GA lawmaker wants ‘sexual orientation’, ‘gender identity’ added to protected class list

Add sexual orientation, gender identity, and age to list list of protected classes. That’s the initiative of one Georgia lawmaker who has filed legislation to make it so.

State Representative Sandra Scott, a Democrat from Rex, Georgia who has worked as an educator, filed House Bill 19 to expand the state civil rights law protecting individuals from discrimination in housing, public accommodations, and employment in Georgia.

The bill proclaims that:

  • “Georgia is one of only three states without comprehensive state civil rights laws protecting individuals from discrimination in employment, housing, and public  accommodations” and 
  • “The General Assembly has considered legislation in recent years adding specific protections against discrimination for people based on religious beliefs as well as sexual orientation and gender identity in separate contexts”

The bill also cites ‘equal protection under the law’ guaranteed by the state constitution.

Currently, OCGA 8-3-200 and other code sections relating to housing and OCGA  45-19-22 relating to employment practices protect individuals from discrimination on the basis of a person’s race, color, religion, disability or handicap, familial status, or national origin. Scott’s expansion would allow inclusion for sexual orientation, gender identity, and age in the list of protected classes.

HB 19 outlines that “All persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public, accommodation without discrimination or segregation on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, disability, or national origin.”

The protections are three fold. It would be in violation of the code section to:

  • Withhold, deny, or attempt to withhold or deny, or deprive or attempt to deprive any person of any right or privilege secured by subsection (a) of this Code Section;
  • Intimidate, threaten, or coerce, or attempt to intimidate, threaten, or coerce any person with the purpose of interfering with any right or privilege or
  • Punish or attempt to punish any person for exercising or attempting to exercise any right or privilege secured by the new language .

The bill would also create a new code section, OCGA 10-16-2, which would declare that discrimination on the basis listed above shall not occur at inns, hotels, motels, restaurants, cafeterias, lunchrooms, gas stations, theaters, stadiums, and other places deemed ‘public accommodations,’ without distinction between public and private establishments, and would prohibit establishments from barring certain persons from being qualified for employment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, disability, or national origin. It further permits remedy for civil rights suits in a court of law.

Further, the bill allows the court to grant affirmative action if it deems it appropriate and can order that the employee who feels they were not hired or were fired unlawfully to be reinstated or hired as well as issue back pay for time not worked.

“Employer” is defined by someone who employs at least 15 people on a working day for 20 weeks per year.

The bill has not been assigned to a committee in the House and has no co-sponsors at this time.

House Bill 19 is here.

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John Vestal
John Vestal

The same two classifications that a “religious liberty” group want removed from a federal anti-lynching bill that unanimously passed the US Senate last month?