Activists take to Facebook in attempt to head off anti-gay ‘religious freedom’ bill

A Facebook page went up Aug. 5 by activists hoping to send a message to state Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) to not reintroduce his discriminatory religious freedom bill in the next legislative session.

Tell Josh McKoon, No RFRA in GA” hopes grow a base to send the message to McKoon to not reintroduce the bill after it was defeated in the last session. A similar bill was introduced and defeated in the House by state Rep. Sam Teasley (R-Marietta).

But McKoon, who is up for reelection in November, pushed for the bill’s passage until the last hours before the 2014 session ended and promised he would seek to get the bill passed in the next session.

While McKoon has also said the bill, based on the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA_, does not discriminate against LGBT people, others state the vagueness of the bill opens the door to discriminate against LGBT people and many others.

Georgia Equality rallied LGBT activists to gather at the Capitol and to call their representatives, leading to the defeat of the measure.

Intercontinental Hospitality Group and several Atlanta-based companies including Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines denounced the proposed legislation, saying it would hurt its ability to be diverse in serving and hiring LGBT people.

The Metro Atlanta Chamber also publicly opposed the bill on the last day of the legislative session.

From the “Tell Josh McKoon, No RFRA in GA” Facebook page:

Josh McKoon’s Religious Freedom and Restoration Act is widely viewed as discriminatory and unnecessary. It suffered a resounding defeat last session. Georgia’s citizens and businesses made it crystal clear that we do NOT want his badly written legislation to become law in our state. And yet, Mr. McKoon has indicated that it will be his primary objective to waste the taxpayer’s money trying to get it passed next session, if he manages to win his seat this election day. Georgia has had enough, Mr. McKoon. Your Pandora’s Box of unintended consequences will drive business and tourism from our state.

The attempt to pass a Georgia “religious freedom” bill was part of a national legislative strategy by organizations that oppose LGBT equality.

Debate over the bills in various legislatures suggests they are largely motivated by a desire to allow an individual to express opposition to same-sex marriages by refusing to bake a wedding cake or provide wedding photography.

But the bills are written such that they create a gaping hole in human rights laws, enabling people to circumvent laws banning discrimination based on race, ethnic origin, sex, and every other classification, including sexual orientation and gender identity. And they could enable a person to cite religious motivations in a wide range of activities, such as withholding medical care, refusing to pay back interest on a loan, or denying service in a hotel or restaurant.