Post submitted by HRC Field Organizer Hope Jackson

Yesterday, HRC staff was on the ground at Georgia’s state capitol to hear state lawmakers vote on HB 757, the so-called “First Amendment Defense Act” (FADA). HB 757 is a dangerous anti-LGBT bill, which goes far beyond protecting the right to practice one’s religion and would instead put LGBT people couples, single parents and unmarried couples at risk for discrimination.

While we monitored and waited for the bill to be heard, we were handed the amended language for HB 757. HB 757 was now an even more dangerous bill. It was a combination of the so-called FADA, the “Pastor Protection Act” and the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” These provisions 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.

Each side of the House had 30 minutes to debate the bill. While proponents of the bill claimed it was “balanced” freedom for faith communities, opponents focused on the need to create an inclusive, fair and equal society.

“I should have worn a black suit today…as representative of what’s happening today,” Rep. Karla Drenner remarked. “This bill says the members of the LGBT community can vote with the rest of Georgia, but can’t enjoy the same dignities.”

Rep. Stacey Abrams followed, “Discrimination rarely finds an end place once it’s started,” she said. “We cannot balance discrimination on the backs of those we force to bend.”

After hearing testimony from House members on both sides of the bill, the bill was voted favorably in a 104-65 with bipartisan opposition and move forward to the Senate.

While Senate Democratic leader Emmanuel Jones motioned for further amendments and more time be given to review the bill, the bill was called for a vote. The Senate passed the egregious HB 757 in a 37-18 vote with Republican and Democratic Senators voting against the bill.

Already Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce have already spoken out against the new version of H.B. 757 and urged Gov. Deal to veto it.

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.  Take action now to urge Georgia Governor Deal to veto this bill.

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