Georgia Lawmakers Echo Arizona’s Anti-Gay Bill
A bill that would allow business owners to refuse services to LGBT customers is gaining traction in the Georgia Legislature, Mother Jones reports.
The bill, which mirrors an anti-gay Arizona bill that is making national headlines, is currently gaining support in the Georgia House of Representatives.
The proposal is called the Preservation of Religious Freedom Act and would allow any individual or for-profit company to discriminate against others if they feel their religious freedom is being violated. As Mother Jones points out, the proposed law would apparently override the state's current anti-discrimination and civil rights laws -- for example, in Atlanta, laws prohibit discrimination against LGBT residents looking for housing, employment and public accommodations.
The bill was introduced last week and was heard in a subcommittee Monday. Six state representatives, some Democrats, sponsored the measure. Mother Jones reports a similar bill has been introduced in the state Senate.
LGBT rights activists have sharply criticized the bill, saying it would allow people to discriminate against the LGBT community, NBC's Atlanta affiliate station 11Alive reports.
Those against the bill packed the committee hearing Monday to condemn the legislation. Nevertheless, its supporters voiced how the bill would protect religious freedom.
"My faith teaches me that everyone needs to be treated with dignity and respect, and this law does nothing to change that," said Rep. Sam Teasley (R-Marietta), author of the bill.
He added that the measure was based off a similar federal law and that people's expression of religion needs to be protected.
Georgia Equality's Jeff Graham also spoke at the committee hearing, slamming the measure.
"A shop owner could say, 'You look like a gay couple, I'm not going to serve you in this restaurant,' " he said. "This is the sort of widespread discrimination that does get opened up by a bill like this."
Teasley responded with: "There has not been a case that I'm aware where that has ever been used -- and certainly not successfully used."
House Rep. Simone Belle (D-Atlanta), who is openly gay, also spoke against the bill and Teasley's remarks.
"I think it's easy for someone to say that who doesn't experience the discrimination that we experience on a daily basis," Belle said. "And we know that once something is codified in law, that opens up the door for people to feel like they have a need or responsibility to discriminate."
A second hearing on the bill is scheduled for later this week, 11Alive notes.
Arizona Republican Governor Jan Brewer currently has the attention of the country as many wait for her to sign or veto SB 1062 -- a measure that would allow business owners to refuse services to gay customers over their religious beliefs. A number of high profile politicians, including some Republicans, like Sen. John McCain and businesses (Apple Inc., American Airlines Group Inc., PetSmart Inc., and the National Football League) are urging Brewer to veto the bill.
When asked what she plans to do, Brewer kept her cards close to her vest.
"I'm going to go home, and when I receive the bill, I'm going to read it and I'm going to be briefed on it. We have been following it. And I will make my decision in the near future," Brewer said before adding that she has until Friday or Sunday morning to make her final decision.
"I can assure you, as always, I will do the right thing for the state of Arizona," Brewer said.