Thought the anti-gay “religious freedom” bills that failed to make it through Crossover Day were completely dead? Today is Sine Die, the final day of the Georgia General Assembly’s legislative session, and conservatives are making one final push to get either bill tacked on as an amendment to an existing bill and slip it past everyone before tonight’s midnight deadline. And LGBT activists are warning the community to watch out for updates.
The Capitol Coalition of Conservative Leaders was the group that showed up at the Capitol to rally in support of the bills, and not coincidentally, Georgia Equality has sent out two action alerts in the last 24 hours asking the community to monitor your email and social media accounts for any updates, and to email your state Senator “to oppose any amendments that would discriminate against LGBT Georgians.”
In our our latest story on the religious freedom bills that appears in our current issue, Georgia Equality called today “the most dangerous hours for us,” as a flurry of bills and amendments come through, leaving it easy for something to be overlooked.
GA Voice will be monitoring the situation for you and will blast out any updates as the day progresses.
And speaking of the religious freedom bills, Creative Loafing has announced the “winners” of their 25th Annual Golden Sleaze Awards, and you better believe the architects of the anti-gay bills made the list.
The “No Non-Straight, Non-White, Non-Christians Need Apply” Award
Rep. Sam Teasley, R-Marietta, and Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus
It takes a truly atrocious proposal to earn Jim Crow comparisons. Kudos to Teasley and McKoon for managing to pull it off. With little warning, the duo introduced respective bills known as the “The Preservation of Religious Freedom Act.” The two pieces of legislation would have opened the door for business owners to potentially discriminate against different minority groups if they felt their religious beliefs were being threatened. Both pieces of legislation mirrored a similar measure that Arizona lawmakers passed. (Gov. Jan Brewer later vetoed the proposal.) McKoon’s and Teasley’s companion measures received immense backlash from local LGBT groups and major corporations such as Coca-Cola, Home Depot, and UPS. McKoon, to his credit, has often tried to make the Gold Dome a more ethical and transparent place. And he could’ve let his bill quietly die without much debate. Instead, McKoon attacked the companies opposing his bill, lent credibility to a larger conservative group boycotting those businesses, and claimed “the only discrimination that’s going on in this state is against people of faith.” Those words of wisdom came from the mouth of a white male in the majority party that rules a state where gay marriages are banned and voters’ rights are assaulted every legislative session. If anyone knows about oppression, it must be Josh!
And out lesbian state Rep. Simone Bell got a tip of the cap from CL and was given an “Arnie,” named after Ellis Arnall, whom they call “Georgia’s last truly progressive governor.”
When House Republican lawmakers got jealous of all the attention Arizona was receiving for its “religious freedom” bill, state Rep. Sam Teasley introduced his own measure. Bell gave him and his supporters a wake-up call. The openly gay lawmaker surprised political observers with her passion and persuasion in arguing against the proposal, which she and other LGBT advocates argued could be used to discriminate against gays. “It’s not about a cake,” Bell said during a heated committee hearing about the legislation. “It’s not about a wedding event. It’s about us being able to live our lives fully. Not as second-class citizens but being able to go through this world as people we were created to be.” Teasley’s bullshit bill was eventually tabled because big-business groups expressed concern — not because it was repugnant.