Georgia Bill May Allow Discrimination Against Gay People

Georgia is considering passing bill HB 757 that would let any taxpayer-funded organization deny services to same-sex couples, or unmarried couples in general, by citing religious freedom.

Originally, the bill was designed to protect ministers from having to perform marriages that violate their religious beliefs. Last week, the Senate expanded the bill to prohibit the government from taking action against anyone at a state-funded organization who has "a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such marriage."

This means that state-contracted counselors could refuse to provide services to single mothers.

In addition, taxpayer-funded adoption and foster care agencies could refuse to place children in homes with same-sex couples. Furthermore, state-funded homeless shelters could turn away unwed couples and their families and so on. Currently, the bill is sitting in the House. Although, businesses including Twitter, Chase, UPS and Delta, signed a pledge stating they believe that treating all Georgians fairly "is essential to maintaining Georgia’s strong brand as the premier home for talented workers, growing businesses, entrepreneurial innovation, and a thriving travel and tourism industry."

Salesforce, the California-based cloud-computing company sent a letter to Georgia lawmakers vowing to pull its investments out of Georgia if the bill becomes law.

Salesforce currently maintains an Atlanta office that is one of its top five employee hubs in the country. Warren Wick, senior vice president of Salesforce, wrote a letter that reads "Without an open business environment that welcomes all residents and visitors, Salesforce will be unable to continue building on its tradition of innovation in Georgia. We encourage you to take decisive action to avoid this kind of damage and reaffirm that our state will not tolerate discrimination against people because of who they are or who they love."

Simone Bell of Lambda Legal, a group focused on LGBT legal protections, said "HB 757 makes Georgia workers, families and others vulnerable to the whims of anyone claiming a religious reason. This is wrong for Georgia. Freedom of religion is already protected under state law. HB 757 goes too far."

Gov. Nathan Deal said, “I do not want us to do anything that will be perceived as allowing discrimination in the state of Georgia. That is not who we are as a people. And I don’t think we have to do that in order to give the security that the faith-based community thinks we need. I want to make sure we don’t go out of balance.”

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