The Georgia legislature on Thursday passed a heinous, anti-gay ‘religious freedom’ bill. It is now in the hands of Governor Nathan Deal.
The changes unveiled Wednesday made more changes after both Gov. Nathan Deal and House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, objected to the Senate version. While the bill still says no pastor can be forced to perform a same-sex wedding ceremony, it adds language that says no individual can be forced to attend one.
Faith-based organizations — churches, religious schools, or associations — don’t have to rent facilities for “objectionable” events like marriages between gay people. Neither do they have to provide services, educational, charitable, social, or otherwise, which “violate such faith-based organization’s sincerely held religious belief.” They don’t have to hire anyone whose “religious beliefs or practices or lack of either are not in accord with the faith-based organization’s sincerely held religious belief” and can fire them for the same reasons.
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Finally, it includes much of the language found federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which requires government to prove a “compelling governmental interest” before it interferes with a person’s exercise of religion.
However, it adds that it cannot be used to allow “discrimination on any grounds prohibited by federal or state law.”
Lambda Legal blasted the bill:
Today, a newly amended but still deeply discriminatory bill, HB 757, passed the Georgia House of Representatives and Senate and is headed to the governor. Lambda Legal issued the following statement from Southern Regional Director Simone Bell:
“We are deeply disappointed that the Georgia House and Senate passed HB 757 and we urge Governor Deal to veto this discriminatory bill. This is still a terrible bill and it is nowhere near a solution. It is equally as divisive and harmful as the [unamended] bill that is opposed by hundreds of ministers, thousands of employers, and tens of thousands of Georgians.
“We cannot replace a bad bill with another bad bill. And this is a very bad bill. It invites discrimination and encourages lawsuits. It is targeted at the LGBT community but will sweep in others. It purports to excuse anyone from following the law if they claim it burdens their religion.
“This bill encourages government officials to use religion to treat LGBT people, and others, unfairly and to ignore anti-discrimination policies. Freedom of religion does not give any of us the right to discriminate against others. The bill is a toxic recipe for increasing disputes, discord and discrimination across the state. It would allow taxpayer-funded faith-based organizations (like soup kitchens, homeless shelters, etc.) to deny services to LGBT people or others, and to fire and otherwise discriminate against LGB people. It could apply to universities, colleges, schools, businesses and organizations – big and small — that are tangentially-related to, or affiliated with, a church. Most egregiously, this bill could override Non-Discrimination Ordinances in a host of ways.
“Lambda Legal urges the Governor to veto this bill before it causes damage and legal havoc between neighbors, landlord and tenant, employee and employer, and customer and company.
“Do not be fooled — nothing in this bill protects LGBT people from discrimination. It is a shameful and blatant attempt to roll back equality for LGBT people and their families.”
Lambda Legal is a member of Georgia Unites, a bipartisan grassroots campaign dedicated to protecting gay and transgender Georgians from discrimination and ensuring that individuals and businesses aren’t able to use their religious beliefs to harm others.