“License to Discriminate” Bill Advances in Georgia
Equality Federation Urges the House to Reject Action
Today, after its passage in the Georgia Senate, Equality Federation called upon the House to reject taking action on HB 757, a wide-reaching and harmful piece of legislation which demolishes the time-honored separation of Church and State and allows faith-based organizations that receive taxpayer funding to deny critical services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, single mothers, and others; if they feel certain people conflict with their religious belief of marriage as between one man and one woman. The bill’s language is so broad that it could extend the license to discriminate to-profit entities that cite a religious belief as marriage between one man and one woman as central to its mission.
Rebecca Isaacs, Executive Director of Equality Federation said, “Freedom of religion is important and is already protected by the First Amendment. This legislation opens a pandora’s box that could include harmful discrimination, a flood of lawsuits, and costly business boycotts of Georgia. Lawmakers should enact legislation that gives everyone a fair opportunity to provide for themselves and their families, but this is quite the opposite. These discriminatory efforts are out of step with the basic principles of freedom and fairness that all Americans hold dear.”
Jeff Graham, Executive Director of Federation member Georgia Equality said, “The lifeblood of our communities – the families who live down the street from us and the businesses that drive our economy – don’t want to see divisive, discriminatory bills like this. It’s time for lawmakers to listen to the business leaders and the voters who want comprehensive protections that lift up all Georgians, no matter who they are.”
The bill, HB 757, is a broadly written piece of legislation that seemingly no one in the faith or business communities even asked for. It would allow any individual or faith-based, taxpayer-funded organization to refuse services to those who they claim conflict with their religious beliefs that marriage is between one man and one woman. However, the bill’s definition of “faith-based organization” is so broad that it even extends to for-profit businesses.
The bill will impact Georgians far beyond the LGBT community. Individuals who could legally face discrimination include:
- Single mothers
- Victims of domestic violence
- Interfaith or interracial couples
- Individuals who are divorced or remarried.
The bill could lead to harmful situations where an array of Georgians could be denied services critical to their safety and life, such as:
- The LGBT nondiscrimination policies of all companies operating in Georgia, big and small, would essentially be voided for legally married, same-sex couples.
- An unmarried, single mother and her child fleeing an abusive relationship could be denied critical domestic abuse services.
- An employee of a public business, such as a cellphone store, could refuse to sell their good to same-sex couples.
- A police officer could refuse to work an event he feels conflicts with his religious values, such as patrolling the neighborhood of a synagogue or mosque during holy days.
- A health care provider could refuse one-half of a legally married, same-sex couple visitation during health emergencies or at emotional times, such as the end of life.
- An interfaith couple planning their wedding could be denied usage of a public space for their celebration.
New data from the Public Religion Research Institute found that a supermajority of Georgians – 66 percent – back nondiscrimination protections for gay and transgender people. An equally strong proportion of Georgians, 57 percent, reject the notion of allowing businesses to deny services to others based on religious beliefs.
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