Yesterday, anti-LGBT extremists filed Senate Bill 221, which is almost identical to legislation filed during the last five legislative sessions seeking to implement a broad License to Discriminate in Georgia.
Like previous bills, SB 221 grants dangerous religious exemptions that would allow businesses, including taxpayer-funded organizations, to deny services and employment to LGBT people and many others. But what’s different this time is proponents are continuing to claim this bill is no more strict than federal “religious freedom” laws. That’s still a problem in Georgia since, unlike in federal law, there are no civil rights protections in Georgia.
Contrary to what proponents say, “religious freedom” laws have been used to discriminate. The federal RFRA was recently used by a government-funded foster care agency in South Carolina to justify discriminating against Catholic and Jewish couples looking to serve as foster parents.
It’s shocking that anti-LGBT lawmakers have decided to go down this road again, considering the opportunity we have right now to grow our economy and reputation as a major sports destination: We just successfully hosted the Super Bowl, and are in the running now to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup.
SB 221 is an acute threat to these opportunities, because it is similar to Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) legislation vetoed by Republican Governor Nathan Deal in 2016. The 2016 RFRA sparked massive economic backlash, prompting the Metro Atlanta Chamber to predict a five-year loss of $600 million in convention and sporting events business, and three major movie studios to announce that they would move all future shoots out of state.
And FIFA just unveiled a new policy that explicitly states it will work “to create a discrimination-free environment within its organisation and throughout all of its activities,” including in its determination of host sites for the 2026 games. This would appear to disqualify localities with legislation attacking LGBT people.
Extremist lawmakers again seem prepared to put us in a negative national spotlight, and risk Georgia’s economic reputation, just to advance discrimination.
People of faith, local businesses, and other community advocates have been sounding the alarm for years about the dangers these religious exemptions pose to Georgia’s communities and Georgia’s economy.SHARE THIS STORY