In response to a national backlash against the anti-LGBT so-called “religious freedom” bill House Bill 757, lawmakers introduced a substitute that is drawing a similar backlash from LGBT groups in Georgia and throughout the nation. The Georgia House passed the bill Wednesday evening and it is now under debate in the Senate, and if it passes it goes to Gov. Nathan Deal for his signature to become law. The revised bill is being called the “Free Exercise Protection Act.”
The proposed amendment to HB 757, a copy of which was obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, says no pastor can be forced to perform a same-sex wedding ceremony. It also says no individual can be forced to attend one.
The bill would protect faith-based organizations from having to rent or allow its facility to be used for an event it finds “objectionable.”
These organizations, which include churches, religious schools or associations, would not be required to provide social, educational or charitable services “that violate such faith-based organization’s sincerely held religious belief.” However, the amendment says government can enforce the terms of a grant, contract or other agreement.
Faith-based organizations also could not be forced to hire or retain an employee whose “religious beliefs or practices or lack of either are not in accord with the faith-based organization’s sincerely held religious belief.”
Finally, it includes much of the language found federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which requires government to prove a “compelling governmental interest” before it interferes with a person’s exercise of religion.
However, the proposed amendment adds that it cannot be used to allow “discrimination on any grounds prohibited by federal or state law.”
Georgia Equality’s Jeff Graham issued a statement on the bill through Georgia Unites Against Discrimination: