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Advocates Mobilize to Stop Georgia's Anti-LGBT 'Religious Freedom' Bill: VIDEO

Georgia

An anti-LGBT "religious freedom" bill similar to the one signed into law in Indiana yesterday is currently working its way through the Georgia Legislature, but activists are hoping to stop this one before it gets to the governor's desk. 

Georgia's SB 129 allowing businesses to deny service to gay and lesbian customers based on religious beliefs passed the Georgia Senate last week. Yesterday, some good news came when the state's House Judiciary Committee voted to table the bill after an amendment was added to keep the bill from allowing discrimination - effectively gutting the bill's primary purpose.  

Session ends next week, but anti-LGBT opponents are reportedly still working to bring the bill back. You can follow the bill's progress here

Via HRC statement:

"This ill-conceived, discriminatory bill threatens not just the LGBT community, but women, racial minorities, members of minority faiths, and the economic climate of the state," said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. "All Georgians deserve to be treated fairly and equally with dignity and respect. We call on Speaker Ralston and Governor Deal to stop this bill before it becomes law, inflicting harm throughout the state."

Major local conferences have already threatened to move out of the state if the bill becomes law, including: American Society for Higher Education, American Academy of Religion, American Historical Association, German Studies Association, History of Science Society, Philosophy of Science Association, Society for Biblical Literature, and Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts.

MckoonState Sen. Josh McKoon (pictured), the chief proponent of the "license to discriminate" bill, called these economic warnings against the bill "nebulous" and claimed the bill wouldn't impact the economic interests of the state. He obviously hasn't been paying attention to the #BoycottIndiana backlash.

In fact, a campaign calling on Georgia-based corporate allies to speak out against #SB129 is currently underway. Comic and fantasy convention Dragon Con has already done so:

Dragon Con is calling on Georgia lawmakers to reject the "license to discriminate" RFRA bill! Click "like" and share to...

Posted by Georgia Unites Against Discrimination on Thursday, March 26, 2015
The Augusta Chronicle's editorial staff, meanwhile, called SB 129 "a solution we don't need in search of a problem that doesn't exist."

The push by Georgia Republicans to further enshrine anti-LGBT discrimination into law has also faced opposition from an unlikely source recently: Mike Bowers. Bowers was the former Georgia Attorney General who defended the state's sodomy law in the landmark Supreme Court case Bowers v. Hardwick. Last month, he spoke out against so-called "religious freedom" bills as an "excuse to practice invidious discrimination."

Watch McKoon defend discrimination at yesterday's House Judiciary Committee hearing, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Advocates Mobilize to Stop Georgia's Anti-LGBT 'Religious Freedom' Bill: VIDEO" »


Elton John Blasts Georgia's Anti-LGBT 'License to Discriminate' Bill as a 'Wolf in Sheep's Clothing'

In a new op-ed for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, former Atlanta resident Elton John is speaking out against the state's proposed anti-LGBT "license to discriminate" legislation and warning the bill could open the door to even greater stigmatization and discrimination against those with HIV/AIDS.

John writes:

JohnI’m proud of the progress we have made, particularly in the South, in treating people living with HIV equally and compassionately. But we still have a long way to go. People living with HIV are still discriminated against in Georgia, and indeed, all across the United States. The rates of HIV/AIDS among LGBT people of color and low-income people remain disproportionately high, especially in the South.

That’s why I’m so opposed to SB 129.

Simply put, this bill is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It promises religious freedom, but let’s be clear: No one’s religious freedom is at risk! Both the Georgia Constitution and U.S. Constitution very explicitly protect this right.

What SB 129 will really do is institutionalize the hate some people hold in their hearts against other people. It will turn back the clock on the progress we have made — not only in the fight against HIV, but also in the struggle for a more equal and just society.

Read the full op-ed HERE

The bill passed the Georgia Senate last week. A similar House bill remains in committee.


Out Former Atlanta City Council President Cathy Woolard Enters 2017 Mayoral Race

Longtime politician and gay rights activist Cathy Woolard has tossed her hat into the ring in the race to become the next mayor of Atlanta, Georgia. The GA Voice broke the news yesterday.

WoolardIn 1997, Woolard made history by becoming the first openly gay elected official in the state of Georgia - as a member of the Atlanta City Council. Just a few years later, she would not only become the first female president of the City Council, but also the first openly gay one, too.

She explained why she finally decided to run for the big seat.

“I’ve probably been thinking about this since I was in office, off and on...In politics, timing is everything and I had some friends running the last couple times and just decided this time that I’m going to do it. I’ve been thinking hard about it and what’s in store for me at this point in my life and I’ve never let go of how much I love Atlanta and all the wonderful things as a city we can do going into the future, not the least of which is finishing the Beltline.” 

Woolard has not announced a start date for her campaign though the ambitious politician says that she's "going to run hard." Soon after Woolard's announcement, state Rep. Margaret Kaiser also announced her intention to run, bringing the total number of official candidates to two. The mayoral election will take place in 2017.

Watch a video interview with Woolard from 2014, wherein she talks about marriage equality, civil rights and the election of gay political candidates, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Out Former Atlanta City Council President Cathy Woolard Enters 2017 Mayoral Race" »


Georgia Senate Passes 'Reprehensible' Anti-LGBT License to Discriminate Bill

Georgia

By a vote of 37-15 today, the Georgia Senate passed a bill that will allow people in the state to use their religion to discriminate against LGBT individuals.

HRC reacts, via statement:

In practical terms, S.B. 129 could allow businesses to refuse service to same-sex couples, a paramedic to refuse to provide life-saving services to an LGBT person, or a school counselor to refuse services to an LGBT teenager. The bill puts minority groups at risk of being denied service everywhere from the convenience store to the doctor's office.

"This bill is a reprehensible attack on LGBT people and their families in Georgia," said HRC National Field Director Marty Rouse. "It does not address any legitimate problem with current law and creates harmful consequences for businesses throughout the state. It threatens not just the LGBT community, but women, members of minority faiths and other minority classes. All Georgians deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, and we need all fair-minded people in the state to help stop this bill."

"It's disappointing that the Senate voted today for such a divisive and unneeded piece of legislation," said Georgia Equality Executive Director Jeff Graham. "Legal experts from across the political spectrum agree that this bill could open the door for discrimination. And if this is not about creating a license to discriminate, why would they work so hard to prevent language that would clarify that from being added to the bill. The actions today will have a chilling effect on Georgia's reputation and send a message of intolerance to the next generation."

Georgia's push to further enshrine anti-LGBT discrimination into law has faced opposition from an unlikely source recently: Mike Bowers. Bowers was the former Georgia Attorney General who defended the state's sodomy law in the landmark Supreme Court case Bowers v. Hardwick. Last month, he spoke out against such proposals as an "excuse to practice invidious discrimination."

The AP adds that a similar House bill remains in a committee.


Georgia Senate Committee Passes Anti-LGBT 'License to Discriminate' Bill

Georgia

The Georgia Senate Judiciary Committee has moved forward with an anti-LGBT "license to discriminate" bill, Atlanta's WABE reports:

MckoonOn Monday, a Senate committee made changes to the bill. Supporters say it’s now closer to a federal act that passed Congress in 1993 and was signed by President Bill Clinton. Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, is sponsoring the bill.

“I’m very pleased we were able to come to an agreement that protects the religious liberty for each and every Georgian," says Mckoon (right), “while sending a clear message that none of us are trying to use this as a vehicle to be a license to discriminate.”

Supporters say the new bill makes it clear it doesn’t apply to private companies but only to government. Gay rights activists say the legislation is better than what was originally proposed, but they’re still concerned.

“This language is still not something that we’re going to be able to support,” Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality, says. “We do feel that it still opens the door for action, for individuals and companies to continue to discriminate against people.”

The bill now moves to the full Senate, which is controlled 38-18 by Republicans. 

BowersGeorgia's push to further enshrine anti-LGBT discrimination into law has faced opposition from an unlikely source recently: Mike Bowers. Bowers was the former Georgia Attorney General who defended the state's sodomy law in the landmark Supreme Court case Bowers v. Hardwick. Last month, he spoke out against such proposals as an "excuse to practice invidious discrimination."


Mike Bowers, Man Who Defended Sodomy Bans, Says He Is A Changed Man on LGBT Rights: VIDEO

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Mike Bowers, the former Georgia Attorney General who defended the state’s sodomy ban, has spoken to Buzzfeed about how his opinions on gay rights have evolved over the last 30 years.

Bowers, who in 1986 successfully petitioned the Supreme Court to allow state bans on “homosexual sodomy,” earlier this week announced his opposition to “deeply troubling” pending religious liberty legislation in the state.

According to Bowers, the timing of the proposed legislation is suspect as it comes in the wake of the many recent marriage equality decisions. Moreover, the state proposals provide for broader exemptions than federal protections, so that “any time a person wished to refuse to act in response to a government requirement, he or she could assert the protection of the proposed [Religious Freedom Restoration Act on which the proposals are based].”

Bowers was asked by LGBT group Georgia Equality to assess the bill.  Once he’d read it, he decided it needed to be killed because it would allow people “to use religion as an excuse for his or her interpretation of the law and to get out from under this, that, or the other law.”

On the issue of same-sex marriage, he said:

“I want people to be left alone.

“I genuinely believe that everybody, all people, need someone to love and be loved by. I truly believe that.”

Watch a 2012 interview with Bowers reflecting on his time in Georgia politics, AFTER THE JUMP..

Continue reading "Mike Bowers, Man Who Defended Sodomy Bans, Says He Is A Changed Man on LGBT Rights: VIDEO" »


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