Georgia Lawmakers Advance Terrible Anti-LGBT Bill Even After Weeks of Statewide Opposition

By Adam Polaski • March 16, 2016 • 6:33 pm

Today, March 16, lawmakers in the Georgia House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to push through terrible legislation that would allow for broad, painful discrimination against LGBT people across the state.

ShamefulGeorgiaBill

For weeks, the state has been embroiled in a statewide conversation about a huge swath of bills targeting the LGBT community, with most of the discussion focused on HB757, the “First Amendment Defense Act,” which would allow individuals and faith-based organizations receiving taxpayer funding to refuse service to anyone who conflicts with their religious view of marriage as between one man and one woman. Today, the bill was modified to become even broader and more dangerous, with language concerning broader “religious freedom.” In states across the country, these religious exemptions have been demonstrated as insidious ways for lawmakers to allow residents a license to discriminate against any LGBT person.

Freedom for All Americans Executive Director Matt McTighe said today:

“It’s stunning that Georgia lawmakers went out of their way to make the License to Discriminate an even more dangerous bill in the face of unprecedented opposition from conservatives, faith leaders, businesses big and small and thousands of rank-and-file Georgians. This legislation is considerably worse than the previous version of the bill, and we urge Governor Deal to veto it immediately. The governor himself spoke eloquently just two weeks ago about why this type of legislation was entirely unnecessary, and nothing has changed since he made his original remarks. This is an opportunity for Governor Deal to exhibit extraordinary leadership and reject legislation that will absolutely imperil Georgia’s economy and future. The debate over this toxic legislation has already taken a toll on the state’s brand, and it’s time to put a stop to this once and for all.”

Georgia Equality Executive Director Jeff Graham added:

“Georgia’s LGBT residents already have some of the weakest protections from discrimination in the nation. No matter the rhetoric, at the end of the day this bill does absolutely nothing to protect LGBT people from discrimination, but it does make it easier for others to use religion as an excuse to single out those already most vulnerable. It’s shameful that instead of pursuing policies that protect and lift-up all Georgians, lawmakers are pursuing a discriminatory and draconian measure that will hurt Georgia’s economy and harm its LGBT residents and many others.”

Thousands of voices in Georgia have stood in united opposition of the religious exemption bills being promoted by extreme lawmakers. From the many businesses, to the 75,000 Georgians who have signed petitions with Georgia Unites Against Discrimination urging the state to stop pushing anti-LGBT bills, to Governor Nathan Deal himself, a Republican Southern Baptist who earlier this month pointed to the Bible’s teachings that no one should discriminate against someone just because of who they are.

Governor Deal should stand by his word to oppose anti-LGBT legislation – since today’s bill is in fact far worse than the bill he spoke out against earlier this month.

The bill has also seen enormous opposition from businesses in the state. Through Georgia Prospers, hundreds of companies have channeled their opposition. Ronnie Chance, former state Senate majority leader and leader of the Georgia Prospers coalition, said today:

“Nearly 500 companies have joined Georgia Prospers over the past few weeks because standing up for equal treatment for all is the right thing to do – and it’s also good for business. Our members include small businesses and large companies, including some of the most well-known brand names in the nation. They are concerned about Georgia’s reputation and the impact that any discriminatory policies would have on job creation and economic development. The legislation under consideration doesn’t live up the values of fairness and inclusivity that have contributed to Georgia’s ranking as the No. 1 state in the nation for business.”

Freedom for All Americans condemns this shameful bill – and urges all concerned Georgians to call Governor Deal immediately asking him to VETO the anti-LGBT bill. It’s wrong for Georgia, and it’s wrong for the country. We have been proud to work with our coalition partners at Georgia Unites Against Discrimination and Georgia Prospers this entire legislative session, and we’ll continue working to defeat discrimination in Georgia and nationwide.


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