Georgia Republicans have introduced an anti-LGBTQ “religious freedom” bill similar to one vetoed by Governor Nathan Deal in 2016, but this time, Governor Brian Kemp has signaled support for the measure.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports: ‘Kemp said during his campaign last year that he would only sign a “mirror image”of a federal religious freedom law passed in 1993. “Anything else, I’ll veto it,” Kemp said in August. The bill filed this week includes the same language as the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, but it also includes provisions that would allow plaintiffs who win lawsuits against the government to recover their legal costs in religious cases. Another addition to the bill spells out that judges would be able to order governments to change their laws and practices deemed to infringe on religious beliefs, but it would bar monetary damages.’
The bill was introduced by Sen. Marty Harbin (R-Tyrone).
“SB 221 would allow businesses to refuse service to LGBT customers, among others, and would grant taxpayer-funded agencies a broad license to discriminate against LGBT youth, families, and other Georgians,” said Georgia Equality. “The language mirrors federal language that was recently used by a government-funded foster care agency in South Carolina to justify discriminating against Catholic and Jewish couples looking to serve as foster parents.”
Georgia Equality adds: “The 2016 RFRA sparked massive economic backlash, prompting the Metro Atlanta Chamber to predict a five-year loss of $600 million in convention and sporting events business, and three major movie studios to announce that they would move all future shoots out of state.”
Said Jeff Graham, Executive Director of Georgia Equality: “Here we go again: extremist lawmakers seem prepared to put us in a negative national spotlight yet again, risking Georgia’s economic reputation and putting LGBT people in harm’s way. The freedom for religion is important to all of us, including LGBT people. The idea that treating people fairly and equally under the law somehow erodes religious freedom is, frankly, false. This legislation would send our state in the wrong direction and will spark a painfully divisive debate just by its introduction. Rather than spend yet another year gridlocking over discriminatory measures that would harm our state, they could finally advance a comprehensive civil rights law that protects Georgians from all walks of life.”
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