Religious Bigotry Bill Stalls in Georgia

[Content note: homophobia, domestic violence, anti-Semitism, Christian supremacy.]

There is a little bit of good news coming from the South: Georgia's version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act has stalled in committee, and there is a reasonable chance it will not revive before the end of the session on April 1st. Tellingly, it was the attempt to add anti-discrimination language to the bill that held it up. The anti-discrimination amendment was introduced by a Republican:

The amendment from gay-friendly state Rep. Mike Jacobs, a Republican from Brookhaven, was similar to measures swatted down by a subcommittee on Wednesday. But Jacobs' amendment passed 9 to 8, putting in place a change fought tooth and nail by the bill's sponsor, state Sen. Josh McKoon, Republican proponents and religious conservatives.

Jacobs ... said voters in his district "overwhelmingly oppose" the bill over concerns that it would open LGBT people to discrimination.

"I take at face value the statements of the proponents that they do not intend discrimination with this bill but I also believe that if that is the case, we should state that expressly in the bill itself. That is what the amendment does."

Whoooops! Looks like maybe the bill's sponsors do intend discrimination! I am shocked, SHOCKED, to find there is gambling discrimination going on here!

(I am not actually shocked.)

Georgia's bill is one of the most sweeping in the nation, containing language that could, for example, impede child abuse or intimate partner violence investigations [CN: photo portraying domestic abuse in linked article]:

First, the language is the strictest possible. As with other RFRAs, Georgia’s act says that the government cannot “substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” without a “compelling governmental interest” and the “least restrictive means of furthering” that interest. This is the classic three-prong test that was at issue in Hobby Lobby, and is considered extremely difficult to meet.

Georgia’s RFRA also specifies that “exercise of religion” can be just about any “practice or observance of religion, whether or not compelled by or central to a system of religious belief.”

The state of Georgia might be able to show compelling interest in a dv investigation; but the potential to stall those investigations is chilling. And while Georgia as a whole does not have LGBTQI protections, some areas (like Atlanta) do have such ordinacnes. The Republicans supporting this bill have told repeatedly claimed in its defense that there haven't been any problems in other states with similar bills, but State Rep. Roger Bruce reminded them that Georgia doesn't have to look far for a history of "Christian values" justifying discrimination:

“You keep making reference to these other states and the truth of the matter is this is Georgia,” Rep. Bruce said, citing a less tolerant history in the state concerning minorities. He then questioned why proponents aren't allowing protections against discrimination in the bill.

“Right now what you are asking us to do is allow state-sponsored discrimination, and if this is not what you are doing, then let us put in the bill to make sure there's no question about that,” he said.

Unsurprisingly, there has been a backlash against the legislators who supported the anti-discrimination amendment. And it is not pretty:

Supporters of SB 129, the religious liberty bill, have posted images of the four GOP lawmakers, and phone numbers, blaming them for the gutting of the measure by endorsing the insertion of an anti-discrimination clause into the legislation. Erick Erickson, the WSB Radio provocateur, will certainly call down hellfire during his 5 p.m. program. He started off this morning with the image of Judas on his website and a post that included these words:

A week before the anniversary of Judas betraying the our Lord, Beth Beskin, Jay Powell, and Wendell Willard betrayed you for monied special interests. They have time to make it right.

Given that Jacobs is Jewish, some caution might be in order if that metaphor is pursued.

Yeah, Invoking Judas in a post chiding legislators for siding with a Jewish legislator? And throwing "monied special interest" in there? There are not enough condemnatory words in the English language to convey my anger and disgust. Nor to express how I feel about this:

On his Facebook page last night, Mike Griffin, lobbyist for the Georgia Baptist Convention and Georgia Right to Life, posted the image of a gutted catfish, and this:

This is what happened to the Ga Religious Freedom Restoration Act! It was gutted like a catfish by the House Judiciary Committee! Rep Mike Jacobs made a motion to amend the bill with language that would have nullified protection that people of faith needed from government intrusion.

But Griffin advised his followers to be courteous when chewing out the lawmakers.

Call me cynical, but I don't think posting an image of an animal with its guts hanging out is a great way to encourage courtesy; I think it's really creepy and threatening. YMMV.

There's a small chance the bill could be revived, so LGBTQI Georgians and their supporters can't breathe easy just yet. South Carolina already has one of these laws, and is trying to include specific protections for anti-marriage equality bigots. Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama... there are plenty of variations on this theme still bouncing around legislatures in the Southeast. (And elsewhere.)

But it's really, really out in the open now. If ever the proponents of these bills have shown their true colours, they did in Georgia last night. If the "religious freedom" laws are not about discrimination, what's the harm in adding anti-discrimination language?

Oh. Yeah. Right.

Shakesville is run as a safe space. First-time commenters: Please read Shakesville's Commenting Policy and Feminism 101 Section before commenting. We also do lots of in-thread moderation, so we ask that everyone read the entirety of any thread before commenting, to ensure compliance with any in-thread moderation. Thank you.

blog comments powered by Disqus