A state senator from Georgia reintroduced a bill on Feb. 17 that some critics say could allow businesses to discriminate against the local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
State Sen. Josh McKoon, of Columbus, Georgia, proposed Senate Bill 129, Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The Republican said he hopes the bill will protect an individual's right to freedom of religion without the government encroaching on his or her beliefs.
“I think our founders understood that with the First Amendment to the Constitution, the very first thing it protects is your religious liberty,” McKoon said.
A similar bill was struck down last year because some believed the bill would make it easier for businesses and employers to claim they were are adhering to religious beliefs if they chose to not serve members of the LGBT community.
“This goes back to the civil rights, where they were turned down because of the color of their skin,” said Jeremy Hobbs, director of COLGAY Pride. “Now you want to create legislation because you want to turn down a service to someone because they're gay, straight or transgender?”
McKoon said the allegations that the bill’s intent is to discriminate are untrue.
“The critics of this legislation are basically using it to scare very good people, to try and raise money for their radical, far-left agendas,” McKoon said.
Other states passed similar religious freedom acts after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the 1993 federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act did not apply to the states.
The federal law states that the government must compellingly prove that a proposed policy should override an individual’s religious freedom if they come into conflict.
Thirteen states, including Arizona, Kentucky, Missouri and Rhode Island, have passed state Religious Freedom Restoration Acts that mirror the federal statute.
The Georgia Senate Judiciary Committee tabled the bill on Feb. 18.