Georgia’s House of Representatives passed a bill on Wednesday that would be a major blow to LGBT progress, but tried to pass it off as simply protecting the “religious liberty” of its citizens.
As the Huffington Post notes, “The legislation, dubbed the Religious Liberty Bill, still has to be signed by Georgia’s Republican Governor Nathan Deal to become law. Deal has made clear that he will not sign a bill that allows discrimination, but his office did not immediately respond to request for comment on Wednesday night.”
The bill essentially legalizes acts of discrimination, allowing pastors to refuse to perform same-sex marriages, and “[granting] faith-based organizations – churches, religious schools or associations—the right to reject holding events for people or groups of whom they object.” It also specifies that these faith-based organizations do not have to employ anyone whose “beliefs run counter to the organization’s.”
This type of bill leaves ample room for LGBT discrimination, which has been observed after similar bills were passed in Indiana and Arkansas.
The Human Rights Campaign has commented that, “It’s appalling that anti-equality extremists in the legislature are trying to ignore the will of the people of Georgia,” while a spokesperson for the Georgia Baptist Convention claimed, “We feel we’ve advanced our protection of our First Amendment right to religious freedom.”
Protecting religious freedom does not entail encroaching on the freedom and rights of others, although this concept appears impossible to grasp for millions of Americans.
Over 300 companies have signed onto a pledge to denounce Georgia’s bill, including Coca-Cola and Delta Airlines. Gov. Deal has not signed the bill into law, but if he chooses to, it will be an enormous step backwards for the entire LGBT community.
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