Ga. lawmakers consider "religious freedom" bill; critics call it "anti-gay"

Georgia Capitol
Posted at 11:58 AM, Feb 25, 2014
and last updated 2014-02-25 11:27:01-05

ATLANTA, Ga. (WTXL) -- Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has until Friday to sign or veto a controversial bill passed recently by state lawmakers that would allow business owners to refuse service and employment to gay and lesbian individuals, based on religious beliefs.

That same controversy is now developing in Georgia where state lawmakers are now debating a bill that would do the same thing.

Members of the House Judiciary subcommittee are expected to hold a hearing Wednesday afternoon on House Bill 1023, the "Preservation of Religious Freedom Act." It is sponsored by State Representatives Sam Teasley (R-Marietta), Matt Ramsey (R-Peachtree City), Andrew Welch (R-McDonough), and David Casas (R-Lilburn).

It's gathered bipartisan support so far, with several Republican and Democratic House members on board with the bill.

Supporters of the bill tell Atlanta ABC affiliate, WSB-TV, that it would provide Georgians the same level of protections for their religious beliefs as inmates in the federal prison systems, as signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993.

Opponents, however, tell WSB-TV the bill goes too far.

The station reports it was standing room only on Monday at the Georgia Capitol in Atlanta where a previous hearing on the bill was held.

"If a waiter says that they (a couple) look gay to them, the waiter could refuse to serve them," Georgia Equality's Jeff Graham told WSB-TV.  "The business owner could refuse to have them into the establishment."  

Graham said it's time to put these kinds of issues to rest for this year's legislative session and take a look at them when there are problems in Georgia that need to be addressed.