Supporters of LGBTQ families and youth rallied against SB 375 this week, a bill that would allow taxpayer-funded adoption and child welfare agencies to refuse to work with same-sex couples, and would even allow agencies to deny services to LGBTQ youth. Georgians from all walks of life – including state and national advocacy groups, faith leaders, members of the business and entertainment communities, and LGBTQ families and allies turned out in large numbers to express their opposition to the discriminatory bill. Prior to the rally, 80 supporters met with lawmakers from across the state as part of Georgia Equality’s lobby day. A top priority of the lobby visits was to communicate to lawmakers the broad opposition to SB 375.
“Today, we delivered a message to lawmakers that Georgians from all backgrounds want to have a real discussion about policies that advance fairness, opportunity, and equality for everyone,” said Jeff Graham, Georgia Equality’s Executive Director. “SB 375 not only disenfranchises the roughly 14,000 youth in our state’s child welfare system, but it could actually harm LGBTQ kids in need who are prevented from accessing crucial services. This is legislation that will hurt Georgia’s families, our youth, and our state’s image on the national stage.”
SB 375 poses significant harm to the approximately 14,000 children in the state system. Under this legislation, an agency could keep a child in foster care rather than placing her with a qualified, loving same-sex couple. Agencies could refuse to allow an orphaned child to be adopted by an existing family member, like a gay uncle. And agencies could refuse to place LGBTQ kids in loving, stable homes – and instead putting them in the care of parents who could force them into harmful conversion therapy.
Businesses across the state have spoken out increasingly against the legislation, warning that hostile bills like SB 375 will impact Georgia’s ability to attract new investments from corporations like Amazon. It’s estimated that upwards of 50,000 new and high-paying jobs will be created in the state where the tech giant ultimately puts down roots for its HQ2.
Both the Atlanta Metro Chamber and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce oppose the legislation, noting that “Legislation that sanctions discrimination takes us further away from our goal of attracting investment that would improve the lives of Georgia families.” Global commerce giant First Data also is warning against the legislation, saying SB 375 “violates our core belief that all Americans deserve to be treated equally and respectfully.”
“Some of our state lawmakers have allowed us to fall into these annual cycles of expending time and energy debating bills that not only harm LGBTQ people, but damage our state’s economy,” added Graham. “SB 375 is no different. So many Georgians are so tired of having this debate, and are eager to talk about enacting policies that protect everyone from discrimination – including people of faith and gay and transgender Georgians. We delivered that message in our visits with lawmakers today, and hope that SB 375 proves to be an outlier this year – and not yet another attempt to codify discrimination.”
Rally speakers included representatives from the Anti-Defamation League, Atlanta Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, Human Rights Campaign, and Lambda Legal. Watch the full rally on Georgia Equality’s Facebook page, by clicking here.