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Two hearings on pro-gay bills cited as progress for conservative Gold Dome

Karla Drenner

As the Georgia General Assembly adjourned its annual 40-day session, the only specifically LGBT bill to pass this year was a resolution honoring the Atlanta Freedom Bands — and even that caused controversy.

Introduced by state Rep. Karla Drenner (D-Avondale Estates), one of three openly gay members of the General Assembly, the resolution was similar to those routinely passed every day to honor an organization or individual, with one exception.

“This bill had LGBT in there … I thought it was really innocuous,” Drenner said. “I worked on it to make it palatable for everybody and I removed everything that could be deemed to be inflammatory except LGBT.”

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[Video] Anti-bully bill needs revision but finds support in Ga. House education subcommittee

Keisha Waites

Rep. Keisha Waites (D-Atlanta) fielded questions on her anti-bully legislation, HB 429, today before a Georgia General Assembly education subcommittee.

As written, HB 429 would expand the state's anti-bullying laws and require schools to issue annual reports on instances of bullying where a student is disciplined. Waites is one of three openly gay members of the Georgia General Assembly.

Committee members, including Education Committee Chairman Brooks Coleman (R-Duluth), questioned the need for additional punishments against students who bully, but seemed favorable to the idea of requiring schools to submit annual reports on instances of bullying.

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Lawmakers react after report shows some schools ban gay students

Rep. Simone Bell (D-Atlanta)

Georgia House Democrats, including openly lesbian Reps. Simone Bell and Keisha Waites, held a public forum at the Capitol Feb. 11 to discuss six pieces of proposed legislation focused on education.

The proposed bills, four of which have already been filed during the current legislative session, included The Restore & Build HOPE Act, the Anti-Discrimination Act, the Education Transparency Act, the Parent Protection Act, the Drop-Out Deterrent Act and the End Cyber-Bullying Act.

Two of the bills, the Anti-Discrimination Act and the End Cyber-Bullying Act, specifically address concerns of LGBT voters.

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Ga. House Democrats hold hearing on bill to curb public funds going to anti-gay private schools

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Georgia House Democrats, including openly lesbian Reps. Keisha Waites (D-Atlanta) and Simone Bell (D-Atlanta), held a public forum today to discuss six pieces of proposed legislation focused on education.

The proposed bills, four of which have already been filed during the current legislative session, include The Restore & Build HOPE Act, the Anti-Discrimination Act, the Education Transparency Act, the Parent Protection Act, the Drop-Out Deterrent Act and the End Cyber-Bullying Act.

The Anti-Discrimination Act, which has not yet been finalized, would ensure that private schools that receive funding from Schools Scholarship Organizations could not use public funds towards discriminating against students based on race, religion, national origin, sexuality or disability.

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Employment bill tops LGBT agenda in Ga. legislature

Georgia's lesbian lawmakers

As Georgia’s three openly lesbian lawmakers return to work under the iconic Gold Dome as the 2013 legislative session convenes Jan. 14, they face the daunting task of trying to find a voice in a predominantly Republican-controlled General Assembly.

Republicans will enter the 2013 legislative session with a near-constitutional majority after a particularly good election year for conservative lawmakers at the local level.  But despite the national tide turning toward LGBT equality, Georgia’s gay lawmakers and activists have an uphill battle to continue the advance in an unfriendly legislative atmosphere.

Georgia Equality Executive Director Jeff Graham said work will continue, despite the Republican majority. Georgia, after all, is not new to conservative politics.