Oliver, a longtime LGBT ally, said in a prepared statement that discrimination against LGBT students is unacceptable.
“Georgians deserve to know how their money is being spent. The private institutions using public tax dollars must be held to the same standards of accountability as public schools,” she said.
“Discrimination against the LGBT community is always wrong, and the taxpayers should not fund it.”
Added Bell, “We have long held that children should not be denied access to education. No child should be a victim of discrimination or have their education threatened. As a state representative, I will continue to fight for this fundamental right for all children.”
The Anti-Discrimination Act is part of the Democratic legislative agenda for 2013. The bill came about in part after a recent study by the Southern Education Fund found Georgia tax dollars were going to religious schools that publicly ban gay and lesbian students.
The bill states, in part:
A student scholarship organization shall not award any scholarship or tuition grant pursuant to this chapter to any eligible student for use in any qualified school or program that discriminates in hiring or admission on the basis of actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, gender, gender identity as defined in 18 U.S.C. Section 249(c)(4), sexual orientation, or disability.
The New York Times detailed the Southern Education Fund report in a story that garnered much attention, including House Democratic Minority Leader Stacey Abrams stating, “If this were to be happening at any public school, the lawsuit would be great and the settlement extraordinary.”
The tax credit program, created in 2008 and managed by the Georgia Student Scholarship Organization, allows Georgia taxpayers to “donate” a portion of their annual state income tax for use at private schools to provide scholarships to students in kindergarten through high school. Those “donations” are matched dollar-for-dollar with a tax credit on state income tax ― $50 million can be donated each year.
Some of that money, according to the Southern Education Foundation, ends up at religiously based private schools which expressly prohibit gay and lesbian students from attending and in some cases could see students suspended or even expelled if they vocalize support for LGBT causes.
In total, more than 115 of the private schools which participate in the program explicitly forbid gay and lesbian students from attending, according to the report. That’s roughly one-fourth of all the private schools in the program.
Below, state Rep. Simone Bell discusses the Anti-Discrimination Act:
Photo: State Rep. Simone Bell (file)