With just three days until Georgia’s legislative session resumes, the Senate Caucus will be discussing yet another religious exemptions bill designed to give license to discriminate against LGBT Georgians.
The so-called “First Amendment Defense Act” (FADA), put forth by Sen. Greg Kirk of Americus, would allow any governmental employee to claim religious exemptions from recognizing the constitutional right of same-sex couples to marry, creating an obstacle for same sex couples to obtain a marriage license or have their marriage recognized as legal.
Sen. Kirk claims the bill is modeled off of the federal FADA bill, but Georgia advocates aren’t buying it: “That sounds like it would be legislation specifically designed to target the LGBT community,” said our own Jeff Graham.
Graham also points out, in certain rural counties across the state, any restriction of marriage services could result in an effective marriage ban:
There are many counties in Georgia that only have one or two clerks. If they are allowed to refuse to issue marriage licenses it does cause a hardship for the couple.
In the absence of local officials to issue marriage licenses and provide other marriage related services, gay couples could be forced to drive hundreds of miles to neighboring counties just to perform basic legal tasks.
Today’s closed Senate Caucus meeting will likely determine whether the FADA bill is introduced. Until it is officially filed, there is no way to know the full scope of the legislation. FADA could ultimately have sweeping negative consequences beyond restricting access to marriage services, going further to impact the issuance of death certificates and complicate tax benefits procedures for gay couples.
FADA has been called RFRA 2.0, RFRA’s evil twin and RFRA on steroids.
When asked who FADA would affect, Sen. Kirk pointed to the example of Kentucky county clerk, Kim Davis, thus winning it the alias of the “Kim Davis Empowerment Act.”
Ultimately, FADA and RFRA may be different in name and content, but they are essentially the same bill, designed with identical intent: To permit individuals to claim religious exemptions to lawfully discriminate against gay and transgender Georgians.
With RFRA still alive and well in the House of Representatives after passing the Senate last year, it’s unclear why some Senate Republicans feel the need to introduce a second bill that would achieve the same impact.
However, it could have something to do with the fact that House Republicans want nothing to do with Sen. Josh McKoon’s RFRA.
FADA may be the last ditch attempt of a couple of extremist lawmakers to force discriminatory legislation through the Capitol in 2016. You can take action now by clicking here to send a message to your Senators urging them to oppose the introduction of FADA.SHARE THIS STORY