HRC called on leadership in the George House to put a stop to taxpayer-funded discrimination against LGBT Georgians and single parents in the form of a new bill — SB 284. The so-called “First Amendment Defense Act of Georgia” goes far beyond protecting the right to practice one’s religion and advanced out of the Georgia Senate Judiciary Committee on a partisan 15-3 vote yesterday.
“The freedom to practice one’s religion is of crucial importance, that’s why it is firmly protected in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. This extreme legislation however goes far beyond that fundamental right,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “This misleadingly named bill would create broad loopholes that would endanger LGBT Georgians and their families. It would have far-reaching consequences and must be rejected by the Senate.”
The dangerous legislation goes far beyond protecting the right of free exercise and would instead prohibit action against a person or organization “who believes, speaks, or acts in accordance with a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such marriage.”
While falsely framed as prohibiting the state government from making funding or tax status decisions based on an organization’s views on marriage that are driven by religious belief, in reality it opens the door to discrimination against LGBT couples, their families, and single parents. State-contracted counselors could refuse to provide services to single mothers. Taxpayer funded adoption and foster care agencies could refuse to place children in desperate need of loving and caring homes with LGBT couples. State-funded homeless shelters could turn away LGBT people and their families.
The legislation is a despicable attempt by anti-equality activists to give explicit cover to taxpayer funded discrimination. No religious organization or clergy is required to sanction or perform same-sex marriage under any federal or state law.
SB 284 was combined in committee to include language from a pending House bill, the so-called “Pastor Protection Act,” an unnecessary bill motivated by animus.
Working to stop such reckless and discriminatory legislation, HRC is proud to be fighting alongside local advocates in Georgia Unites Against Discrimination – a joint project of HRC and Georgia Equality dedicated to protecting LGBT Georgians from discrimination and ensuring that individuals and businesses aren’t able to use religious beliefs as an excuse to harm others.