LGBT activists speak out against passage of controversial Georgia immigration bill

The bill requires employers with more than 10 employees to use the federal E-verify system to determine if employees are in the country legally or illegally. The bill also authorizes law enforcement to ask for proof of citizenship when they find a situation warrants it and has been dubbed by some as the “Show me your papers” law.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists have participated in opposing HB 87 and SB 40, the bills introduced that are similar to the stringent Arizona bill. When that bill became law, a boycott was called for the entire state and business groups and human rights groups are calling for a similar boycott of Georgia.

On Monday, a federal appeals court upheld a court ruling that blocked portions of Arizona’s immigration law from going into effect.

Rep. Matt Ramsey (R-Peachtree City), said after the vote that it “was a great day for Georgia.”

Paulina Hernandez, co-director of Southerners on New Ground, an organization serving rural LGBT residents in the South, expressed anger and dismay with the legislature’s vote on Thursday.

“We are sadly disappointed and outraged that the state of Georgia has chosen to stand on the side politicians like Matt Ramsey who seek to gain political advantage by encouraging hatred and bigotry,” she said in a statement.

“The thousands of people in Georgia who have opposed codifying and legislating hate will not rest until the governor is accountable to the fact his party has forced its political agenda at our expense, and at the expense of poor and working class immigrant people, and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender immigrants all over Georgia, who will suffer for it.”

Southerners on New Ground, the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, Latino and labor organizations as well as other human rights groups are calling for a national boycott of the state.

“We are calling for a national boycott of conventions and vacation travel to Georgia, to tell the governor that racism, racial profiling and hate are not values we will are willing to underwrite and pay for,” Hernandez added. “We want to send Gov. Deal a strong message that he must veto HB-87, and that will not tolerate a governor who leads Georgia into the troubled waters of a state like Arizona.”

Rev. Glenna Shepherd, the lesbian senior pastor at Decatur United Church of Christ, also decried the bill’s passage.

“Instead of choosing the road of compassion, the Georgia Assembly chose to take one step closer to making Georgia a place that is unwelcoming and inhospitable to our neighbors,” she said in a statement.

“If this legislation becomes law in our state, people of mercy — those who offer shelter and compassion to undocumented immigrants among us — will be considered criminals. Programs in our houses of worship will no longer be sanctuary for those in need. Provisions in these bills dismantle the sanctuary movement, making churches and community organizations, as well as their many volunteers, vulnerable to criminal and civil prosecution,” she said.

The NGLTF sent Deal a letter asking him to veto the bill and said it planned to relocate its annual “Creating Change” conference planned for Atlanta in 2013 if the bill became law.

At the “Rally for Truth” on March 24 at the state Capitol, thousands gathered to speak out against the bills. They included Atlanta lesbian duo the Indigo Girls as well as state Rep. Simone Bill (D-Atlanta), the second lesbian elected to the state legislature. Watch the video below of what they said about why LGBT people need to be involved in the fight against the legislation.