Top Georgia Democrat: Pass civil rights bill protecting LGBT people
The 2016 State Equality Index, an annual legislative report released Dec. 14 by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, listed Georgia in the lowest-rated category: “High Priority to Achieve Basic Equality.” According to a news release from the foundation, Georgia lacks “explicit state-level workplace protections for all LGBTQ employees.”
“State governments have a clear choice between sowing the seeds of division and discrimination or building an economy that works for everyone by fostering fairness and inclusion,” HRC President Chad Griffin said in the release. “Unfortunately, too many lawmakers have decided to target LGBTQ people for state-sanctioned discrimination and to interfere with local protections for workers, customers and residents. Now more than ever, it is crucial that legislators across the country stand on the right side of history and ensure full equality for all their citizens — nothing more and nothing less.”
Georgia, along with the other Southern states, are noted in the lowest-rated category for existing laws, such as those that criminalize HIV and sodomy and laws that allow for religious-based discrimination — though it is important to note that Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed a proposed “religious freedom bill” in Georgia earlier this year. According to the report, Georgia also lacks non-discrimination laws that include sexual orientation and gender identity protections, as well as laws that protect LGBT individuals from hate crimes. Georgia does have anti-cyberbullying laws as well as “good” health data collection, but stands to improve in all other areas, the report shows.
State Rep. Stacey Abrams (D-Atlanta), the House Minority Leader, called on lawmakers to pass a statewide civil rights bill that includes protections for LGBT people.
The comments came in a Dec. 14 interview with WABE’s Denis O’Hayer, when Abrams shot down the idea of sexual orientation or gender identity being left out of such a bill so it would pass the Republican-controlled General Assembly.
“If we are going to extend and protect civil rights in the state of Georgia in 2017, we should cover every group that is vulnerable to discrimination and Georgia has demonstrated that there is an extraordinary vulnerability for people based on their sexual identification,” Abrams said.
Abrams also warned against passing a civil rights bill now without those protections, then going back later and adding them once the political climate is more palatable.
“Normally I think that that type of incrementalism is actually helpful. In this case, there are sufficient federal laws to cover most of the groups that would be vulnerable and exposed, which is one of the reasons Georgia has been allowed to not take action,” Abrams said.
“But I think to refuse to take action when it comes to the LGBTQ community is dangerous and wrongheaded, and what it does is sends a signal that we do not believe that that community deserves the protection of our laws,” she added.