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Gov. Deal backpedals on ‘re­li­gious free­dom’ bill anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion de­mand

Gov. Nathan Deal is backpedal­ing on a vow to in­clude anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion lan­guage in any so-called “re­li­gious free­dom” bill pro­posed in Ge­or­gia.

In a May 20 in­ter­view with WABE, Deal said that such lan­guage “may not be nec­es­sary” ac­cord­ing to a tran­script pro­vided by the sta­tion.

He went on to in­di­cate he would sup­port a bill that mir­rors the fed­eral Re­li­gious Free­dom Restora­tion Act passed in 1993, say­ing, “It has not been nec­es­sary in the orig­i­nal fed­eral ver­sion of the statute, so hope­fully if we have some­thing that’s a repli­ca­tion of the fed­eral statute, that lan­guage may not be nec­es­sary.”

Fol­low­ing the bill’s fail­ure in the leg­is­la­ture this year, Deal im­me­di­ately did a se­ries of in­ter­views in which he vowed to take the reins on the is­sue, and said he would push for a bill that in­cluded the anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion clause.

It marked a line in the sand be­tween Deal and Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Colum­bus), SB 129’s spon­sor, who is on a mission to keep anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion lan­guage out of his bill.

At the state GOP con­ven­tion on May 16, del­e­gates voted in fa­vor of a “re­li­gious free­dom” bill with­out the anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion clause, de­spite the emer­gence of a group called Ge­or­gia Repub­li­cans for the Fu­ture, which ran ads in fa­vor of the clause.

Court finds city in contempt for not im­ple­ment­ing po­lice train­ings man­dated af­ter Ea­gle raid

A fed­eral judge has found the city of At­lanta in contempt of court and im­posed nu­mer­ous sanc­tions for the city’s fail­ure to prop­erly train po­lice of­fi­cers as man­dated in a law­suit set­tle­ment fol­low­ing the un­con­sti­tu­tional raid on the At­lanta Ea­gle in 2009.

The sanc­tions in­clude pay­ing nearly $50,000 in at­tor­ney fees to the plain­tiffs’ at­tor­neys, Dan Gross­man, Gerald We­ber of the South­ern Cen­ter for Hu­man Rights, Greg Nevins and Beth Lit­trell of Lambda Legal and Al­bert Wan.

“Mak­ing sure that APD is trusted and accountable should be a top pri­or­ity for the City, not some­thing that judges are forced to twist arms to make hap­pen. Th­ese re­forms make law en­force­ment bet­ter,” said We­ber in a pre­pared state­ment.

In 2010, the city set­tled with pa­trons of the At­lanta Ea­gle, a Mid­town gay bar, for $1 mil­lion. As part of that set­tle­ment, the city promised to prop­erly train of­fi­cers on such pro­ce­dures as the Fourth Amend­ment, which pro­hibits un­rea­son­able search and seizures; wear­ing vis­i­ble name tags at all times; pro­hibit­ing of­fi­cers from in­ter­fer­ing with the public’s right to pho­to­graph, video­tape and make au­dio record­ings of po­lice ac­tiv­ity; doc­u­ment­ing war­rant­less de­ten­tions, frisks, and searches; and re­quir­ing the APD to rule on cit­i­zen com­plaints of po­lice mis­con­duct within 180 days.

Judge rules Lambda Legal can file brief on be­half of city in anti-gay At­lanta fire chief law­suit

A fed­eral judge ruled Mon­day that Lambda Legal has the right to file an ami­cus brief on be­half of the city of At­lanta in its mo­tion to dis­miss the law­suit filed by anti-gay fire chief Kelvin Cochran, who claims he was fired for his re­li­gious be­liefs.

U.S. Dis­trict Judge Leigh Martin May stated the brief Lambda Legal filed on April 3 is valid, de­spite at­tor­neys for Cochran tak­ing is­sue with Lambda Legal call­ing Cochran a misog­y­nist.

In its ami­cus brief, Lambda Legal says the gov­ern­ment is al­lowed to fire em­ploy­ees, in­clud­ing su­per­vi­sors, who pub­licly hu­mil­i­ate a group of peo­ple.

At­tor­neys for Cochran ar­gued, in their own April 17 brief, against al­low­ing Lambda Legal to file its brief, stat­ing, among other things, that Lambda Legal should not be able to file the brief be­cause the LGBT legal ad­vo­cacy group stated Cochran is a “misog­y­nist.”

Mayor Kasim Reed fired Cochran on Jan. 6 af­ter a 30-day sus­pen­sion. Reed said Cochran did not fol­low city pol­icy when he wrote and pub­lished a book ti­tled, “Who Told You That You Were Naked?” In re­turn, Cochran is su­ing the city and Mayor Reed, say­ing his con­sti­tu­tional right to free speech was vi­o­lated when he was fired.

Ge­or­gia GOP elects openly gay party leader at con­ven­tion

Ge­or­gia Repub­li­cans elected an openly gay man to their lead­er­ship team for the first time, and his nom­i­na­tion came cour­tesy of the au­thor of a so-called “re­li­gious free­dom” bill. The elec­tion oc­curred at the party’s statewide con­ven­tion on May 16 in Athens.

State Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Colum­bus), au­thor of SB 129, the “re­li­gious free­dom” bill that failed in this year’s leg­isla­tive ses­sion, nom­i­nated openly gay tax at­tor­ney Mansell McCord as trea­surer of the state Repub­li­can Party.

“You need a man of unim­peach­able in­tegrity. You need some­one who un­der­stands the com­plex­ity of cam­paign fi­nance law,” McKoon told del­e­gates, ac­cord­ing to the AJC. “And you need some­one who has been ded­i­cated to the con­ser­va­tive move­ment for decades.”

McCord is a long­time GOP ac­tivist, has served as the ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of Repub­li­can Lead­er­ship for Ge­or­gia for the past six years and is a for­mer chair­man of the Ge­or­gia Log Cabin Repub­li­cans.

But it’s un­clear if many of the 770 del­e­gates who voted for McCord re­al­ized they were elect­ing a gay man, with many re­port­edly as­sum­ing that Deb­bie McCord, who was on the bal­lot and was elected sec­ond vice-chair­man, was Mr. McCord’s wife. There is no re­la­tion.

A fed­eral judge ruled that Lambda Legal has the right to file an ami­cus brief on be­half of the city of At­lanta in its mo­tion to dis­miss the law­suit filed by anti-gay fire chief Kelvin Cochran. (Photo via Al­liance De­fend­ing Free­dom)

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