LGBT workplace protections bill tabled by Ga. House subcommittee

By a 3-2 vote on Tuesday, Georgia House Judiciary subcommittee tabled a bill that would provide workplace protections to all state employees, including gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender workers.

Voting against the bill were Reps. Stephen Allison (R-Blairsville), Billy Maddox (R-Zebulon) and Randy Nix (R-LaGrange). Voting to oppose the tabling of the bill were Reps. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur) and Pam Stephenson (D-Decatur).

“Tabling it is not as not as bad as beating it. But tabling it means they killed it,” said state Rep. Karla Drenner (D-Avondale Estates) immediately following the hearing.  Last year, Drenner drafted House Bill 630, which included protection for gay and transgender state employees. The bill was introduced with 70 sponsors and co-sponsors, including 12 Republicans and one Independent. It would cover Georgia’s 174,000 state employees.

“It could come back, but that is unlikely,” Drenner said.

Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality which has been lobbying heavily for the bill, said it is too soon to say the bill is dead.

“The bill is very much still alive,” said Graham, who was among several supporters of the bill who testified at the hearing. “We had as conservative a group as we could have had and they voted to table and not end it.”

In 2010, the state passed an anti-bullying bill after it was first tabled, Graham said. So, he said, Tuesday’s action does not mean the end of HB 630. But it won’t be easy to get it passed, he admitted. Georgia Equality is urging people to call their local legislators to lobby on behalf of the bill.

“It is going to be a huge challenge to get it through this year,” he said.

Currently 21 states bar job discrimination against state employees based on sexual orientation, while 12 also ban job bias against state employees based on gender identity, Georgia Equality noted.

When asked after today’s hearing why he voted for tabling the bill, Rep. Maddox said he is “fundamentally opposed” to it. When asked what he was fundamentally opposed to, Maddox  said that today was the first time he looked at the bill and wanted more time to study it.

“I’m going to look at the information presented today and read through that,” he said. He also said he hoped the bill would come back before the committee.

Gays compared to pedophiles, necrophiliacs at House hearing

Tanya Ditty, state director for the anti-gay Concerned Women for America, testified at the hearing urging committee members to oppose the bill.

“What’s going to protect our children if a pedophiliac comes in and gets a teaching job, is a bus driver, is a custodian? And they could be people that just want to prey on children and they would be protected by this law,” she said.

She also stated that “sexual orientation” includes pedophilia, transsexuality, zoophilia and necrophilia and that “we do not believe the government should have a special protected minority class.”

After the hearing, Graham said he hoped people would better understand what Georgia faces at the General Assembly every day when working for LGBT equality after hearing Ditty’s comments.

“I  think it certainly shows there is reasonable argument why this bill should pass.
It is up to the members of the committee and the legislature to do what is right or cave into the ridiculous fears of our opponents.

“Our opponents can’t even make a reasonable argument against this. That’s why they have to distort the facts and go as extreme as they do,” he said.

Top photo: Testifying at the Feb. 21 hearing on HB 630, the Georgia  were, from left, Georgia Equality Executive Director Jeff Graham; labor attorney Joyce Kitchens, partner with the firm of Kitchens, New, Cleghorn; and state Rep. Karla Drenner (D-Avondale Estates), sponsor of the bill. (by Dyana Bagby)