ATLANTA—Defying the wishes of progressive citizens and corporations, the Georgia General Assembly on Wednesday voted 37-18 in favor of what anti-gay groups call a “compromise bill” that would allow businesses to discriminate against LGBT would-be patrons. The measure now needs only the governor’s signature to become state law. However, the vote came after weeks of heated debate on the bill, and various leaders, including Republican Gov. Nathan Deal, have expressed concern over the bias such a proposed law would promote and uphold. In other words, he could (and seemingly knows he should) veto it. Whether he will let his conscience be his guide remains to be seen.
In the meantime, LGBT equality advocates in Georgia and across the nation can only slam the bad bill and underline its heinous potential impact on LGBT people, community relations and state commerce. The audaciously anti-gay proposal would legalize discrimination in Georgia by allowing, with very few exceptions, faith-based organizations such as churches, religious schools and associations to refuse service to LGBT people or rent spaces for events if they allegedly “violate such faith-based organization’s sincerely held religious belief.” Perhaps even more infuriatingly (and dangerously), such faith groups would not be required to hire or retain employees whose religious beliefs or practices—or lack thereof—do not fall in line with the faith organizations’ holier-than-thou “beliefs.”
“This bill suggests that at my core, there is something offensive about who God made me to be,” said a passionate State Rep. Karla Drenner, Georgia’s first openly gay legislator.
It’s hard to believe in 2016, our community still faces such rabid opposition from religious groups who claim to promote “love.” But we’re not letting this go without a fight. LGBT equality advocates and large businesses—realizing the conceivable damage this bill could cause—foreshadowed further action they might take against the measure, including a boycott, which resulted from the passage of similar legislation in Indiana.
“Get ready for it,” said state Sen. Vincent Fort. “It will affect this state. It doesn’t have to. We are better than this. At some point, we will be better than this.”