The late Bobby Franklin's legacy 

He crusaded against women, gays and logic, but may have hurt right-wing causes

In the days since he was found dead of an apparent heart attack inside his Marietta home on July 26, state Rep. Bobby Franklin has repeatedly been eulogized as a man of steadfast principles. Former director of the Georgia Christian Coalition Pat Gartland told AJC political reporter Jim Galloway of his close friend Franklin, "What he believed in — there was no compromise."

Those beliefs earned him plenty of media attention. In this year's legislative session, Franklin introduced 21 bills, several of which drew widespread left-wing ire. As he had many times during the 14 years he represented his East Cobb district, Franklin introduced a bill to criminalize abortion, which he referred to as "prenatal murder." This year's version was particularly confounding to women's rights groups because it appeared to expose women who miscarried to the threat of criminal penalties if they couldn't prove the loss of their pregnancy wasn't intentional. He also attempted a return to the gold standard, tried to outlaw driver's licenses and advocated allowing guns in church.

Since his death, descriptions of Franklin as unswerving in his beliefs have been intended as complimentary, testaments to the character of someone who lived with a clear sense of purpose. As Franklin's detractors have been quick to point out, however, his beliefs begat a rhetoric that often bordered on hate speech, as when he notoriously compared homosexuals to "unrepentant drug dealers," a comment for which he, himself, was unrepentant and refused to apologize.

Had he not held political office, it's likely that few would've known or cared what Bobby Franklin believed or said. But as his district's residents prepare to elect his replacement in a special election, it's important to recognize that Franklin's intolerance and extremist beliefs did not an effective legislator make.

But for all the national attention his legislation received, he seldom made a splash at the Gold Dome. Of the legislation he introduced this year, not a single bill made it to a vote. And when it came time for Franklin to decide on the legislation of others, he typically voted "no," often for inscrutable reasons. A refusal to compromise — as the U.S. Congress has recently demonstrated — often means nothing gets done.

Ultimately, Franklin likely did more harm than good for right-wing causes. He had a tendency to push conservative tenets to their illogical conclusions. A bill wasn't good enough if it outlawed abortion — it also had to close the loophole that let women who fake their own miscarriages off the hook. He was adept at showing where the slippery slope of right-wing zeal could eventually lead.

In CL's 2011 Golden Sleaze issue this April, Franklin was awarded the "National Embarrassment Award" for, as we put it, making headlines by "crusading against women's rights, gay rights, public education and logic." Looking at it now — especially in light of the man's untimely passing at age 56 — it seems pretty harsh. Franklin's rhetoric might have been dangerous, but he wasn't. And his refusal to see things any way but his own might have made him a good man to some, but didn't make him a good lawmaker.

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