked at Delta, which had joined Georgia Prospers and was mobilizing employees to call their representatives. Lawmakers, Chance realized, were “hearing organically from their constituents who may be employed by Home Depot or Delta Air Lines.”
You know the story from here.
The measure passed in March 2016 with the help of House Speaker David Ralston and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle. It was vetoed days after the session’s end by Gov. Nathan Deal, who said the state does not “have to discriminate against anyone to protect the faith-based community.”
An effort to revive it again this year went nowhere, this time amid staunch opposition from Cagle, Ralston and Deal.
Rolling Stone called it “the first major victory for what Gill calls his Southern strategy.”