A religious freedom bill described by opponents as being discriminatory against same-sex couples passed the Georgia state legislature on Wednesday night.
The Georgia General Assembly sent religious liberty legislation to Gov. Nathan Deal on Wednesday night, March 16, outraging the LGBT community and its supporters and renewing warnings from the business community of the economic impact if the bill becomes law.
The Free Exercise Protection Act, a completely rewritten version of House Bill 757, came to the House floor with little warning Wednesday afternoon and passed, 104-65, after an hour of debate that largely consisted of self-congratulations on the Republican side and anguish on the Democratic side.
The Senate, which in February added provisions of the proposed First Amendment Defense Act to the original H.B. 757, a measure that reinforced clergy’s First Amendment protection from being forced to officiate at any marriage or other rite, voted 37-18 several hours later to accept the House’s replacement version.
Proponents say the legislation is necessary to protect the rights of free religion and free speech in light of the Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage last June. Opponents say the measure establishes lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transsexuals — and perhaps single parents, divorced people and those who have premarital sex, among others — as second-class citizens subject to discrimination from businesses, employers and service providers.
Robbie Medwed (in the photo), the education director for SOJOURN: Southern Jewish Resource Network for Gender and Sexual Diversity, had a far different reaction on Twitter: “I am ashamed to be a Georgian tonight. I am ashamed of my legislature. I am ashamed at their blatant hatred for LGBT people.”