Georgia Republicans Making Another Run At Anti-LGBTQ ‘Religious Freedom’ Law

Georgia state Sen. Marty Harbin introduced legislation to legalize LGBTQ discrimination

State Sen. Marty Harbin of Georgia has introduced SB 221, a Religious Freedom Restoration Act that would legalize discrimination against LGBTQ people in the Peach state.

Nine state senators (seven of whom are committee chairman) have signed on as cosponsors ahead of the March 7 procedural deadline.

According to Georgia Equality, SB 221 would “allow businesses to refuse service to LGBT customers, among others, and would grant taxpayer-funded agencies a broad license to discriminate against LGBT youth, families, and other Georgians.”

In 2016, a similar bill was passed but former Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed the legislation as economic backlash prompted the Metro Atlanta Chamber to predict financial losses in excess of $600 million in regard to sporting events, convention business and major movie location shoots.

Newly-elected Gov. Brian Kemp, however, has signaled he will sign a RFRA bill if it lands on his desk.

During his campaign last year, Kemp told his followers he would support legislation that mirrors the language in a federal religious freedom law that was passed in 1993.

His opponent in the 2018 gubernatorial race, Stacey Abrams, says she opposes the legislation.

That legislation, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, was found to be unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1997. SCOTUS ruled that the law could only apply to federal government.

As a result, 21 individual states have passed their own state RFRAs.

SB 221 includes the same language as the federal RFRA, but also adds provisions for recovering legal costs in religious lawsuits and gives judges the power to change local laws that might be deemed as infringing on religious beliefs.

Georgia political pundits say the bill will probably pass in the senate, but the legislation’s chances in the state House are unclear.

This isn’t the only anti-LGBTQ legislation working its way through the Georgia legislature.

Last week, the state senate passed SB 375 (by a vote of 35-19) that would allow adoption agencies to refuse to place children with same-sex couples based on their religious beliefs.

That bill is now headed to the state House for consideration.

Watch the report from local NBC affiliate 11Alive below.

Report: State “Religious Exemption” Laws Threaten LGBTQ+ Freedom

(image via Movement Advancement Project)

A new 41-page report released by the Human Rights Watch details how so-called “religious freedom” laws allow for a vast number of individuals and corporations to discriminate against LGBTQ+ folk.

Human Rights Watch researcher Ryan Thoreson says anti-LGBTQ+ legislators like using the term “exemptions” even though the term is misleading.

“Given the dearth of laws that protect LGBT people from discrimination in the first place, legislators are getting it exactly backwards and creating exceptions before they’ve ever established the rule,” said Thoreson.

The report lists several examples like:

• Mississippi allows for individuals and businesses to discriminate based on sexual orientation, gender identity/presentation, and persons having extramarital affairs due to religious or moral objections.

• Michigan, Alabama, and North Dakota have passed legislation that allows for adoption/foster care agencies to explicitly discriminate against queer couples or individuals.

• Tennessee law allows for mental health counselors to decline to see LGBTQ+ clients.

In the United States, only 19 states and the District of Columbia prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, public accommodations, and housing.

New Hampshire, Wisconsin, and Utah offer protections based on sexual orientation (not gender identity), though Utah doesn’t prohibit such discrimination in public accommodations.

In 2018, Illinois, Georgia, Washington, Oklahoma and Florida have all seen new “religious exemption” bills filed in their state legislatures.

Mississippi: New “Religious Freedom” Law Will Allow Broad Discrimination Against LGBTs

Beginning this Friday, a new “religious freedom” law will take effect allowing officials and service providers the legal right to deny services to LGBT folks based on religious beliefs.

From LocalMemphis.com:

House Bill 1523 will allow anyone from doctors to store owners to deny service for LGBT people based on individual religious beliefs.

Critics of the law call it the nation’s most sweeping anti-LGBT law, while supporters say it protects their faith based convictions.

Those in opposition said they’re contemplating their next legal step in the coming days.

The legislation passed in the Mississippi General Assembly last year, and was signed by Governor Phil Bryant, but faced legal challenges since had yet to take effect.

That’s expected to change this week after a three-judge panel ruled the plaintiffs who sued in opposition to HB 1523 didn’t have the standing challenge the law.

HB 1523 will protect three types of religious beliefs as justification to deny service to LGBT individuals in Mississippi including the conviction that marriage is between one man and one woman.

Virginia Governor Vetoes Anti-Same-Sex Marriage Legislation

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe

Breaking the record for most vetoes by a Virginia governor, Gov. Terry McAuliffe has torpedoed two “religious freedom” bills passed by the Republican-led legislature.

From the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

McAuliffe, a Democrat in the last year of his four-year term, vetoed the bills during a live radio appearance on Washington’s WTOP, calling them “another attempt to “stigmatize” LGBT Virginians.

“You already have religious protection. Why would you push this bill out that does absolute nothing?,” McAuliffe said. “All you’re doing is trying to divide people. And I”m just not going to tolerate it.”

The vetoes of House Bill 2025 and Senate Bill 1324 are McAuliffe’s 90th and 91st, pushing McAliffe past the previous 90-veto record set by former Republican Gov. Jim Gilmore.

McAuliffe had already vetoed bills this year would legalize switchblades for some purposes, defund Planned Parenthood, allow homeschooled students to play on public-school sports teams, let military members under 21 apply for concealed handgun permits and add photo ID requirements for absentee ballots.

Democrats derided the two bills as anti-LGBT and discriminatory while Republicans framed the legislation as protecting “religious freedoms.”

Language in the bills allowed individuals the right to refuse to participate in a same-sex marriage based on “sincerely held religious belief” or “moral conviction.” This right already exists in the First Amendment.

Lacking veto-proof majorities, Republicans have not been able to override any of McAuliffe’s 91 vetoes.

Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish issued a statement of support for the veto:

“Equality Virginia applauds Governor McAuliffe for fulfilling his promise to veto this discriminatory and destructive bill. We recognize that religion is a vital part of many Virginians’ daily lives, but HB 2025 does not protect religious liberty. Instead, it provides a license to discriminate against loving LGBTQ families; furthermore, its broad and vague definition of ‘person’ would set a dangerous precedent for discriminatory individuals and groups to be protected by our religious freedom laws.”

White House On ‘Religious Freedoms’ Executive Order Draft: “A Lot Of Ideas Being Floated”

Keen News Service reports on a question that came up during today’s White House press briefing about the circulating draft executive order that could legalize discrimination against LGBTs in the name of “religious freedom.”

Asked whether the draft in circulation is one being considered by President Trump, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said at a White House briefing Thursday, “Right now, there are no executive orders we are able to read out.” He added, however, that there are a “lot of ideas being floated out,” and “input and ideas” being provided “on a variety of subjects.” But he said that “until the president makes up his mind, there’s nothing going out.”

The answer provided little relief to LGBT legal activists, particularly given that President Trump on Wednesday, met with almost a dozen representatives of right-wing groups, including those with specifically anti-LGBT agendas. And at the National Prayer Breakfast Thursday morning, President Trump reiterated his support for eliminating the “Johnson Amendment,” which prohibits tax exemptions for organizations participating in political activity.

You’ll note that Spicer repeatedly refers to the idea of LGBT rights in the vein of “political correctness.” And the word “pendulum” gets repeated over and over, as if the concept of equal rights for LGBTs has had it’s time.

Just one comment off-topic: Umm, that tie? Really? See what happens when you don’t have gay friends?

Watch below. The question comes up at the 9:32 mark.

White House: No Plans To Issue ‘Religious Freedom’ Executive Order “At This Time”

Dominic Holden, award-winning journalist for Buzzfeed, reports today that the White House has issued a statement regarding the newly leaked draft of a “religious freedom”/anti-LGBT executive order.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House Deputy Press Secretary, had this reply when asked about the EO:

“We still have no plans to take any action on this topic at this time.”

Please note the last three words – “at this time.”

Gov. John Kasich: I Probably Wouldn’t Have Signed North Carolina’s Anti-LGBT Law

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, during an appearance on Face The Nation, said he probably wouldn’t have signed North Carolina’s hate law which legalizes discrimination against LGBTs.

He added that “we are not having this issue in our state” in terms of religious freedoms being hampered.

From Mediaite:

Kasich avoided getting into the specifics of the “bathroom” bill, which––in addition to rejecting anti-discrimination law––demands that everyone must use the bathroom of the gender on their birth certificate.

He complained, “Why do we need to write a law every time we turn around in this country?”, and said, “Chill out, get over it if you have a disagreement with somebody.” (It’s not clear if he was specifically referring to the people behind the anti-trans legislation.)


Mississippi Governor Signs Anti-LGBT “Religious Freedoms” Bill

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant has signed into law the controversial and discriminatory HB 1523 which, in essence, legalizes discrimination against LGBTs in the state by purportedly protecting so-called “religious freedoms.”

From WREG Memphis:

The bill prevents state and local government agencies from taking action against state employees, individuals, organizations and private associations that deny service based on religious beliefs.

It does not prevent civil lawsuits based on claims of discrimination.

The measure’s intention is to protect those who believe that marriage should be between one man and one woman, that sexual relations should only take place inside such marriages, and that male and female genders are unchangeable.

Proponents say the legislation is an answer to states that have fined or taken business permits from companies that deny services such as event rentals and bakery services to same-sex couples.

Circuit clerks who do not want to give a wedding license to a same-sex couple could hand over those duties to a deputy clerk.

Opponents say the state is sanctioning discrimination.

After signing the bill, the governor tweeted this statement:

Immediately following the news, the ACLU issued this statement:

“This is a sad day for the state of Mississippi and for the thousands of Mississippians who can now be turned away from businesses, refused marriage licenses, or denied housing, essential services and needed care based on who they are. This bill flies in the face of the basic American principles of fairness, justice and equality and will not protect anyone’s religious liberty. Far from protecting anyone from ‘government discrimination’ as the bill claims, it is an attack on the citizens of our state, and it will serve as the Magnolia State’s badge of shame.”

UPDATE – The Democratic National Committee has issued this statement from DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz:

“It’s embarrassing, shameful, and truly perplexing that the Republicans still don’t get it. LGBT Americans are entitled to equal protection under the law, just as everyone else. No exceptions. No allowances for discrimination. That we’re even still debating this in 2016 boggles the mind.

“‘Right to Discriminate’ measures signed into law by Republican governors are proof that the Republican Party’s leaders are stuck in the dark ages when it comes to equality and that they’ve been on a divisive path toward destruction since long before Donald Trump ran for president. In fact, the Republican National Committee has passed resolutions calling on state legislatures to pass discriminatory ‘bathroom bills’ targeted at LGBT youth and calling on Congress to pass a national ‘Right to Discriminate’ law that they cynically call the First Amendment Defense Act.

“No American should be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. That’s not very complicated, and that’s not who we are as Americans. It’s long past time for the Republicans to get the message.”

Indiana: Gov. Mike Pence Indicates Support For Religious Freedoms Over LGBT Protections

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence

In his State of the State address last night, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence said he plans to put religious freedom issues over anti-discrimination policies for LGBTs.

From LGBTQ Nation:

The Republican governor said in his half-hour televised State of the State speech before legislators that no one should be mistreated because of “who they love or what they believe.” But he also said that “no one should ever fear persecution because of their deeply held religious beliefs.”

“I will not support any bill that diminishes the religious freedom of Hoosiers or interferes with the constitutional rights of our citizens to live out their beliefs in worship, service or work,” Pence said.

Major business leaders across the state were NOT impressed.

Speaking for the group Indiana Competes, which represents prominent state business interests, Peter Hansom said,“We were looking for a moment of leadership, and what we got is a shoulder shrug.”

Mike Huckabee: I Will Prosecute Critics Of Religious Freedoms Via Executive Order

In a Fox News op-ed, GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee swears to silence critics of “religious liberty” via executive orders:

On Day One of my administration, I will use the power of the presidency to protect and defend people of all faiths in all fifty states.

First, I will sign religious liberty executive orders that support traditional marriage and protect businesses, churches, non-profits, schools and universities, hospitals, and other organizations from discrimination, intimidation, civil penalties, or criminal attacks for exercising their religious beliefs.

Second, I will direct the attorney general to protect religious liberty and prosecute any violations of First Amendment rights of individuals, businesses, religious organizations, institutions, and civil servants, including those who believe in traditional marriage.

The Justice Department will protect and defend the rights of American citizens to follow their religious convictions without discrimination, and prosecute attacks on people of faith and their religious liberty.

I will aggressively prosecute attacks against people of faith as hate crimes.

Third, I will direct the Secretary of Defense to support military chaplains as well as servicemen and servicewomen who actively exercise their faith and not force them to participate in ceremonies they find objectionable on religious grounds. I will defend people of faith in every branch of our military. People of faith will not be punished for serving their country and sacrificing to keep us free.

I will use executive orders and the power of the presidency to protect and defend the Constitution–especially religious liberty, which is the heart of the First Amendment.

Of course, first he needs to become the GOP nominee.

And then, he has to be elected president.

Which isn’t going to happen.