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New Billboard Campaign Shows Forces Opposing LGBT Equality Gearing Up for 2017 Legislative Fight June 23, 2016

Some members of the Georgia Baptist Convention appear to be gearing up for a fourth-year legislative battle against LGBT equality in 2017.


Opponents of LGBT equality recently erected a billboard ad thanking Senator Josh McKoon for sponsoring last year’s Senate Bill 129, the so-called “Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)” legislation that would have written anti-LGBT discrimination into Georgia’s laws.

Though the ad praises McKoon for defending so-called “religious liberty,” RFRA and bills like it do nothing to protect freedom of religion—they merely serve as a smokescreen for discrimination. In February, a group of national and local civil rights leaders known as the Leadership Conference Education Fund convened in Atlanta to issue a report showing that religious exemption legislation has been used for centuries to deny civil rights to minority communities.

Furthermore, more than 365 of faith leaders across Georgia have come together to actively oppose RFRA, meeting with lawmakers and the public to explain that laws sanctioning discrimination in the name of religion do not affirm their faith and do absolutely nothing to protect it. And a report released in March by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) actually showed majorities in most denominations oppose laws that use religion as an excuse to discriminate.

In addition to the billboard, some religious leaders are more explicitly calling for a 2017 legislative fight. J. Robert White, executive director of the Georgia Baptist Convention, recently wrote a letter to member pastors in which he encouraged them to “bear influence” on their state representatives and senators:

“I want to ask you if you would be willing to be one of approximately 200 Georgia Baptist pastors that I am seeking who would be willing to minister to your local representative and/or senator to develop a relationship and to fulfill needs for ministry for him or her and their family.”

If anti-LGBT legislation is introduced during the 2017 legislative session, it will be for the fourth year in a row. That’s four consecutive years that lawmakers’ time and energy has been distracted from more pressing issues, and the fourth year that Georgia’s economy has been put in jeopardy by some fringe lawmakers’ desire to discriminate.

Last year, Georgia’s economy nearly capsized under the weight of businesses small and large that made it clear their investment in Georgia would be in question if lawmakers enacted any forms of LGBT discrimination. The economic turmoil nearly boiled over after House Bill 757—a “license to discriminate” that explicitly legalized discrimination against LGBT Georgians, single women, and religious minorities—was fast-tracked through the legislature. Entertainment industry heavyweights like Disney and Marvel said they would pull filming, major employers like Dow Chemical and Home Depot contemplated downsizing, and Georgia’s bid for a Super Bowl was even threatened before Governor Deal vetoed the bill in March.

Georgia cannot afford to go through this again. But opponents of LGBT equality clearly can—this billboard ad buy shows that they are well-funded. And the fact that they are ramping up for another fight after a veto from Republican Governor Nathan Deal and the massive outcry from businesses, faith leaders and hundreds of thousands of regular Georgians shows these fringe groups just won’t quit.

Georgians should not have to go one more round with the forces of fear and hate after such overwhelming rejection of these anti-LGBT bills.

Sign the pledge to stand with LGBT Georgians—and send a message to lawmakers to drop anti-LGBT legislation in 2017.

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We were so grateful to be able to profile Rachel last year. Her story is inspiring and it's sad to see her treated unfairly. Thank you Rachel for standing up for yourself!

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