The US state of Georgia is being criticised after adding even more provisions to an already controversial bill to protect “religious freedom”.
HB 757 has been widely condemned, but last month passed unanimously in the House of Representatives 161-0.
Originally intended to protect pastors who refuse to perform same-sex weddings, the bill has now passed in the House again by 104-65, after extra “protections” were added, meaning businesses and employees could discriminate against LGBT people.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, the new provisions in HB 757 could “undermine local non-discrimination ordinances that protect LGBT people, permit hospitals to refuse to provide medically necessary care, or allow a taxpayer-funded service provider to discriminate by denying a job because of the applicant’s religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity.”
“Members of the Georgia House are so blindly devoted to discrimination against LGBT people that they’ve not only ignored weeks of warnings from some of Georgia’s largest employers and faith leaders, but tens of thousands of everyday Georgians who have spoken out against this bill,” said HRC President Chad Griffin.
“We all know how this story ends, even if members of the Georgia House do not. When Indiana Gov. Mike Pence went down this road in Indiana, the backlash was swift and severe from businesses who rightly understood that religious liberty is already protected by the First Amendment. If the Georgia Senate doesn’t immediately stop this reckless and irresponsible bill in its tracks, Gov. Deal should veto it.”
“Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen an unprecedented chorus of unexpected allies come together to speak out against HB 757, the License to Discriminate. Conservatives, legal experts, people of faith, businesses and more than 75,000 Georgians expressed their strong opposition to legislation which threatens our state’s economy and reputation, and which very clearly singles out LGBT people and others for harm,” said Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality.
“It’s shameful that lawmakers in the House ignored this feedback and, rather than taking steps to mitigate any potential fallout, actually made a bad bill worse.”
The bill has been compared to other ‘Religious Freedom Restoration Acts’ (RFRA), particularly one which passed in Indiana last year to huge controversy.