John M. Becker

Georgia Considers 'Right to Discriminate' Bills

Filed By John M. Becker | February 24, 2014 6:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: anti-discrimination law, Christianists, Georgia, religious exemption, religious privilege, special rights

quit_squirming.jpgApparently unfazed by the resounding nationwide backlash against legislative attempts to create special rights for anti-LGBT discrimination, lawmakers in Georgia are advancing hate-protection bills of their own.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Jay Bookman reports on the effort, which is being pushed by Republicans but endorsed by at least three Democrats:

Last week, the Arizona House and Senate passed a bill intended to give individuals, businesses and other entities, including government employees, the right to discriminate against gay people. If you claim that treating gay people like anybody else -- hiring them, serving them in your restaurant, renting a hotel room to them -- is against your religious beliefs, the bill excuses you from any legal consequences of that discrimination.

Now Georgia may be about to follow that bad example. House Bill 1023, "The Preservation of Religious Freedom Act," was introduced last week in the Georgia House and is scheduled for a hearing this afternoon in a House Judiciary subcommittee. That quick action suggests that the bill has at least some chance of advancing.

Like the Arizona measure, Georgia's HB 1023 would allow people and businesses to use religious beliefs as a defense in court, effectively making "because Jesus" a legal excuse to circumvent state and local laws, including Atlanta's LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination law. It allows them to opt out of government actions and legal proceedings if it "directly or indirectly constrains, inhibits, curtails, or denies the exercise of religion by any person or that directly or indirectly pressures any person to engage in any action contrary to that person's exercise of religion."

More, after the jump.

The Anti-Defamation League points out that the above language is so broad that it could allow religion-based discrimination not just against LGBT people, but also against women, racial minorities, and people of different religious faiths. From the AJC:

  • It would create a strong new affirmative for criminal defendants charged with drug-related crimes, sexual assault or rapes of spouses or children, or child endangerment.
  • It would allow law enforcement to refuse assignments that they find religiously offensive such assisting or guarding a religious institution of a different faith, a pharmacy that sells prescription contraception, a liquor store, a butcher shop selling pork or beef, or a casino.
  • It would allow public hospital employees including physicians, nurses, or administrators to refuse to assist patients, even on an emergency basis, or process any paper work that they find to be religiously offensive such as in-vitro fertilization, blood transfusions or psychiatric care.
  • It would allow any public employee adhering to an extremist religion, including Nation of Islam, Christian Identity, or Odinism to refuse providing service to an Asian, White, Black, Jewish or Hispanic person."

A companion bill, SB 377, has been introduced in the state senate.

Cartoon by artist Mike Ritter of the GA Voice.

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