The 2015 Georgia General Assembly begins Monday, January 12 and Georgia Equality has a packed
legislative agenda. Here is your preview of a few things GE is expecting. Continue to follow GE on Facebook and Twitter for breaking updates as they happen under the gold dome.
The first bill Georgia Equality is watching is one that’s been getting a lot press coverage in the past weeks. Titled the “Preventing Government Overreach on Religious Expression Act” by its author, Rep. Teasley R-Marietta, this Religious Refusal bill would allow people to discriminate against LGBT people because treating LGBT people equally would “burden” their religious beliefs. GE expects a companion bill with similar language to be introduced by Sen. McKoon R-Columbus. In addition to opening the door to LGBT discrimination and withholding of information and services to women, there are concerns that this legislation could be used to erode school curriculum (ie. Evolution or Sex Ed), jeopardize child welfare, present barriers to women fleeing domestic violence and erode the ability of municipalities to pass nondiscrimination policies. Georgia Equality will be opposing this bill in its current form until it is certain that LGBT will not experience increased discrimination as a result of its passage.
The Fair Employment Practices Act, authored by Rep. Drenner D-Avondale Estates will also return this year. This bill aims to codify in law that the state of Georgia cannot fire or refuse to hire public employees simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Georgia Equality has worked with Rep. Drenner on the passage of this bill for a few years and is ready to continue to fight for the right of LGBT Georgians to go to work and be judged on their merit, not because they are gay or transgender. GE will join with Rep. Drenner and the bill’s numerous co-sponsors from previous sessions again this year in an effort to pass this bill.
In light of the recent federal changes to anti-profiling legislation Georgia Equality is interested in seeing similar protections added to the Georgia Code. HB 13 is authored by Rep. Tyrone Brooks, D-Atlanta and would require policies that prohibit law enforcement officers from using various characteristics in determining whether to stop a motor vehicle. GE would like to see protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity added to this bill. Once those protections are added to this bill, Georgia Equality will support its passage.
Finally, GE will continue to monitor and fight for (or against) legislation affecting several key areas of importance for the LGBT community. We will continue to push for legislation that will eliminate the coverage gap that has arisen because of the state’s refusal to expand Medicaid. We will continue working to protect the funding for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program that provides life saving medication for uninsured and underinsured people living with HIV/AIDS. As in years past, Georgia Equality will play a major role in supporting or opposing bills that come up in the middle of the session concerning LGBT families, hate crimes, safe schools, and others that would affect member sof the LGBT community’s abilities to live their lives. It’s sure to be an excited next couple of months, so stay tuned. Georgia Equality will send out updates and action alerts as they happen.