Rules Committee Holds Brief Hearing on the First Amendment Defense Act

The Senate Rules Committee held a hearing on the First Amendment Defense Act this morning, although they took no action on the measure. The measure, sponsored by Sen. Greg Kirk, has been criticized by some for being unconstitutional, or worse.

The short hearing consisted of one witness in addition to Sen. Kirk. Cathy Woolard, a lobbyist for Georgia Equality which advocates for LGBT issues, brought up a number of concerns, including that the definition of a person includes corporations, that FADA could possibly make local anti discrimination ordinances unenforceable, and that because the Act only protected a speccific religious viewpoint, it might amount to an unconstitutional establishment of religion.

Senator Steve Henson brought up concerns expressed by Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson that a First Amendment Defense Act should be dealt with uniformly at the federal level. Sen. Kirk responded that he had asked Isakson about his opinion when the senator visited the Gold Dome last week, and was told that passing the measure at the federal level might take too long, and even if it was passed there, the courts could rule, as they did with the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, that the law did not apply to the states, but only to federal action.

In the end, no vote was taken on the measure, nor was one promised. That there was a hearing at all, and that it was brought up on such short notice, raised some eyebrows. Some fear that the hearing might be an attempt to rush the bill through the committee and to the Senate without amendments, while others wonder if the rush hearing is an attempt to bury the bill “after giving it a fair hearing.” Only time will tell its fate.

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Rules Committee Chairman Mullis is a sponsor

Dave Bearse
Dave Bearse

Other sponsors are William Ligon Jr, Judson Hill, Jesse Stone and Marty Harbin.