Over the past few weeks, HRC has worked tirelessly in Georgia to stop anti-LGBT bills and discrimination in the Peach State, including the engagement of HRC’s Southern Regional Field Organizer Hope Jackson as the Georgia Unites Against Discrimination Field Director.
While anti-equality lawmakers pushed to move forward nine religious refusal bills that would discriminate against LGBT Georgians, LGBT and allied advocates were on the ground fighting back. Georgia Unites Against Discrimination, a project of HRC and Georgia Equality, led several phone banks that made thousands of calls to members and supporters to engage them in the fight against these harmful pieces of legislation. Georgia Unites also held a Citizen’s Lobby Day and Rally in Atlanta.
Eager to fight back against these discriminatory bills, HRC supporters and volunteers from across Georgia attended the lobby day and rally. Over 25 participants shared their own personal stories with legislators and spoke against the slate of sweeping anti-LGBT legislation, including the First Amendment Defense Act (SB 284) by State Senator Greg Kirk, a bill that would give a license to discriminate against same-sex couples.
After lobbying with legislators, almost 200 supporters braved cold winds and snow flurries to gather for the rally at Liberty Plaza where they heard from leaders of Lambda Legal, Georgia Republicans for the Future, Women Engaged and Asian Americans Advancing Justice, as well as several faith leaders.
Following the rally, supporters rushed back over to the capitol to attend committee hearings on the Pastor Protection Act (HB 757), a bill that affirms what is already the case: Clergy are not obligated under the law to perform a marriage ceremony for any couple whose marriage would violate the clergy person's religious beliefs or policies. Despite being completely unnecessary and motivated by animus towards LGBT Georgians, it was passed and will likely move to the house floor for a vote.
Just this week, Georgia State House Republicans took advantage of an often-unused rule in order to vote against LGBT protections in Georgia. When the Georgia Civil Rights in Public Accommodations Act (HB 849), a rule to prevent businesses from discriminating against certain groups, went to committee, State Rep. Taylor Bennett proposed an amendment that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the bill. The amendment failed 6-4 in a committee that typically only has seven people.
How does that work? Two State House Republicans and the House Majority Whip took advantage of a rule that allows members of committees to vote on any subcommittee. This means that three members of the Georgia House took the time to vote in a committee they otherwise would never vote in, purely to ensure that LGBT Georgians can continue to be at risk of discrimination.
While we know that our time at the Georgia capitol was meaningful to educate lawmakers on the issues facing the LGBT community, we still have more work to do.
Georgia Unites will continue mobilizing supporters to fight against this slate of discriminatory legislation. For more information or to join our efforts, please contact Hope Jackson, HRC Southern Regional Field Organizer at (229) 291-4607 or firstname.lastname@example.org.