A path through on hate crimes?

GA Voice - - Front Page -

ac­tion” against an agency that re­fused to per­form ser­vices based on its re­li­gious be­liefs.

SB 375 passed out of com­mit­tee and passed in the Se­nate on Feb. 23, but has lan­guished in the House ever since. The chances of the bill pass­ing on its own are highly un­likely, as state House Ju­di­ciary Chair­man Wen­dell Wil­lard (R-Sandy Springs) has made it clear he won’t bring the bill up for a hear­ing or a vote.

But the lan­guage of SB 375 could be at­tached to an­other bill and brought be­fore the House be­fore the gavel falls on Sine Die. The eyes of the LGBTQ com­mu­nity and the state’s busi­ness in­ter­ests will be on that House ses­sion un­til it ends.

Other re­li­gious ex­emp­tions bills

Ge­or­gia’s con­ser­va­tive lead­er­ship, led in part by state Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Colum­bus), has been push­ing for a re­li­gious ex­emp­tions bill for years, most no­tably when House Bill 757 made it to Gov. Nathan Deal’s desk. The gov­er­nor ve­toed the bill, and in 2017 nei­ther cham­ber made re­li­gious ex­emp­tions a pri­or­ity. De­spite that, Sen. Marty Harbin (R-Ty­rone) in­tro­duced Se­nate Bill 233, which in­tends to in­cor­po­rate re­li­gious ex­emp­tions lan­guage into state law by ref­er­ence.

“He of­fered a clean, state ver­sion of the fed­eral Re­li­gious Free­dom Restora­tion Act. I have cer­tainly con­tin­ued to ad­vo­cate for the pas­sage of that bill,” McKoon told Ge­or­gia Voice be­fore this year’s ses­sion be­gan.

How­ever, with clear or­ders from Deal and Ral­ston to leave such bills alone, it never got a hint of con­sid­er­a­tion this year and will likely fall by the way­side.

The effort to get Ge­or­gia to join the 45 other states in the U.S. with a hate crimes law on the books started off quickly this year, with three sep­a­rate such bills be­ing in­tro­duced in the early days of the ses­sion. The most promis­ing of th­ese ap­peared to be the one in­tro­duced by state Rep. Meagan Han­son (R-Buck­head), which was filed one day af­ter a splashy press con­fer­ence at the Capi­tol that saw Han­son backed by Rep. Wil­lard, cru­cial law en­force­ment groups and nu­mer­ous other stake­hold­ers. How­ever, nei­ther Han­son’s bill or the other two man­aged to get a hear­ing or make it past Cross­over Day, leav­ing the effort look­ing bleak.

But then, on March 8, the lan­guage from Han­son’s bill was at­tached to Se­nate Bill 373 — a bill that would cre­ate a new judge­ship in Cobb County — which passed in the House Ju­di­ciary Civil Com­mit­tee and headed to the full House for a vote, where pas­sage would leave it one sig­na­ture from law.

There was crit­i­cism of the com­mit­tee for fail­ing to in­clude “gen­der iden­tity” to bring trans­gen­der peo­ple into the fold — typ­i­cally the most likely pop­u­la­tion to be vic­tims of a hate crime. How­ever, le­gal ex­perts re­viewed the case law and told Ge­or­gia Voice that the ad­di­tion of “ac­tual or per­ceived” gen­der to the bill would cover the trans com­mu­nity.

But as of press time, the bill has still not come up for a vote.

PrEP, com­pre­hen­sive non-discrimination bills fail

One of the great­est crit­i­cisms of re­li­gious ex­emp­tions legislation is that at the fed­eral level, there are civil rights pro­tec­tions — but not at the state level in Ge­or­gia. Two bills were in­tro­duced this year, one each in the House and Se­nate, to ad­dress this is­sue but none gained any trac­tion.

And a bill in­tro­duced by queer state Rep. Park Can­non (D-At­lanta) that would launch a three-year statewide pi­lot pro­gram to dis­trib­ute free pre-ex­po­sure HIV pro­phy­laxis — or PrEP — to men and women at high risk for in­fec­tion never made it out of the House.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.