An effort to include sexual orientation, gender identity and several other classes in a bill aimed to prevent businesses from discriminating against customers failed in a House subcommittee hearing Monday afternoon.
House Bill 849, the Georgia Civil Rights in Public Accommodations Act, would prevent businesses, including hotels, restaurants, gas stations, movie theaters, concert halls and sports venues, from denying service to people on the grounds of their race, color, religion, veteran status or national origin. It was introduced in January by Rep. Rich Golick (R-Smyrna) and has a bipartisan list of co-sponsors including House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, Speaker Pro Tem Jan Nones and lesbian Rep. Karla Drenner (D-Avondale Estates).
In Monday’s hearing, state Rep. Taylor Bennett (D-Brookhaven) introduced an amendment that would add sexual orientation, gender identity, disability and sex to the list of those protected. Bennett, whose mother and sister are lesbians, made opposition to state Sen. Josh McKoon’s (R-Columbus) so-called “religious freedom” bill the centerpiece of his first political run last August.
Rep. Roger Bruce (D-Atlanta) voiced his support for the amendment, saying, “When the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, some of the classes that are in this amendment, it really wasn’t a public issue back then. If we are setting the record straight and doing the right thing, there are new issues that have come up and this amendment addresses those issues.”
However, some committee members voiced opposition to it, with Rep. Tom Weldon (R-Ringgold) asking Rep. Bennett what gender identity meant, then saying he’s against the amendment because, “Those who get bullied usually are the ones that end up doing well on down the road in life.”
The amendment failed 6 to 4 and HB 849 will now go before the full House Judiciary Committee.
And some Twitter reaction from LGBT pundits following the hearing:
— Robbie Medwed (@rjmedwed) February 8, 2016
Ga. has failed to live up to the promise of civil rights for 50 years. We should learn from our past–time to protect all Georgians. #gapol
— Anthony M. Kreis (@AnthonyMKreis) February 8, 2016