Today marks the first day of the 2017 Georgia legislative session. And as of now, the future of LGBT rights in the Peach State remains a question mark.
This time last year, LGBT Georgians were already square in the line of fire with lawmakers floating a couple of religious exemptions bills designed to give “license to discriminate” in the name of religion before the legislative session even started.
The fact that legislators have not yet proposed any anti-LGBT bills bodes hopeful.
However, last week Sen. Josh McKoon, a long-time advocate of so-called “religious liberty” legislation—which aims to codify anti-LGBT discrimination into law under the guise of protecting religious freedom—was in the media almost every day threatening a fourth-year “religious liberty” debate in 2017.
He indicated that anti-LGBT legislation could be introduced as soon as today.
But while Sen. McKoon digs in on his discriminatory agenda, he may find himself left out in the cold by his Republican counterparts.
In a move viewed as a covert effort to disarm McKoon, Republican leadership in the Senate recently stripped the senator of his chairmanship in an unprecedented merger of two judiciary committees. And Republican Speaker of the House, David Ralston—who has a history of bad blood with McKoon—has made statements that he is not interested in a fourth-year “religious liberty” fight in the Georgia legislature.
Georgia lawmakers have tried to advance discriminatory anti-LGBT bills for three years in a row. And they have failed. Last year, HB 757—Georgia’s “License to Discriminate” bill—cleared the legislature only to be vetoed by standing Governor Nathan Deal.
Gov. Deal’s veto and current reticence among Republican leadership for a 2017 “religious liberty” fight signals growing awareness of the dire consequences of anti-LGBT discrimination.
Within a week of Gov. Deal’s HB 757 veto, North Carolina then governor, Pat McCrory, signed HB 2—one of the most egregiously anti-LGBT laws in the country.
Since then, North Carolina has suffered devastating economic boycotts—from the tech industry, to national sports organizations, to conventions and tourism businesses, and entertainers—which have cost the state as much as $1 billion dollars and hundreds of thousands of jobs in just 9 months.
HB 2 also contributed to Gov. McCrory’s election loss.
This year, Georgia lawmakers have an opportunity to chart a new course. Click here to send a message and urge your legislators to seize the moment: Leave anti-LGBT legislation in the past, and come together to advance policy that helps build Georgia’s brand as one of the top states in the nation to settle down and do business.SHARE THIS STORY