Georgia representative withdraws bill that critics say unfairly - CBS46 News

Georgia representative withdraws bill that critics say unfairly targeted Muslims

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Jason Spencer (Source: Georgia House of Representatives) Jason Spencer (Source: Georgia House of Representatives)

A Georgia state representative has withdrawn a bill that critics argued would have unfairly targeted Muslims. The proposed bill would have banned the wearing of anything that conceals a portion of a person's face.

Georgia State Representative Jason Spencer, of Woodbine, proposed House Bill 3, which would have made it a misdemeanor if a person conceals their face by wearing a mask, hood or other device that would hide the identity of someone. 

He later confirmed that he withdraw the bill.

“After further consideration, I have decided to not pursue HB 3 in the upcoming 2017 legislative session due to the visceral reaction it has created," Spencer said in a statement. “While this bill does not contain language that specifically targets any group, I am mindful of the perception that it has created. My objective was to address radical elements that could pose a threat to public safety. However, further consideration dictates that other solutions will need to be considered.  In conclusion, anti-masking statutes have been upheld as constitutional (State v Miller, 1990), and HB 3 would withstand legal scrutiny, but not political scrutiny.” 

The bill would have banned people from concealing their faces on drivers license or state identification photos. The ban would also have included prohibitions on driving or being in certain public areas with your face hidden.

Critics of the bill say it would unfairly target Muslim women, who traditionally wear a hijab, niqab or burqa as a head covering.

"The proposed bill is a bad solution to a non-existent problem. Very few Georgia women wear niqabs, which are veils that conceal the face but reveal the eyes," said Edward Ahmed Mitchell, attorney and executive director of the Georgia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Mitchell said the women who do, however, have a constitutional right to do so.

"They are not bothering, much less endangering, their neighbors by a wearing a niqab. Veiled women also already show their faces when taking photographs for government identification, which makes this bill all the more unnecessary," Mitchell said.

Robert McCaw, the Director for Government Affairs at CAIR, said the bill was the latest slight from the Georgia legislature unfairly targeting Muslims.

"It's a waste of taxpayer dollars to have the state legislature debate this issue," McCaw said.

Although the state Department of Driver Services already has a rule in place that prohibits anyone from covering their face on a drivers license photo, the bill reached much further than that.

The language of the bill does provide several exceptions, none of which clearly states covering a person's face for religious reasons. 

The Georgia legislature heads back to session on January 11.

View details of the bill below

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