Observers pack a committee hearing on Georgia House Bill 1023
ATLANTA, GA (CBS46) -
Advocates for the gay and lesbian community are blasting a pair of Georgia religious freedom bills, calling them tools for allowing discrimination.
The sponsors of the bills say the bills are simply aimed at protecting Georgians from government intrusion on religious freedoms. Federal law now only protects religious freedom on the federal level, not the state level, proponents of the bill say.
House Bill 1023 is sponsored by State Rep. Sam Teasley, R-Marietta, and Senate Bill 377 is sponsored by Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus.
Critics packed a committee hearing Monday to speak out against the House bill. They said it would allow private business owners to cite their religious beliefs to deny service to people they believe are gay.
Teasley, the sponsor of the House bill, said such fears are unfounded.
"We have a 20-year legislative history on this issue from 1993 until today," said Teasley. "There has not been a case that I am aware of where that has been used and certainly not successfully used."
Teasley did not cite any examples of Georgians who are having their religious freedoms violated. That gave critics even more ammunition.
"What is happening to all these people who are being discriminated against? Their religious freedoms are being restrained or not allowed," said James Yancey, an opponent of the bills. "We are still waiting for examples. If we don't have examples, we can only assume there is another agenda."
Teasley said he's confident that some late amendments to the bill making it nearly identical to the current federal law should allay concerns.
Senate Bill 377 could reach the Senate floor as early as Wednesday.
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