Mayor Kasim Reed issued a statement on Thursday in response to the state legislature’s passage of House Bill 757, saying it codifies discrimination and its passage will “irreparably damage” the city of Atlanta’s economy:
“I am deeply disappointed that the Georgia Legislature passed HB 757. This measure is unprecedented in that it codifies employment discrimination and other types of discrimination as a ‘right’. This legislation will irreparably damage our economy and diminish the City of Atlanta’s standing as the business and cultural center of the Southeast.
HB 757 impairs our ability to recruit major corporate headquarters, startups, small and medium-sized businesses. Nearly every corporate, non-profit, academic leader and entrepreneur I’ve spoken with is concerned that its passage will harm their client relationships and their ability to hire world-class talent in Atlanta.
As one of the five most visited cities in the United States, I am also gravely concerned about the negative impact this legislation has on the City of Atlanta’s ability to compete for conventions and major events such as the Super Bowl, which will be worth billions to our economy in the future.
HB 757 does not represent or uphold our city’s rich history of diversity and inclusion. This bill should not become the law of our state.”
A revised version of the bill was introduced on Wednesday and passed both the House and the Senate. The bill, a copy of which you can view here, would protect faith-based organizations (including churches, religious schools or associations) from having to rent or allow its facility to be used for events it finds “objectionable.” Also these faith-based organizations would not be required to provide social, educational or charitable services “that violate such faith-based organization’s sincerely held religious belief.” And they would not be forced to hire or retain employees whose “religious beliefs or practices or lack of either are not in accord with the faith-based organization’s sincerely held religious belief.”
Also, the revised bill includes much of the language of the 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. There’s a provision added that says it cannot be used to allow “discrimination on any grounds prohibited by federal or state law” but there are no federal or state laws that expressly protect Georgia’s LGBT community against discrimination.
The bill is now in Gov. Nathan Deal’s hands to either sign into law or veto. He has until May 3 to decide.