Sen. Kirk Defends the Free Exercise Act and Encourages Governor Deal to Sign It Into Law

Senator Greg Kirk explains why the Free Exercise Act should be signed by Governor Deal. Photo: Jon Richards
Senator Greg Kirk explains why the Free Exercise Act should be signed by Governor Deal. Photo: Jon Richards
Senator Greg Kirk of Americus held a press conference on Tuesday calling on Governor Deal to sign House Bill 757, the Free Exercise Protection Act. The senator, who is the author of the Georgia version of the First Amendment Defense Act and is the sponsor of the Free Excersise bill in the Senate, cited printed reports covering the effects of marriage equality, produced the results of a poll he took to measure the opinions of Georgians about the bill, and explained how the final bill addressed concerns about the earlier version.

Senator Kirk cited several publications he had read concerning the possible effects of same sex marriage, including a study by the Witherspoon Institute that listed how changes in free speech laws, parental rights in education, and other portions of civic life changed following the 2002 legalization of same-sex civil marriage in Canada. Kirk also described an article in Western Journalism written just before the Supreme Court decision last June legalizing marriage equality that predicted unintended consequences following legalization:

The same people who first claimed only to want tolerance of their behavior will allow no toleration for other views. Will a physician be forced to perform an artificial insemination for a lesbian couple? Will a lawyer be forced to take a case defending gay marriage? Lawyers are already losing their “traditional prerogative to exercise absolute discretion in the selection of clients….” Provisions designed to advance the homosexual agenda have been incorporated into many state legal ethics codes.

Senator Kirk announced the results of a statewide poll of 720 Georgians by Rosetta Stone Communications conducted on March 21st. The poll found that 55.6% of the respondents are neutral on the portion of the Free Exercise Protection Act that contains First Amendment Protection Act provisions. 61.3% of Georgians support traditional marriage, while 27.1% support same sex marriage, and another 11.3% have no opinion.

When asked if government or employers should not be able to discriminate against those who hold traditional views of marriage, 44.7% agreed, while 29.1% were neutral, and 26.2% opposed. 43.1% of the survey responsents were Republican, 33.9% were Democrats, and 20.2% were independents. The survey had a 3.7% Margin of error.

The senator explained how the he had listened to criticism of the First Amendment Defense Act and modified several provisions in the original bill to assuage concerns, including making it clear that probate judges couldn’t use the law to deny someone a marriage license, limiting the definition of a religious organization to 501-C3 nonprofits, and tightening the definition of a sincerely held religious belief to make it less ambiguous, all in an effort to ensure the bill was non-discriminatory. Despite these efforts, however, at least one analysis of the final measure by former U.S. Prosecutor found reason to believe that the bill could enable discrimination.

Senator Kirk wrapped up his presser with a plea to Governor Deal to sign the measure:

It’s time for our governor to step forward and sign the bill that the people of Georgia clearly want. THe bill has been vetted thoroughly through both chambers of the General Assembly. I appreciate the fact that our governor has taken a slow and methodical view of the bill before he signs it. But in the end, I’m sure that he’ll find that this is the best bill to protect everyone in Georgia.

Will our state and nation going forward be a state and nation that is intolerant of those that express a sincerely held belief that marriage is between a man and a woman, and will expression of that belief in the workplace or marketplace lead to sanctions by local state or federal governments in the name of tolerance? I say no. That’s not the America that I grew up in, and by the governor signing this bill into law, it preserves freedom. Georgia is not a state of intolerance.

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Dave BearseScottNAtlantaMikeWill DurantJon Richards Recent comment authors
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Robbie
Robbie

It’s amazing there are still people who say this bill has nothing to do with gay folks.

John Konop
John Konop

I have a few poll questions: Would you support a bill that will take away 1 to 2 billions dollars a year of economic activity in our state? Would you support a bill that guarantees we will no longer be in the running for national events like the Supper Bowl, Final 4 etc? Would you support a bill that is a cornerstone reason why the gay teenage suicide rate is 4 to 5 times the normal rate? Would you support a bill that will waste tax payers money defending a poorly written legislation? Would you support a bill that will… Read more »

CoastalCat
CoastalCat

You can hold a sincerely held belief until the cows come home but the Supreme Court has spoken.

Poor poor Senator Kirk. Surrounded by gays. Gays getting married. Gays having children. Gays doing what everybody else does freely and openly and he can’t stop it. Poor poor Senator Kirk.

xdog
xdog

Making a group of Georgians fair game for discrimination is not discriminatory, according to Kirk. I’m sure he’d say it’s the Christian thing to do. Not just Kirk’s reasoning but his sources are suspect. Both Western Journalism and Witherspoon are part of the great right-wing money raising apparatus. WJ is founder and majority owner of WorldNetDaily. Witherspoon has published methodologically suspect ‘studies’ according to many professional groups. btw, I believe I was one of the respondents in the Rosetta Stone survey Monday night. I thought some of the questions, especially about employer rights over employees, were confusingly worded.

Andrew C. Pope
Andrew C. Pope

Well let’s also point out that none of the parade of horribles have occurred. Attorneys can’t be forced to take a case. The single situation in which an attorney would be “forced” to take a case defending gay marriage would be an attorney for a government agency having to argue in favor of some element of same-sex marriage. Even then, I’m pretty sure their bosses would reassign the case to someone without moral objections to the law they’re supposed to defend. As for doctors, unless the artificial insemination is an emergency procedure (highly highly doubtful), I can’t see why a… Read more »

xdog
xdog

At least he didn’t call out the erotic liberty lobby, although the day’s still young.

Andrew C. Pope
Andrew C. Pope

At the very end of the press conference, he was asked whether this law would override local HROs extending protections to gay and lesbian couples. His response: “Federal law trumps state law and state law trumps local law.” When the reported followed-up with “so yes?” , Kirk replied “that’s the way it works.” . I’ve heard plenty of folks on here try and reassure people that this law wouldn’t really change anything. However, given the fact the mulleted Senator from Americus effectively admitted this bill is going to override local protections for LGBT individuals, how can anyone not see this… Read more »

Mike
Mike

Jon,

Are you serious? You’ve been defending this idea for some time – or at least trying to justify it. Now you put in writing that there’s a lot that the courts would need to figure out about it. Isn’t that the absolute worst type of law there could possibly be -unclear and ambiguous the day it’s adopted. But let’s just throw it out there not knowing what it’s really about.

That’s the worst thing that I’ve read on pp or gapol – perhaps ever.

ScottNAtlanta
ScottNAtlanta

If I try to apply logic here…Deal isnt running for Governor again. His next move is going to have to be to the business community. The business community hates this bill. Deal will veto because he has no real political barrier to doing so (not running again). He is going to want a nicely salaried job though. Then again…when has Deal acted logically…but I have to think he is going to veto it. I wish he’d just get on with it.

Will Durant
Will Durant

Vetoing it before the end of the legislative session when the numbers favor an override would be beyond stupid.

Will Durant
Will Durant

That being said I don’t expect him to veto it tomorrow either. He will let it marinate as if the fix wasn’t already in and veto it later in April with still plenty of time for the crocodile tears to roll from certain legislators prior to the primaries. I could be wrong however and he may give Ralph Reed time to make a counter offer. Who needs a salary when you can pay cash for a St. Simons’ compound? This is the least likely scenario however because a veto helps Ralph pound his lucrative drum for another year and Josh… Read more »