13 Reasons Governor Deal Should Veto the Anti-LGBT HB757

By Adam Polaski • March 25, 2016 • 8:37 am

National momentum continues to build against HB757, the bill in Georgia that would allow for broader religious exemptions than we’ve ever seen before – weaponized exemptions that are certainly designed to (and will surely be used to) discriminate against members of the LGBT community. The bill was approved by the Georgia House and Senate on Wednesday, March 16 – and now so many Georgians have just one last line of defense to block the legislation: Governor Nathan Deal, who is being pressured from all sides of the state to veto the bill and save Georgia from a law that would cripple the state’s economy and reputation as a welcoming environment for all people. The bill hit Governor Deal’s desk on Friday, March 25, and he has 40 days to take action – until May 3. 

Deal

You can stand up and urge Governor Deal to veto HB757 by clicking here – and below, check out 13 great reasons that Gov. Deal should do the right thing and stand on the right side of history by sending the bill to the garbage can.

1) The bill allows for broad discrimination, which occurs against members of the LGBT community each and every day.

In Georgia, and in states across the country, LGBT people face discrimination each day because of who they are or who they love – that’s a reality. Nationwide, in fact, 64% of LGBT Americans cite discrimination as a major problem in the country.  That’s because a supermajority of LGBT Americans have experienced some form of discrimination – and when you look specifically at the transgender community, 90% say they have been harassed for being transgender, or hid who they were to avoid discrimination at work. It is not an imagined phenomenon – and it has to stop.

HB 757 would do nothing but underline this discrimination, making it even easier and more harmful. By allowing such broad religious exemptions, this bill would allow anyone to claim they have a religious belief about almost anything as an excuse to side-step laws and claim they do not need to follow the law. People could cite HB757 as a reason to legally refuse service, employment, or housing to someone with absolutely no legal ramifications. 2) Tens of thousands of Georgians have spoken out against anti-LGBT discrimination in Georgia. In the past few weeks, more than 75,000 Georgians have urged Georgia lawmakers – including Governor Deal – to reject anti-LGBT discrimination. Through Georgia Unites Against Discrimination, a broad-based coalition that Freedom for All Americans is proud to lead and support alongside our state and national partners, the grassroots community has strongly opposed religious exemption bills that give people a license to cite their religious beliefs as an excuse to discriminate. Governor Deal would be wise to listen to the thousands of Georgians who overwhelmingly oppose this bill.

3) Nearly 500 businesses in Georgia have come together in opposition to anti-LGBT discrimination, detailing the negative economic impacts of such legislation.

When Georgia competes, Georgia prospers – but with anti-LGBT policies as the law of the land in the Peach State, Georgia’s businesses will be unable to attract and retain the talent they need to thrive. That’s the message of nearly 500 businesses, who have come together through Georgia Prospers, a business coalition dedicated to standing up for the LGBT community – and against anti-LGBT legislation.

4) 11 Republican lawmakers voted against HB 757 last week, signaling bipartisan opposition and just how extreme this bill is. Since HB 757’s introduction, conservative opposition has been growing. Lawmakers have cited various reasons for rejecting the religious exemptions legislation, from public contention, to business backlash, to personal experiences with gay and transgender family members and friends. HB 757 doesn’t augment religious liberties – which have always been well-protected – but it does invite negative national media attention and economic sanctions that could destabilize the state economy irrevocably. Discrimination is not a partisan issues. It’s in the best interest of Democrats and Republicans alike to advance legislation that promotes competition and insures Georgia’s economy for generations to come.

5) Governor Deal has said he would not allow anti-LGBT discrimination to become law – now he must uphold that promise. On Friday, March 16, Governor Deal made his first comments concerning HB757, where he seemed to be confused about the intent of the bill. He explained that HB757 was a compromise on religious liberty – but the fact is, HB757 is in no way a compromise. It is state-sanctioned discrimination, and it’s actually even worse than previous legislation that prompted the governor to take a stand against anti-LGBT measures. Just a few weeks ago, Governor Deal said he didn’t see a need for religious exemption bills, citing his Southern Baptist faith as one compelling factor. He said, “We are not jeopardized, in my opinion, by those who believe differently from us. We are not, in my opinion, put in jeopardy by virtue of those who might hold different beliefs or who may not even agree with what our Supreme Court said the law of the land is on the issue of same-sex marriage. I do not feel threatened by the fact that people who might choose same-sex marriages pursue that route. Governor Deal should remember this commitment and recognize that HB757 explicitly allows for discrimination.

6) The bill allows religious organizations the ability to legally deny employment to someone on religious grounds. The stated intent of HB 757 is clear: To scale back the rights of LGBT Georgians in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality. Weeks ago, the bill sponsor Greg Kirk said, “When the Supreme Court changed the definition of marriage, dynamics changed. There was a need for a law, for this law, and it took Georgia to lead the way of the country to put this law together.” But HB 757 is so broadly written that it would certainly claim victims outside of the LGBT community. For example, under HB 757, a religious organization – including taxpayer funded groups – could discriminate and refuse employment to a Jewish or Muslim man simply because they practice a different faith. No one should be disqualified from a job simply because of their religious beliefs, especially at an organization that they help to fund with their tax contributions.

7) Every major sports team in Georgia – and the NFL itself – has warned against passage of HB757, calling for Governor Deal to veto. On Friday the Atlanta Hawks, the Atlanta Braves, and the Atlanta Falcons all expressed disappointment with the bill, with the Braves saying, “The Atlanta Braves organization believes that House Bill 757 is detrimental to our community and bad for Georgia.”

Their announcements came on the heels of the NFL weighing in, with major implications for Atlanta’s long-hoped chances to host a Super Bowl. In a statement, the NFL told The Atlanta Journal Constitution that state and local non-discrimination protections were definitely a factor when it came to selecting host cities for one of the country’s most-hyped annual events. Lawmakers would jeopardize hundreds of thousands of dollars with passage of this bill.

8) Major entertainment companies have said they would boycott Georgia as a location for filming and production if anti-LGBT legislation is signed into law. Disney, Marvel, AMC, and Netflix are among the many entertainment companies who have said they would take their lucrative business elsewhere if Georgia’s anti-LGBT legislation becomes law.  After years of developing infrastructure for the film industry in Georgia, the governor’s signature would be an enormous blowback to the many power players there.

9) The bill could make life-threatening emergencies even worse, by allowing organizations a license to legally deny life-saving services to anyone. HB 757 allows any individual or organization to cite any religious beliefs as an excuse to refuse service to another individual or group of individuals. This means that a survivor of sexual assault could be denied emergency hospital care. A pharmacist could refuse to fill a medically necessary HIV prescription because of someone’s sexual orientation. And an unmarried couple and their children could be turned away from a homeless shelter in need of emergency housing.

10) HB 757 would trump all existing ordinances in Georgia that do protect people from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Georgia is one of only a handful of states that lacks a statewide non-discrimination law. As such, local ordinances are critical to protecting LGBT Georgians and other minority classes from harm. This year, Atlanta received a perfect score on its LGBT inclusivity rating, in part because of its comprehensive NDO. Under HB 757, the religious belief of any individual, business or religiously affiliated organization would override the non-discrimination protections outlined Atlanta’s ordinance–effectively voiding it. LGBT Georgians and others who have lived free of the fear of discrimination for years would be newly vulnerable to unfair treatment and harm.

11) Religious freedom is vital – and it’s already protected under the United States Constitution. HB 757 is a trojan horse for legalizing discrimination. Freedom of religion is a deeply held American value – and it’s already well-protected by the First Amendments to the U.S. and Georgia Constitutions. No laws past or recent threaten to destabilize that freedom. People of faith are perfectly protected to hold their beliefs – but religious freedom doesn’t give anyone a right to discriminate or treat others unfairly. It’s about striking a balance: We can update state law to protect gay and transgender people while continuing to protect the constitutional rights of churches and religious organizations. The reality is that LGBT Georgians have zero state-level protections at all in housing, employment, and public accommodations – and HB757 would, unbelievably, make this community even more vulnerable.

12) Tourism is already taking a hit, according to the Atlanta Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. At least 15 organizations have reached out in recent days to let it be known they’ll take their meetings and hotel bookings elsewhere if Governor Deal signs HB 757. In fact, ACVB says one major corporation is already preparing to pull a May meeting by this Friday if the governor hasn’t vetoed the bill – costing Atlanta 7,000 hotel bookings and space at the Georgia World Congress Center. If all 15 organizations take their business elsewhere, ACVB says it will immediately cost the Atlanta region at least 400,000 hotel bookings.

13) A supermajority of voters in Georgia support LGBT non-discrimination protections – and reject insidious attempts to roll back or preempt protections. A recent report from the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) shows that roughly two-thirds of Georgians support laws that would bar anti-LGBT discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. Additionally, most Georgians oppose laws that would allow small businesses and others to discriminate. This support is especially pronounced among young Georgians: 78% of Georgians under 30 support nondiscrimination protections and 64% of young Georgians (18-29) oppose religious exemptions for small businesses. There is no reason for lawmakers to continue to stand for discrimination in the name of religion or conservative principles, when it’s clear that a majority of religious and conservative Georgians support much-needed non-discrimination protections.

Don’t delay: Take action right now by sending a message to Georgia Governor Nathan Deal and urging him to REJECT HB757, which would unacceptably codify discrimination against LGBT people across the state.


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