A Solution to the RFRA / FADA / First Amendment Defense Act May Be At Hand

8:14: Bill passes the Senate 37-18. The bill moves to the Governor, and assuming his signature, ends the debate over Religious Liberty in Georgia.

Lt. Governor Cagle:

The First Amendment and the free exercize of religious beliefs is an essential part of our democracy It deserves the utmost respect and protection. This legislation does just that and protects these freedoms; I applaud the Senate and House for their work on this issue.

7:50 PM: After passing the House, the measure is being discussed in the Senate. Despite four amendments being offered to the bill, they were ruled out of order because the bill had been engrossed. Greg Kirk, who sponsored the bill in the Senate explains the changes.

6:30 PM: Speaker Ralston, talking to the media after the passage of the amendment in the House, says that he is happy with the result:

I feel good about this compromise. We tried to strike a balance between the various concerns of the faith community as well as the business community. “I’m very comfortable that we’ve struck a fair, reasonable, balance.”

We protected pastors, we protected church facilities, we’ve protected faith based organizations, but we also prohibited discrimination. I think that’s very important. It was important to me in the process, and I think we’ve accomplished a good result. There are always going to be critics, but I’m pleased with what we’ve done.

When asked about what might happen to Atlanta’s local non discrimination ordinance, Ralston said that HB 757 doesn’t on its face eliminate the ordinance. He indicated that a challenge to that ordinance under HB 757 would be addressed by the Fulton County court or federal court.

6:00 PM Drenner spends 15 minutes talking about her experience as a gay legislator, and states her opposition to the bill. She is followed by freshman Rep. Taylor Bennett, who has a gay mother. Bennett told the House not to stand on the wrong side of history. The next speaker is Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, who talked about her experience fighting discrimination, including discrimination against LGBT people.

5:40 PM Christian Coomer references Jones v Moultrie, which says,

Yet limitations upon religious activities are not confined to instances where such acts are in contravention of moral law; as the right to exercise these activities ends where the rights of others begin. A person’s right to exercise religious freedom, which may be manifested by acts, ceases where it overlaps and transgresses the rights of others. Every one’s rights must be exercised with due regard to the rights of others.

That wraps up time for those in favor of the bill. Openly gay Karla Drenner is the first speaker in opposition.

5:10 PM Debate is beginning on the Pastor Protection Act amendments. Tanner says that the amendment contains portions of the Pastor Protection Act, the First Amendment Defense Act, and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Watch live here.

We expect debate on the amendment to begin around 5 PM, and will last an hour, with each side controlling half the time. Reps. will have had the bill on their desks for at least an hour. Only then will there be a vote.

I will be live tweeting the debate.

Original post:

Both the House and Senate took midday caucus meetings today to discuss an amendment to HB 257, the First Amendment Defense Act. The new version appears to contain a tightened up version of the First Amendment Defense Act, the Pastor Protection Act, and the version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as was in SB 129.

One of the concerns with the version of SB 129 as it ended up at the end of the 2015 session was the anti discrimination amendment inserted by then-Representative Mike Jacobs. That language has been removed, and has been replaced with wording beginning on line 211 which says,

Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to:

1) Permit invidious discrimination on any grounds prohibited by federal oro state law;

At this moment, the House is running through it’s regular Rules calendar, with Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones in the Speaker’s chair. One would expect the amendment to be presented to the House and voted on later this afternoon.

You can view your copy of the amendment below the fold.

[gview file=”http://www.georgiapol.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Scan-Mar-16-2016-3.54-PM-1.pdf”]

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Robbie
Robbie

As there are NO federal or state-level protections for LGBT people against discrimination, this is NOT a fix. It is a dirty trick designed to fool people. For it to matter at all, it must prohibit LOCAL non-discrimination ordinances.

Will Durant
Will Durant

Since sexual orientation is not a protected class in federal law and there ain’t any such thing as a protected class in Georgia law then that excerpt as given distills down to open season on homos in Georgia.

Andrew C. Pope
Andrew C. Pope

Shhhh… You’re gonna blow their cover.

Noway2016
Noway2016

“Homos?” Is this the mid-70’s?

Will Durant
Will Durant

Al Gore screwed up when he didn’t also invent a sarcasm font to use on the internet.

Ellynn
Ellynn

So this is basically a solution to a problem that technically doesn’t exist BUT COULD, so lets pass a law that MOST LIKELY WILL create problems, just in case… Am I understanding this correctly?

John Konop
John Konop

This is what you get, when voices like Sen. McKoon, push issues to manipulate people to send him money, over ever solving anything. If this passes, we could risk loosing, one of the fastest growing industries in the state ie film. Sen. McKoon can spew like a crooked TV preacher, while collecting cash for his political war-chest. What am I missing?

Saltycracker
Saltycracker

Obviously you don’t appreciate the manufacturing of jobs for those that pass the bar exam. 😎

John Konop
John Konop

Best humor always has truth in it LOL….

Andrew C. Pope
Andrew C. Pope

Rep. Powell: “Is anybody going to be happy with this? No.”

Sweet Lord! Why are you voting for it, then?!

Andrew C. Pope
Andrew C. Pope

No one speaking has provided a reason why protection of “religious liberty” requires this law or why it should trump the rights of LGBT Georgians to work here, live here, and raise their families here.

Bart
Bart

How much do taxpayers spend annually to pay for the 40 day legislative session? Tens of millions and the most significant actions this session are this POS discrimination bill, the ability to carry a gun on a college campus and insurance agents will be guaranteed a base commission amount due to legislation written by an insurance agent in charge of the committee that regulates insurance. Oh yea, lest I forget them stopping any further progress on treating kids with seizures. Unfortunately the same folks will be there next year due to restrictive ballot access and the corrupt two party system.… Read more »

George Chidi
George Chidi

The only saving grace to this — and I doubt there is grace to be saved — is that there aren’t enough votes in the House to override a veto if the governor gets the right letter from the right $250 billion firm telling them that they’re leaving the state if this stays as is. Never mind the gay couple who might be refused treatment at a medical clinic run by a religious doctor, or the lesbian couple who can’t adopt the child they want because the church-run agency denies them, or the gay teenager who ends up being trafficked… Read more »

chefdavid
chefdavid

Well said.

Dave Bearse
Dave Bearse

George, you’re likely aware the Atlanta business community in general refused to support a 1964 dinner honoring MLK receiving the Noble prize, and the quote that turned that around, but other readers may not be.

“It is embarrassing for Coca-Cola to be located in a city that refuses to honor its Nobel Prize winner. We are an international business. The Coca-Cola Co. does not need Atlanta. You all need to decide whether Atlanta needs the Coca-Cola Co.” – J. Paul Austin, Coca-Cola Chairman/CEO

http://brainskewer.com/bs/20150119/martin-luther-king-jr-nobel-prize-celebration-dinner-not-well-supported-until-coca-cola

DAinGA
DAinGA

“When asked about what might happen to Atlanta’s local non discrimination ordinance, Ralston said that HB 757 doesn’t on its face eliminate the ordinance.”

Really, that is the answer, on it’s face? Good lord. So clearly it does very well do that or else he would have simply said “no, it doesn’t strike down local non discrimination ordinances”.

bethebalance
bethebalance

On it’s face, it gives more ammunition (heightened scrutiny) to a cause of action challenging the local ordinances. But my best guess is that local anti-discrimination ordinances survive the new lawsuits, if this bill were to pass. Of course, the economic damage will have been done at that point, so it’s a very possible lose-lose scenario.

Andrew C. Pope
Andrew C. Pope

I love Georgia. It’s my home. For seven generations, my family has been here. I was born here. I was raised here. But bills like this make me seriously question whether or not I want to raise my children here. My wife and I have been talking recently about starting a family and, as a part of that, relocating from Florida back to Atlanta. You know what, I don’t think I can do it. As much as I loved the long summer days on my grandparents’ farm in Moultrie. As much as I love the smell of the salt air… Read more »

augusta52
augusta52

Oh, those evil religious schools…like those under the dominion of the bishop of Rome, successor of St. Peter…

Bart
Bart

On this we agree 100% ACP. Same for me except I still live here for the time being. Save me a spot on the beach.

Of all the new regulations the GOP has imposed on us since taking power a decade ago, this is the one that will likely cause the most damage to Georgia’s reputation and business climate. St George Island is looking better by the day!

John Konop
John Konop

I have made this point to the right and the left, before passing a bill figure out the economic impact. Since Sen. McKoon started this mess, will he personally guarantee to make up the economic impact of this bill? We have way to many fiscally liberal politicians on both sides willing to gamble tax payer money! …..Georgia’s powerful corporate community and companies including Microsoft, Google, Coca-Cola and Home Depot, have opposed the bill and have said the state would see a crippling economic impact from such a bill becoming law, under threats of boycotts from both business convention organizers and… Read more »

Dave Bearse
Dave Bearse

“All citizens here in Georgia won.” Mike Griffin, public affairs director for the Georgia Mission Baptist Board, affirming again that only white evangelicals can be Georgia citizens.

Will Durant
Will Durant

Am I just hearing crickets here on this poorest cut of red meat because the fix is in? Is the Governor just going to take one for the team? Thus allowing the majority in the legislature to go home to their districts in an election year with assurances that they are for Mom, apple pie, and praising Jesus. According to Greg Bluestein, “Because lawmakers decided not to use a parliamentary procedure to immediately transmit the measure to his desk, he’ll [Gov. Deal] have until May 3 to decide.” So a Governor who likely will never have to face voters again… Read more »

John Konop
John Konop

lol……great post!

Bart
Bart

I hope you’re right Will.