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.
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.