The Georgia Senate passed House Bill 757 Wednesday evening 37-18, sending it to Gov. Nathan Deal’s desk and putting it one signature away from being law. A so-called “compromise” bill was introduced earlier in the evening that LGBT groups across the country slammed.

The bill, a copy of which you can view here, would protect faith-based organizations (including churches, religious schools or associations) from having to rent or allow its facility to be used for events it finds “objectionable.” Also these faith-based organizations would not be required to provide social, educational or charitable services “that violate such faith-based organization’s sincerely held religious belief.” And they would not be forced to hire or retain employees whose “religious beliefs or practices or lack of either are not in accord with the faith-based organization’s sincerely held religious belief.”

Also, the revised bill includes much of the language of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which requires government to prove a “compelling governmental interest” before it interferes with a person’s exercise of religion. There’s a provision added that says it cannot be used to allow “discrimination on any grounds prohibited by federal or state law” but there are no federal or state laws that expressly protect LGBT people against discrimination.

State Sen. Greg Kirk (R-Americus) called it “a great day in Georgia” on the Senate floor in the midst of the debate before the final vote. Kirk is the author of a so-called “First Amendment Defense Act,” the anti-LGBT language of which was inserted into state Rep. Kevin Tanner’s (R-Dawsonville) HB 757. That move caused a national backlash, especially from the business community, and led Gov. Deal to come out strongly against any bill that would permit discrimination based on religious beliefs.

State Sen. Harold Jones (D-Augusta) spoke passionately against the bill on the Senate floor, saying, “This is not a proud day in Georgia. This is a day we will look back on and say ‘We were wrong.'”

Many warned of a boycott to come, as happened to similar legislation in Indiana.

“Get ready for it,” said state Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta). “It will affect this state. It doesn’t have to. We are better than this. At some point, we will be better than this.”

Reaction poured in following the Senate vote:

From Democratic Party of Georgia spokesman Michael Smith:

“Republican lawmakers should be ashamed of this small-minded piece of legislation. If this bill is signed into law, today will be looked back upon as one of our state’s most disgraceful moments in modern history. Georgia has been down the road of discrimination before, and it did not end well.

“The business community has been consistently clear with their aversion of this legislation. If the GOP’s goal was to draft an economic stimulus for attorneys, then mission accomplished. The resulting litigation from this move will clog our courts, paralyze our economy, and drain our business community dry. HB 757 is a short-sighted move by Republicans that will have consequences for years to come.

“Discrimination and exclusion are not Georgia values, and history has shown that hope and progress always win.”

Georgia Republicans for the Future commended the House lawmakers that voted against the bill and called for Gov. Deal to veto the bill.

State Sen. Elena Parent (D-Atlanta):

Constitutional scholar Anthony Kreis:

SOJOURN’s Robbie Medwed:

Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin:

“Governor Deal made clear weeks ago that he wouldn’t sign legislation that allows discrimination–now is the time for him to show Georgia and the nation that he means it. Shockingly, the decision by the legislature today was to make an egregious and discriminatory bill even worse. It’s appalling that anti-equality extremists in the legislature are trying to ignore the will of the people of Georgia, and to empower businesses with the explicit right to discriminate and deny service to LGBT Americans. Corporate leaders in Georgia and across the country have already spoken out against this bill because the First Amendment already protects religious freedom. It’s time for Governor Deal to veto H.B. 757. Anything other than a swift veto is only courting an Indiana-style backlash.”

Lambda Legal southern regional director (and former state representative) Simone Bell:

“We are deeply disappointed that the Georgia House and Senate passed HB 757 and we urge Governor Deal to veto this discriminatory bill. This is still a terrible bill and it is nowhere near a solution. It is equally as divisive and harmful as the bill that is opposed by hundreds of ministers, thousands of employers, and tens of thousands of Georgians.

“We cannot replace a bad bill with another bad bill. And this is a very bad bill. It invites discrimination and encourages lawsuits. It is targeted at the LGBT community but will sweep in others. It purports to excuse anyone from following the law if they claim it burdens their religion.

“This bill encourages government officials to use religion to treat LGBT people, and others, unfairly and to ignore anti-discrimination policies. Freedom of religion does not give any of us the right to discriminate against others. The bill is a toxic recipe for increasing disputes, discord and discrimination across the state. It would allow taxpayer-funded faith-based organizations (like soup kitchens, homeless shelters, etc.) to deny services to LGBT people or others, and to fire and otherwise discriminate against LGB people. It could apply to universities, colleges, schools, businesses and organizations – big and small — that are tangentially-related to, or affiliated with, a church. Most egregiously, this bill could override Non-Discrimination Ordinances in a host of ways.

“Lambda Legal urges the Governor to veto this bill before it causes damage and legal havoc between neighbors, landlord and tenant, employee and employer, and customer and company.

“Do not be fooled — nothing in this bill protects LGBT people from discrimination. It is a shameful and blatant attempt to roll back equality for LGBT people and their families.”

Freedom For All Americans executive director Matt McTighe:

“Governor Deal spoke from the heart just a few weeks ago when he stated his unequivocal opposition to legislation that does exactly what HB 757 portends to do. Nothing in the License to Discriminate legislation has changed for the better since Governor Deal made his original remarks – in fact, the bill is worse. Governor Deal must veto this dangerous legislation. Georgia’s economy and brand are both at stake. This is alarmingly similar to the course of events we saw play out in Indiana, right before religious exemptions legislation in the state cost millions in lost revenue.”

The tally:


22 Responses

    • Robert

      Whoa mule! Whatever happened to the deeply held and sincere religious belief that black people are souless sub humans and one should not be require to do business with them? How is this different?

    • David

      This is about freedom of religion not discrimination. This is a good bill.

      • Eric

        There is to be a separation of Church and State in this country. If the CHURCH chooses to discriminate against whomever, although it essentially flies in the face of Jesus’ own example and teachings, then so be it, but the STATE, or business operating in the STATE cannot discriminate against any group, it even says “on ANY grounds”, or you could just as easily go back to being flagrantly racist and making people drink from different fountains. This protects YOU too because they can’t discriminate against you for the religion you practice, or if you have a stupid haircut. I find Christians to be the most UNChristian people around. Someone else’s sexual preference has NO bearing on your life. Homosexuals are not making out on your sofa and forcing you to watch! It’s idiotic that you feel you have the right, because it makes you feel icky, to force your religious view through LAW on everyone else. This isn’t even the word of God, it’s of men like yourself who felt the same way you do now over 2000 years ago. They just tried to say, as you do now, that “God said so”. You can shout about it all you want, you can go to church and sing about it, but you can’t make it a law, or one day there will be a law directly against you for being who you are. Just like for a homosexual, who you are is likely not a choice, although you CAN choose to be less ignorant and less hateful.

      • Lobster

        I totally agree. This IS a good bill. It is wrong for the federal government to force faith-based establishments to hire those who are clearly living outside the beliefs of those establishments. This is a protection bill for those who stand firm in their beliefs. The LGBT community is so small compared to the godless mob of people supporting LGBT rights. This would not affect as many people as it would anger the people fighting it’s cause. Companies like Chic-Fil-A should not be FORCED to hire LGBT employees if it goes against the beliefs of the company simply because the federal government says they must. Employers should have the right to screen for employees that fit that companies core values using whatever criteria they choose. This bill is not about discrimination… It’s about standing up for the religious beliefs of faith-based organizations.

    • James

      Exactly how is this sad? A church/religious group has the right to say no to people. Is this anymore discriminatory than a LGBT scholarship? They tell me no because I’m not like them… But that’s supposed to be OK?

  1. Ken

    I am not anti-LGBT, in fact I have no with same sex marriage. My stance is I will let God handle this one, and, multiple other topics. BUT, I do have an issue with folks trying to force someone to go directly against their religious beliefs. This bill, as far as I can tell, simply protects pastors and churches from being persecuted for their belief in regard to topics directly related to that church. Example, the pastor does not have to perform a same sex marriage and they do not have to allow use of the church property for any activity directly relating to an LGBT issue.

    Prosecuting or persecuting the pastor or the church for refusing to marry a same sex couple or for not allowing a wedding reception or for not allowing a LGBT rally is just wrong. Yes, this is against LGBT but it is not intended as a hurtful belief but how they feel led by their God. Obviously not all people in this country belong to the LGBT community, trying to force that is just as bad as when folks in that community were really discriminated against. It will only cause bad feelings when it is unnecessary. There are plenty of churches that support the LGBT community, it is mean spirited to try to go to a church where you are not wanted.

    You can either see both sides or be the bigot who sees only one side.

    • J

      Ken, You do realize the First Amendment of the US Constitution ALREADY protects pastors and churches, right? This Georgia bill is only about hate, pure and simple.

      • Toni

        Really then why are ministers being targeted by same sex couples who know they will, no matter how politely, not marry them and then sue them into oblivion . Christians are being targeted all over the US in every business for the purpose of harassment and destruction. If they weren’t we wouldn’t have to pass laws to protect our supposed 1st amendment rights.

    • Stephen C

      This bill is based on bible prophecy.
      The bible speaks against thousands of things that go “Against God.”
      Things that we humans do every day. Let’s say that to be gay in America is voted in as being against the law. Ok, so it’s done. So now what’s next? Those who have sex outside of marriage are to be jailed as well? Done. Now let’s go after those who have made a lifelong commitment (before GOD, not to mention family and friends), to honor, and love each other, only to wind up in divorce court. That’s a big one! If you step outside of your marriage, you broke the law, so you, your spouse, and anyone else involved are headed straight to prison. How’s that for religious protection. Eating shell fish? That’s also a no-no. Working on Sunday? Punishable by death….
      My point…keep your bible in your home and in your church and stop using it to create laws. This is a free country. If the far right Christian freaks want to make laws based on bible prophecy, then they better use the entire book. But realize this, there wouldnt be anyone left.

      • Glen R.

        Stephen, your argument are as weak as they are erroneous. Your slippery-slope claim (i.e. “What’s next? Imprisonment for sex out-of-wedlock?”) falls flat because that’s not what’s being considered here.

        The effect of this bill, which simply restates the spirit of the 1st Amendment, is that PASTORS and BUSINESS OWNERS will NOT be thrown in prison for ABSTAINING from action. There’s a major difference, bud.

        In a free society, a government cannot COMPEL anyone to do ANYTHING against their will. They’re supposed to hinder/punish criminal activity, such as injury of person and/or property.

        Any ‘progressive’ politician, demagogue, or community organizer who says otherwise is not doing you any favors….but merely trying to steal your freedom.

        The question is….will you be wise to it….or continue in willful ignorance?

      • James

        I’m so sick of people citing Old Testament law like abstaining from shellfish or even slave ownership as valid arguments in our New Testament age. Christ abolished the civil and ceremonial laws God established for his people of another age. Marriage between 1 man and 1 woman though is still a Christian value. That said, it’s the government’s job to provide order and protection. Whether our country’s laws should protect the LGBT is a different question. As far as I can tell, this bill’s only aspiration to further protect Christians.

    • Manny

      Your comments are well said.
      Members of the LGBT community know who’s opposed to their lifestyle and are smart enough to spend their money in businesses that appreciate doing business regardless of their sexual orientation.
      This bill is an excuse to allow discrimination. If it were any other group of people as a whole, that would be obvious.

    • Dan

      this bill is completely not needed and they know it.. since the constitution gives the pastors the right already who to say no to for marriage

  2. Bobby

    Please make note of each person voting for this trash. We will take them out next voting cycle. We have religious fanatics in the middle-east, we don’t need them in Georgia.

    • Nedvok

      Yep. Pretty much. I don’t live in Georgia, but I did just cancel my bookings for a trip. And I’m not sad about it. I do not support hatred.

  3. odbbull

    Honestly – please read the bill. I don’t see anything in here that is anti-LGBT. This act protects a private individual, company or religious entity from a frivolous lawsuit if they refuse service to others based on their beliefs. This right should be covered by the first amendment as well, but as we have seen, there have been activists focused on ruining the life and rights of private individuals.

    If I am running a business, I would not want to discriminate as it would affect my business. However, other people may feel differently and I respect their right to regulate their business. Unfortunately, activists have taken it upon themselves to sue and destroy these private citizens.

    Before you go down this path, a company receiving government funds or contracts should not be covered by this bill. Also, governments should not be exempt from this bill. Based on the details in the bill, it does exempt the government from discrimination.

  4. Glen R.

    The audacity of the author here is breathtaking. The days of unbiased reporting are long gone.

    The only reason the People of Georgia even felt the need to pass such a bill….is because the HRC and their ideological affiliates have instituted a witch hunt to stamp out any and all dissent, political and/or religious….all in the name of TOLERANCE. The irony here is palpable.

    The Bill of Rights (and basic principles of FREEDOM) should already be widely understood to protect business owners (and anyone else) from legal recourse for INACTION. The most fundamental precept of common law is that, without injury to another person’s body or property, THERE IS NO CRIME (see Corpus Delicti).

    So….say I own a bakery in Oregon, and a homosexual couple wants me to enter into a commercial contract (service-for-goods trade) with them in the celebration of their “union”….I can refuse. It is my right under common law. I cannot be compelled to enter into ANY contract, and it is NOT a crime to refuse. If a law is passed to the contrary, it is null and void. The law of the land is superior, and overrules.

    This is common sense. Unfortunately, this is not so common anymore. This is why our freedom is almost completely gone.

    • Nedvok

      Yes you can refuse the gay couple. But how does that couple being gay affect you? You are cutting yourself and your business, losing money because of your own Why do you have the right to refuse service to them because they like the same sex? How does them liking the same sex have any affect on your life?

      Now let’s say I own a bakery, and you walk in with your family to celebrate your mentally challenged daughter’s graduation from kindergarten. But wait, I don’t like your ugly face. I hate your name. And I feel your daughter is nothing but a retard. Thanks to this law, I can now refuse you service because I am allowed to discriminate against you.

      Or wait, let’s say instead of a mentally challenged child – let’s say you’re black. I am now denying your contract because I don’t like black people.

      Think about this. Let’s pretend your favorite place for your entire family (kids, wife, etc) is the famous ABC Theme Park. Little did you know, ABC Theme Park is owned by a homosexual or lesbian couple. Bam. They denied your access. Here they are, offering a public attraction for everyone to enjoy… only if you’re gay. How would that make you feel? What if those owners owned several shops? Let’s say they own the only grocery store, the only movie store, and the only hardware store. They decide they do not want straight people in there store – so now you have to drive 50+ miles away to get your basic essentials or to watch a new movie.

      How does that make you feel? You are denying the basic right of a HUMAN. We live in the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, FOUNDED ON FREEDOM. Not hate. People that are homosexual, black, muslim, super religious, or whatever they are just that – they are PEOPLE and they are HUMAN just like yourself.

      Let’s face it though: your bakery is suffering from your own ignorance. What if they had a huge order? Now your competitor wins.

      Stop being ignorant. Stop being hateful. We are all humans and we all need to live together regardless of race, beliefs, or sexuality.

      If it’s against your beliefs, or you think “God” does not like gay people then you need to rethink your beliefs.

  5. Manny

    It’s a sad day when the Georgia Senator Greg Kirk thinks it’s a great day in Georgia because he thinks he got what he wanted.
    That might make it a great day for him, he obviously is not speaking for Georgia as a state. I know he didn’t ask me about it, so don’t speak for me.
    Perfect example of politicians looking out for themselves instead of spending that time addressing issues we already have in Georgia.

  6. Steven

    Your argument is based off of a misunderstanding of the Christian faith. If you believe the Bible, then there are things that are right and wrong. Your decisions are not based off of feelings (as all of your counter arguments assume), but on moral principals that govern your life.

    If you are a gay couple and want to get married, go to a church that supports that. To go to a church and force the pastor of the church to perform the ceremony for you is belligerent. You can argue that it’s belligerent to deny the couple marriage, but is it? Just as you should not be forced to do something you believe is morally wrong, the government should not force people to go against their beliefs.

    2 final things.
    1. If you believe in the separation of church and state (as most people of the left Srongly support, though very often taken out of context), at least
    be consistent and keep gov’nt out of the church.
    2. Not protecting those with religious beliefs is discrimination, so if you are concerned, be equally concerned. Bias and bigotry are two-sided, but difficult to see from either end. Take a step back and look at the big picture. I hope you’ll see it.


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