Thursday was a historic day in the Georgia General Assembly.
For the first time ever, lawmakers have introduced comprehensive civil rights legislation. Senate Bill 119 would ensure no Georgian can be fired, evicted or denied service in public places like parks, malls and restaurants because of their race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity.
Similar bills have been introduced before but never one that applies these protections to LGBT Georgians. This bold move for equality comes from Senator Lester Jackson (D-Savannah), who co-sponsored the bill with five of his colleagues.
It’s hard to overstate what a game-changer this bill could be for all Georgians. Right now, Georgia is one of only three states that have no laws barring employers from discriminating on the basis of race or religion. Georgia is one of only five that have a similarly lax stance toward race- and faith-based discrimination in public places. And because there are no state or federal nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people, they are the most vulnerable.
In fact, according to a new report that looks at the human and economic consequences of this lack of protections, nearly half of LGBT Georgians say they have been discriminated against at work. Without comprehensive, statewide civil rights legislation like SB 119 on the books, this kind of discrimination is legal.
But not only is this legislation historic, it represents a dramatic departure from what lawmakers have spent the first weeks of the legislative session doing for the last three years, which is pushing legislation that would explicitly codify LGBT discrimination into state law.
Senate Bill 119 is a welcome—and long overdue—change. Already, a groundswell of support for this bill is taking off, and Georgia Unites is hoping other lawmakers will soon follow Sen. Jackson’s and his colleagues’ lead.SHARE THIS STORY