Society

Georgia Lawmaker Withdraws Anti-Burqa Bill

| by Zach Cohen

A Georgia bill that would have prohibited clothing that "conceal[s] the identity of the wearer" has been withdrawn after political opposition and accusations of xenophobia.

Georgia state Rep. Jason Spencer said the bill was intended, "to address radical elements that could pose a threat to public safety," CNN reports.

In a Facebook post, Spencer cited "the visceral reaction" it prompted as his reason for withdrawing the bill.

"While this bill does not contain language that specifically targets any group," Spencer's post said, "I am mindful of the perception that it has created."

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The bill would have amended Georgia's anti-masking law, which was originally written to ban Ku Klux Klan garb from any "public way or public property."

Spencer's proposed amendments would have defined the use of a "public way" to include "operating a motor vehicle upon any public street, road, or highway."

It would also have added, "or she" to a section that originally read: "A person is guilty of a misdemeanor when he wears a mask, hood..."

Georgia's House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams fought back against Spencer's bill, reports Atlanta Loop. In a news release, she discussed her thoughts on the legislation:

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This offensive and bigoted legislation is a direct result of the rhetoric we heard during Donald Trump’s Islamophobic Presidential campaign ... During the past legislative session, the Georgia House Democratic Caucus stood firmly against legislation that would have enshrined discrimination in to our laws under the guise of religious freedom. Now, in that same spirit, we will reaffirm our commitment to fighting back against legislation that harms the free exercise of religion and singles out any community in our state. In the era of an impending administration that traffics in xenophobia and flouts the 1st Amendment, we cannot afford to be silent when Georgians’ constitutionally-protected rights are threatened.

Spencer's bill would also have banned face coverings in state-issued identification. Bert Brantley, commissioner of state Department of Driver Services told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the amendment would have been redundant.

“We have agency rules against any kind of facial covering. We have to be able to see from below the chin to above the eyebrows."

Anthony Kress, former University of Georgia law professor believes the bill clearly targeted Muslim women, and further, that Spencer's concern was not their safety. He said, "If burqas obstruct drivers and hinder them from safely operating a vehicle, then the General Assembly should reconsider the use of helmets for motorcyclists."

Sources: CNN, Georgia General Assembly, Atlanta Loop, Atlanta Journal-Constitution / Photo credit: Bare Naked Islam

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