The proposed law in Arizona that would allow businesses to discriminate against gays and others for religious reasons is a legal and economic disaster waiting to happen. Well, apparently some lawmakers in Georgia haven't gotten the memo. A bill is apparently sailing through the Georgia legislature that is alarmingly similar to the Arizona bill.
The proposal, dubbed the Preservation of Religious Freedom Act, would allow any individual or for-profit company to ignore Georgia laws—including anti-discrimination and civil rights laws—that "indirectly constrain" exercise of religion. Atlanta, for example, prohibits discrimination against LGBT residents seeking housing, employment, and public accommodations. But the state bill could trump Atlanta's protections.When I saw this story roll across my Facebook feed (via Chris Hayes), I thought it was snark. But sadly, it isn't. Read the state house version here and the state senate version here.
The Georgia bill, which was introduced last week and was scheduled to be heard in subcommittee Monday afternoon, was sponsored by six state representatives (some of them Democrats). A similar bill has been introduced in the state Senate.
The bill, introduced by Sam Teasley, a Republican from Marietta, is simply breathtaking in its lunacy. It would allow a person or business to disregard any law that "directly or indirectly constrains, inhibits, curtails, or denies the exercise of religion by any person or that directly or indirectly pressures any person to engage in any action contrary to that person's exercise of religion." And it would apply "whether or not the exercise is compulsory or a central part or requirement of the person's religious tenets or beliefs."
The way this law is written, gays aren't the only ones who have something to fear from this bill. Atlanta Journal-Constitution political blogger Jay Bookman asked the Anti-Defamation League to take a look at it. Its verdict? This bill opens up a can of worms.
"It would create a strong new affirmative for criminal defendants charged with drug-related crimes, sexual assault or rapes of spouses or children, or child endangerment.In what has to rank as an understatement, Bookman thinks that if this bill passes, "it would seriously stain the reputation of Georgia and the Georgia Legislature." I'd go one better. The fact this is even being debated is an embarrassment to the state of Georgia and to any fair-minded American.
It would allow law enforcement to refuse assignments that they find religiously offensive such assisting or guarding a religious institution of a different faith, a pharmacy that sells prescription contraception, a liquor store, a butcher shop selling pork or beef, or a casino.
It would allow public hospital employees including physicians, nurses, or administrators to refuse to assist patients, even on an emergency basis, or process any paper work that they find to be religiously offensive such as in-vitro fertilization, blood transfusions or psychiatric care.
It would allow any public employee adhering to an extremist religion, including Nation of Islam, Christian Identity, or Odinism to refuse providing service to an Asian, White, Black, Jewish or Hispanic person."