Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Georgia Republicans aim to take the lead on the anti-gay front

By Michael J.W. Stickings

A few Arizona Republicans may be having second thoughts about their anti-gay bill, but Georgia Republicans aren't about to cave in to, you know, equal rights and common decency, nor to deny themselves the opportunity to erect their very own barricade of bigotry:

A bill moving swiftly through the Georgia House of Representatives would allow business owners who believe homosexuality is a sin to openly discriminate against gay Americans by denying them employment or banning them from restaurants and hotels.

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.

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 Georgia House bill's text is largely identical to controversial legislation that passed in Arizona last week.

Yup, those weak-assed Arizona Republicans. In Georgia, they don't have such reservations, it would seem. And note that what these two states are proposing is broader than what has emerged elsewhere:

Unlike similar bills introduced in Kansas, Tennessee, and South Dakota, the Georgia and Arizona bills do not explicitly target same-sex couples. But that difference could make the impact of the Georgia and Arizona bills even broader. Legal experts, including Eunice Rho, advocacy and policy counsel for the ACLU, warn that Georgia and Arizona's religious-freedom bills are so sweeping that they open the door for discrimination against not only gay people, but other groups as well.

In other words, if this sort of legislation passes, basically your hatred is all good, legally speaking, as long as you hide behind the protection of "religious freedom." You hate gays? It's just your faith! You hate Muslims? Hey, it's just your religion. And it's not like "religion" has a long history of tolerance. So it's pretty easy to imagine anyone being able to justify discrimination of any kind simply by using the "religious freedom" excuse.

In other words, the very essence of America is under assault from within, by anti-Enlightenment conservatives, almost entirely Republican, who see the country not as a bastion of constitutional liberty but as an expression of religious bigotry. It is deeply and profoundly anti-American, this politico-religious movement, and it is on the march in state after state. It must not be allowed to succeed.

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