GOP senators make pitches for anti-LGBT language, ‘religious freedom’ bills
Things got heated during the last two weeks of the Georgia legislative session as some legislators made last-ditch efforts to push through discriminatory language and bills.
Brunswick Republican Sen. William Ligon’s amendment to House Bill 159, a complete overhaul and revamp of Georgia’s adoption policy, was seen by many as anti-LGBT as it would allow adoption agencies — even those that operate through taxpayer funds — to pick and choose parents based on their “mission.” Ligon addressed the Senate on a point of personal privilege on March 28, the second-to-last day of session, urging them to take into account what he meant by this amendment.
“The amendment does not exclude anyone from adoption,” he said, citing a Supreme Court decision that said “religious organizations and persons have every right to expect First Amendment protections as they continue to seek the family structure that they have long revered.”
He said he looks forward to working through this issue in the coming year. As of press time, it was unclear whether HB 159 would make it through the Senate without Ligon’s amendment — as suggested by its original author, Rep. Bert Reeves (R-Marietta) — or tabled entirely until next year.
Ligon is also a co-sponsor of Senate Bill 233, a so-called “religious freedom” bill that aimed to reference federal religious freedom accommodations in state law. Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) took to the well on March 28 to make a final push on its be- half, and his multi-year mission to pass this type of legislation in Georgia. SB 233 did not make it out of committee this year, following opposition from faith leaders, civil rights activists and Gov. Nathan Deal, who also spoke out against Ligon’s amendments to HB 159.
On the House side, Senate Bill 16 passed and is headed back to the Senate, where it is expected to be passed and signed by Deal. SB 16 is a compromise bill related to the Georgia Low THC Cannabis Oil Registry, which adds AIDS patients to a list of those eligible to use that form of medical marijuana to ease their symptoms.
Several other LGBT-related bills, including both the House and Senate bills calling for comprehensive civil rights, sparked discussion this year, but did not make it out of committee. They could be re-introduced in 2018, as Georgia’s legislative terms span two years.
By DALLAS ANNE DUNCAN
Georgia Senators William Ligon (pictured) and Josh McKoon both took to the well on March 28 to make final pleas for discriminatory legislation. (File photo)