Conservative opposition to discriminatory so-called “religious freedom” bills has been mounting in the past week, culminating yesterday with comments from Governor Nathan Deal saying he would reject any legislation that “allows discrimination in our state.”
In a legislative session that has been dominated by bills aimed at scaling back the hard-earned rights of LGBT Georgians and granting “license to discriminate” under the guise of protecting religious freedom, Governor Deal’s announcement marks a major victory for the LGBT community.
The Governor’s remarks came one day after Georgia Unites hand-delivered 75,000 constituent letters to his office urging him to reject the anti-LGBT so-called First Amendment Defense Act and take necessary steps to address discrimination in the state.
In a move aimed at bringing anti-LGBT lawmakers into the fold of mainstream Georgia, the Baptist Governor used religious rhetoric to make his case against religious exemptions bills, saying:
New Testament teaches us that Jesus reached out to those who were considered the outcasts, the ones that did not conform to the religious societies’ view of the world. I hope we can all just take a deep breath, recognize it is important that we protect fundamental religious beliefs but we don’t have to discriminate against other people in order to do that.
Other prominent Republicans have also voiced their opposition to legislation that would give discrimination legal cover in the state.
Former U.S. Department of Justice Official under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush, Joe Whitley, reviewed the anti-LGBT First Amendment Defense act and called it an unnecessary overreach of powers:
This legislation likely will cause more in the way of intolerance. Georgia does not need to enact a law such as this to maintain the freedom of religion or protect deeply held religious beliefs, which the Constitution and Bill of Rights already protect. Moreover, no person should have religious beliefs imposed on them without their consent.
Opportunity.US, a young conservative group led by the grandson of former Atlanta Mayor Ivan Allen Jr., has also voiced opposition to the discriminatory FADA legislation.
While Marisa Flores, the Hispanic outreach liaison for former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign in Georgia, issued scathing rebuke of lawmakers’ seemingly singular focus on discriminatory legislation that could set the state back billions of dollars, writing: “For the first time in eight years, Georgia’s unemployment rate fell last month to pre-recession levels. Things were looking up for the state, finally. And then the Georgia General Assembly convened.”
A group of young conservatives called Georgia Republicans for the Future, who are working to modernize the party brand in efforts to drive the millennial vote, firmly rejects any bill that promotes discrimination in the state as an obstacle to winning Republican seats in the elections.
This dissent among younger, conservative voters reinforces a recent Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) survey that shows a strong 78% majority millenials support non-discrimination protections, while 59% Republicans are in support.
With conservative opposition to these bills—which are directly correlated to devastating economic downturns and poor voter turnout—stronger than ever before, lawmakers should drop the anti-LGBT religious crusade and turn their attention to more pressing issues—like, for example, addressing much-needed non-discrimination protections.SHARE THIS STORY