HRC and Georgia Equality, the statewide LGBT advocacy organization, called on Senate Leadership and Gov. Nathan Deal to put a stop to H.B. 757 after the Georgia House just voted to add additional provisions to the bill that would increase the risk of discrimination against LGBT people. New provisions in the bill, which just passed the Georgia House by a vote of 104-65 go far beyond protecting the right to practice one’s religion and could allow a business owner or employee to refuse service to LGBT people.
Additional provisions added to the bill could undermine local non-discrimination ordinances that protect LGBT people, permit hospitals to refuse to provide medically necessary care, or allow a taxpayer-funded service provider to discriminate by denying a job because of the applicant's religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
“Members of the Georgia House are so blindly devoted to discrimination against LGBT people that they’ve not only ignored weeks of warnings from some of Georgia’s largest employers and faith leaders, but tens of thousands of everyday Georgians who have spoken out against this bill,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “We all know how this story ends, even if members of the Georgia House do not. When Indiana Gov. Mike Pence went down this road in Indiana, the backlash was swift and severe from businesses who rightly understood that religious liberty is already protected by the First Amendment. If the Georgia Senate doesn’t immediately stop this reckless and irresponsible bill in its tracks, Gov. Deal should veto it.”
“Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen an unprecedented chorus of unexpected allies come together to speak out against HB 757, the License to Discriminate. Conservatives, legal experts, people of faith, businesses and more than 75,000 Georgians expressed their strong opposition to legislation which threatens our state’s economy and reputation, and which very clearly singles out LGBT people and others for harm,” said Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality. “It’s shameful that lawmakers in the House ignored this feedback and, rather than taking steps to mitigate any potential fallout, actually made a bad bill worse.”
The bill adds a so-called “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” (RFRA), as well as retains and broadens discriminatory provisions that give explicit cover to taxpayer-funded religious organizations choosing to discriminate. While falsely framed as prohibiting the state government from making funding or tax status decisions based on an organization’s religious views, in reality it opens the door to discrimination in social services and employment against a wide range of Georgians. The RFRA and other provisions could result in a range of harms. Taxpayer-funded adoption and foster care agencies could refuse to place children in desperate need of loving and caring homes with LGBT couples. Homeless shelters could turn away unwed couples and their families. Food pantries could turn away people of other faiths or even engage in race discrimination. Drug counseling centers could refuse to hire a qualified LGBT therapist.
In reality, no religious organization or clergy is required to sanction or perform same-sex marriage under any federal or state law.
Since H.B. 757 passed the Senate, countless major employers have spoken out against the bill. HRC and Georgia Unites delivered more than 75,000 email petitions to Georgia Governor Nathan Deal. The petitions urge Governor Deal to veto HB 757 should it reach his desk. And in recent weeks companies like Coca-Cola, Dell, Hilton, IHG, Marriott, Microsoft and Salesforce have all spoken out against the bill.
Georgia is among a majority of states that lack explicit LGBT non-discrimination protections. Nonpartisan polling from Public Religion Research Institute released this year found that a majority of Georgians oppose allowing businesses to discriminate and deny service to LGBT people -- only 37 percent support such a bill and 57 percent oppose. Georgians also reported that they support protecting LGBT people from discrimination in employment, housing and access to public services by an overwhelming 66-28 margin.
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.