GOP sen­a­tors make pitches for anti-LGBT lan­guage, ‘re­li­gious free­dom’ bills

GA Voice - - Georgia News -

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.


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)

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