Ral­ston damp­ens Kemp pledge to sign ‘Reli­gious Free­dom’ bill

The Telegraph (Macon) - - Stay Connected - BY BEN NADLER

Ge­or­gia’s Repub­li­can House Speaker David Ral­ston says he doesn’t fa­vor an­other at­tempt to pass a so-called “reli­gious free­dom” law that pro­tects peo­ple act­ing on reli­gious be­liefs, a po­si­tion that could put him at odds with fel­low Repub­li­can Gov.-elect Brian Kemp.

Ral­ston said Thursday dur­ing a state Capi­tol news con­fer­ence that he’s con­cerned a state ver­sion of the fed­eral Reli­gious Free­dom Restora­tion Act, signed into law by Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton in 1993, “has a real po­ten­tial to di­vide us as a state.”

“It’s a much dif­fer­ent world than it was in 1993,” Ral­ston said.

Kemp, who will be sworn in Mon­day, re­peat- edly vowed to sign a mir­ror im­age of the fed­eral RFRA bill while court­ing the right wing of his party dur­ing his hotly con­tested race against Demo­crat Stacey Abrams. Kemp said on the cam­paign trail that he would only sign a nar­rowly drawn mir­ror of

the fed­eral law – “noth­ing more, noth­ing less” – and in­sisted such a law doesn’t dis­crim­i­nate.

But many Democrats and LGBT ac­tivists fear that it would al­low state­sanc­tioned dis­crim­i­na­tion against gay and les­bian in­di­vid­u­als by cit­i­zens, busi­nesses and or­ga­ni­za­tions on reli­gious grounds.

“I would just ask us to pause be­fore we get into an is­sue that has the po­ten­tial to tear the fab­ric of the state,” Ral­ston said. He also called the pro­posal a “so­lu­tion in search of a prob­lem” and pointed to other states that have ex­pe­ri­enced

back­lash and boy­cotts af­ter pass­ing leg­is­la­tion seen as sim­i­larly dis­crim­i­na­tory.

Kemp re­it­er­ated his sup­port for a “reli­gious free­dom” bill dur­ing a pre-in­au­gu­ra­tion event Wednesday in Au­gusta, but de­clined to say whether he would push a bill as part of his leg­isla­tive agenda or wait for the leg­is­la­ture to act.

Law­mak­ers from the con­ser­va­tive flank of the GOP have sought an­other chance at pass­ing “reli­gious free­dom” leg­is­la­tion af­ter a pre­vi­ous bill was ve­toed by now-out­go­ing Repub­li­can Gov. Nathan Deal.

BOB AN­DRES AP

Ge­or­gia House Speaker David Ral­ston holds his an­nual pre-ses­sion press con­fer­ence Thursday in At­lanta.

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