Judgment Day: Baptist group making last-ditch effort for vote on SB 377 today

It may not be over just yet.

The Georgia Baptist Convention is making one final push to bring SB 377 to a vote today—Crossover Day—by reaching out to their thousands-strong network of churches and rallying them to email and call their representatives. And a representative of the group is confident they can succeed before midnight tonight, the deadline for the bill to “cross over” to the other chamber and stay alive for the 2014 legislative session.

“I think there’s a good possibility that might happen because there have been a number of groups that have been involved in doing contacts,” Mike Griffin, a lobbyist for the group, told the Marietta Daily Journal. “I know the Georgia Baptist Convention, we’ve sent out emails to our pastors and churches at 3,600 locations,” Griffin said.

SB 377, the Preservation of Religious Freedom Act, has been considered an even more dangerous bill for the LGBT community than HB 1023, the House version of the bill that was pulled from consideration last week by sponsor state Rep. Sam Teasley.

“Shame on us if we allow this body to be bullied into action on this very important issue,” said SB 377’s sponsor, State Sen. Josh McKoon. “There is a very loud, but small minority who wishes to remain willfully ignorant of the plain language of this legislation. Or worse, is intentionally misleading the public on what this legislation does.” Sen. McKoon has used the term “bullied” throughout this process, especially during his Feb. 26 speech before the chamber.

The state Democratic Party has called both bills “dangerous and immeasurable in scope” and legal scholar and gay activist Anthony Kreis shoots down the comparisons between SB 377 and a bill signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993.

“That bill is nothing like the bill President Clinton signed in the ’90s,” Kreis told GA Voice. “The Senate bill is a sword which can be used to injure people, versus the federal law which was intended to shield people from objections that if you accommodate people they don’t harm other parties.”

While HB 1023 was pulled after a tumultuous few weeks of debate and drama, no doubt amped up by the fight over a similar (now-dead) bill in Arizona, SB 377 still reportedly has a shot. Georgia Equality sent out an action alert minutes ago urging members to call Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle:


As Rep. Simone Bell pointed out in a Facebook post late last week, you can never be too sure of a bill’s demise.


Better Georgia, a progressive advocacy group, is calling on people to counter the Baptist group’s push by calling and emailing their representatives as well.


The ACLU of Georgia is doing the same.


The GA Voice will be on top of any updates on the situation throughout the day and will update you accordingly.

psaunders@thegavoice.com | @patricksaunders