GEORGIA: State Senate Approves Bill To Legalize Anti-Gay Discrimination

Via Project Q Atlanta:

The Georgia Senate easily approved a controversial “religious freedom” bill that LGBT critics and faith leaders have derided as an anti-gay effort to allow discrimination. State Sen. Josh McKoon’s bill, S.B. 129, passed 37-15 after nearly 90 minutes of debate on Thursday. On Thursday morning, the Senate approved a measure to prohibit amendments to the legislation. McKoon spoke for nearly 30 minutes, defending his legislation against critics that he dismissed as “the professional left” who has contempt “for the people of this state.” “It’s a simple, modest common sense protection for people of faith, people of every faith,” McKoon said. “When we have strong religious liberty, what goes along with that is tolerance for people of every faith and people with no faith at all.” McKoon also said the LGBT critics of the legislation have failed to cite a case in which similar legislation in other states has resulted in anti-gay discrimination.

McKoon’s bill had been tabled earlier last month but he reportedly slipped it back into play on Monday during a judiciary committee meeting while its chief opponent was in the restroom. McKoon spent today’s session battling equality activists on Twitter.

UPDATE: LGBT groups react.

“This bill is a reprehensible attack on LGBT people and their families in Georgia,” said HRC National Field Director Marty Rouse. “It does not address any legitimate problem with current law and creates harmful consequences for businesses throughout the state. It threatens not just the LGBT community, but women, members of minority faiths and other minority classes. All Georgians deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, and we need all fair-minded people in the state to help stop this bill.”

“It’s disappointing that the Senate voted today for such a divisive and unneeded piece of legislation,” said Georgia Equality Executive Director Jeff Graham. “Legal experts from across the political spectrum agree that this bill could open the door for discrimination. And if this is not about creating a license to discriminate, why would they work so hard to prevent language that would clarify that from being added to the bill. The actions today will have a chilling effect on Georgia’s reputation and send a message of intolerance to the next generation.”