HRC released the following statement after the Georgia Senate quickly followed in the House’s footsteps today and voted to approve an amended version of H.B. 757.
"Governor Deal made clear weeks ago that he wouldn't sign legislation that allows discrimination--now is the time for him to show Georgia and the nation that he means it," said HRC President Chad Griffin. "Shockingly, the decision by the legislature today was to make an egregious and discriminatory bill even worse. It's appalling that anti-equality extremists in the legislature are trying to ignore the will of the people of Georgia, and to empower businesses with the explicit right to discriminate and deny service to LGBT Americans. Corporate leaders in Georgia and across the country have already spoken out against this bill because the First Amendment already protects religious freedom. It's time for Governor Deal to veto H.B. 757. Anything other than a swift veto is only courting an Indiana-style backlash."
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, allow a taxpayer-funded service provider to discriminate by denying a job because of the applicant's religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
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 businesses as well as 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.