Metro Weekly

Georgia bill would provide protections for LGBT opponents

Georgia State Capitol (Photo: connor.carey, via Wikimedia.)

Georgia State Capitol (Photo: connor.carey, via Wikimedia.)

A Georgia state senator on Thursday held a press conference to outline the specifics of a bill he has introduced intended to provide special protections for people who oppose LGBT rights.

The bill, introduced by State Sen. Greg Kirk (R-Americus), would prohibit the government or any of its agents from taking retaliatory action against a person who speaks out against homosexuality and same-sex marriage due to religious or moral objections. This would prevent government agents from denying certain tax breaks or credits, as well as any certification, accreditation, or license to any person speaking out against the LGBT community. But critics, including the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), have argued that Kirk’s bill, if passed would essentially promote and enforce taxpayer-funded discrimination against LGBT families. 

Kirk has described his bill as “live and let live” legislation, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Unlike bills in other states, namely Tennessee, Kirk’s bill does not attempt to challenge or overturn the Supreme Court’s decision legalizing marriage equality. Kirk also read a passage from his bill making clear that he does not intend to provide exemptions for county clerks who refuse to issue same-sex marriage licenses. The bill also offers no protections for private, for-profit businesses who wish to refuse service to same-sex couples or LGBT individuals.

Kirk did say his legislation would nullify local nondiscrimination ordinances that and would prevent local governments from denying contracts to vendors or entities that wish to discriminate against the LGBT community based on the contractor’s religious beliefs.

But HRC criticized Kirk’s bill as unnecessary, saying that people’s personal religious freedom is already protected under the First Amendment and noting that no religious organization or member of the clergy is rqeuired to sanction or perform a same-sex marriage if it is against their beliefs.

“Fair-minded Georgians must not be fooled by Rep. Kirk’s despicable attempt to mask discrimination against LGBT Georgians and their families with religious freedom,” Sarah Warbelow, the legal director for the HRC said in a statement. “This reckless legislation would have dangerous and far reaching consequences by allowing state government officials to discriminate against same-sex couples and their families.”

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com