Ralston dampens Kemp pledge to sign ‘Religious Freedom’ bill
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.
Georgia House Speaker David Ralston holds his annual pre-session press conference Thursday in Atlanta.