Anti-LGBT Georgia Bill Moves Forward, Threatening to Undermine State’s Economic Growth

by Stephen Peters

Bill threatens LGBT Georgians, other minorities, and the economic climate of the state as conferences threaten to move elsewhere if the bill becomes law

ATLANTA - Yesterday, a subcommittee of the Georgia House Judiciary Committee moved an anti-LGBT bill forward that could allow people to use their religion as an excuse to challenge or opt out of various laws - including local laws in Atlanta and other cities - that protect LGBT people and other minorities from discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations. Major local conferences have already threatened to move out of the state if the bill becomes law.

“After following the testimony and actions of the subcommittee on SB 129, it is now crystal clear that the primary intent of this legislation is to create a vehicle to allow for the denial of services and discrimination against gay and transgender Georgians,” said Georgia Equality Executive Director Jeff Graham. “If this legislation passes, it will create a permanent stain on Georgia's reputation as a state.”

“This ill-conceived, discriminatory bill threatens not just the LGBT community, but women, racial minorities, members of minority faiths, and the economic climate of the state,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow.  “All Georgians deserve to be treated fairly and equally with dignity and respect. We call on Speaker Ralston and Governor Deal to stop this bill before it becomes law, inflicting harm throughout the state.”

Major local conferences have already threatened to move out of the state if the bill becomes law, including: American Society for Higher Education, American Academy of Religion, American Historical Association, German Studies Association, History of Science Society, Philosophy of Science Association, Society for Biblical Literature, and Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts.

The Georgia bill is a part of an onslaught of anti-LGBT bills being introduced around the country targeting LGBT people. Similar legislation has been opposed in other states by major companies including Wal-Mart and Apple out of concern that they undermine existing civil rights law and deeply harm the business climate of states in which they are passed.

Many of these bills could critically undermine the enforcement of state non-discrimination protections, and passing them will do serious harm to the business climate of these states—exposing the state to a wave of lawsuits, putting jobs at risk, and making major corporations think twice about investing in states that previously had pro-business reputations. A first bill of its kind this year was signed into law today in Indiana at the protest of corporations and businesses throughout the state. The CEO of one major local Indiana employer, Salesforce, has already noted they are now forced to dramatically reduce investment in the state because of outrage from employees and customers over the new law.

If the overly vague bill in Georgia is signed into law, public businesses from pharmacists to funeral homes to clothing stores, and everything in between, could potentially undermine state and local laws that protect people of faith, LGBT people, divorcees, women and interracial couples, among others. No one should be refused service simply because of a professed religious objection to who they are.

Americans overwhelmingly believe that businesses should not be able to deny services to someone because they’re gay or lesbian. According to a 2013 poll by Third Way and the Human Rights Campaign, 69 percent of Americans don’t think a business owner should be allowed to refuse to provide products or services to an individual because that person is gay or lesbian, compared to an incredibly small 15% that do. And when asked about small business owners in particular, a full 68% of Americans don’t think they should be able to refuse service to gays or lesbians, regardless of their religious beliefs. This supermajority included 55% of Republicans, 75% of Independents, 67% of people without college degrees, and 68% of Christians.

Georgia Unites Against Discrimination, a joint project of HRC and Georgia Equality, has been actively working to stop this bill since it was filed and continues to have grave concerns about its impact on LGBT Georgians, the Georgia economy, and other minorities groups. The Georgia legislative session ends on April 2.

Georgia Equality is an organization working to advance fairness, safety and opportunity for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities and our allies throughout the state.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. HRC envisions a world where LGBT people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.


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