The bill currently has 70 sponsors and cosponsors, including 12 Republicans and one Independent, according to Georgia Equality. It would cover Georgia’s 174,000 state employees. 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.
“This bill is a multi-year strategy. We have been working hard to pave the way for success by educating lawmakers and leadership about the need for this bill and have been pleased to exceed our goal of 50 sponsors to include 70 sponsors,” said Liz Flowers, communications director for the House Democratic Caucus.
The bill will not progress this year. Crossover Day, the day by which legislation must pass one chamber to be considered by the other, has already passed and the General Assembly is set to adjourn its annual 40-day session on April 14.
“We knew we wouldn’t have a hearing this year with a budget crisis and a new governor, so our introduction at this point in the session gives us a bill with a number and nearly a year to find the 21 additional votes to pass the House,” Flowers said. “We won’t have other action this session and will seek to move it next year when we know we have committee support and are closer to the 91 votes we need.”
Graham said Georgia Equality would work to build support for the bill before the 2012 legislative session and he expects it to take at least two sessions to pass.
“We wanted to start a dialogue this year so we can have conversations over the summer and into the fall leading into next year’s session, when we anticipate more action on this bill,” he said.
According to Georgia Equality, the bill would “amend Chapter 19 (Labor Practices); Article 2 (Fair Employment Practices) to add safeguards from discrimination in public employment based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”
A Georgia Equality action alert called on constituents of the bill’s sponsors to contact their lawmakers and thank them for their support.
“As they face opposition that will surely surface, they need to know that they have strong support on this issue from their constituents,” the LGBT advocacy group stated.
Flowers praised the initial co-sponsors of the bill: Democratic Reps. Stacey Abrams and Simone Bell, both of Atlanta; Republican Reps. Mike Jacobs (Atlanta), and Wendell Willard (Sandy Springs); and Independent Rep. Rusty Kidd (Milledgeville).
“We hope their constituents will let them know how much we appreciate their leadership on this bill,” Flower said.
Legislation attempting to ban job discrimination against LGBT people was last introduced in the Georgia General Assembly in 2000, when the measure was introduced on day 35 of the 40-day session and did not advance.
That bill was much broader and was not limited just to state employees. It sought to create a comprehensive civil rights law for the state and would have banned discrimination on the basis of multiple categories — including race, gender, religion, and sexual orientation — in employment, credit, banking, education, insurance, public accommodations and access to services.
Graham said Georgia Equality believes the new bill’s narrower focus has a better chance of passage.
“We felt that to have a successful strategy … we needed to focus on amending current state law as opposed to creating a whole new category of workplace non-discrimination policy that goes well beyond the LGBT community,” he said.
Top photo: Georgia Equality Executive Director Jeff Graham speaks at the Gold Dome on World AIDS Day. (File)