A bill moving swiftly through the Georgia House of Representatives would allow business owners who believe homosexuality is a sin to openly discriminate against gay Americans by denying them employment or banning them from restaurants and hotels.
The proposal, dubbed the Preservation of Religious Freedom Act, would allow any individual or for-profit company to ignore Georgia laws—including anti-discrimination and civil rights laws—that “indirectly constrain” exercise of religion. Atlanta, for example, prohibits discrimination against LGBT residents seeking housing, employment, and public accommodations. But the state bill could trump Atlanta’s protections.
The Georgia bill, which was introduced last week and was scheduled to be heard in subcommittee Monday afternoon, was sponsored by six state representatives (some of them Democrats). A similar bill has been introduced in the state Senate.
The Georgia House bill’s text is largely identical to controversial legislation that passed in Arizona last week. The Arizona measure—which is currently awaiting Republican Gov. Jan Brewer’s signature—has drawn widespread protests from LGBT groups and local businesses. One lawmaker who voted for the Arizona bill, Sen. Steve Pierce (R-Prescott), went so far as to publicly change his mind.
Georgia and Arizona are only the latest states to push religious freedom bills that could nullify discrimination laws. The new legislation is part of a wave of state laws drafted in response to a New Mexico lawsuit in which a photographer was sued for refusing to work for a same-sex couple.