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article imageState of Georgia passes religious liberty bill

By Ken Hanly     Mar 19, 2016 in World
Atlanta - The Georgia State legislature has passed what is called the Religious Liberty Bill on Wednesday. Critics claim the bill is discriminatory against same-sex couples.
The bill still needs to be signed by Nathan Deal, the Republican Governor. He claims he will not sign the bill if it allows discrimination although his office declined comment on the bill on Wednesday. Last year, in Indiana and Arkansas, similar types of bill brought strong criticism that forced many legislators to retreat from the provisions.
Some corporate officials and companies have criticized similar bills. In Arizona, after such criticism, a similar bill was vetoed by the Republican Governor Jan Brewer in 2014. Corporate executives also spoke out against an Indiana bill last year that the group thought would allow business owners to refuse to serve same-sex couples on religious grounds. The willingness of corporate executives and corporations to speak out on the issue may be partly because a majority of Americans now support same-sex marriage: Data from the Pew Research Center last year found that 55 percent of Americans, and 70 percent of millennials, support same-sex marriage.
In the case of Georgia's Religious Liberty Bill, more than 300 large corporations and small businesses, including Delta Airlines and Coca Cola, signed a pledge condemning the Georgia bill and recommending the bill be dropped. Even the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce spoke out against the bill.The bill has been reworked several times to meet criticism that it went too far. A late amendment was made that would not allow the bill to permit any discrimination prohibited by federal law.
As well as some companies, organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign which represents the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community condemned the bill: "The decision by the legislature today was to make an egregious and discriminatory bill even worse. It's appalling that anti-equality extremists in the legislature are trying to ignore the will of the people of Georgia."
The bill has its supporters as well. Mike Griffin, a spokesperson for the Georgia Baptist Convention applauded the bill although he said it did not contain all the group wanted: "We feel we’ve advanced our protection of our First Amendment Right to religious freedom. Our rights of religious liberty don't end inside the four walls of a church."
The bill would allow faith-based groups such as churches, religious associations or schools, the right to reject holding events for any person or group to whom they object. Such groups could not be forced to hire or even retain any employee whose beliefs were counter to those of the faith-based organization.
More about state of Georgia, religious liberty, Samesex marriage
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