Release: Thursday, February 20, 2014
Radical Georgia GOP’s New Low: HB 1023 and SB 377
Democratic Party of Georgia calls legislation “dangerous and immeasurable in scope”
Atlanta, GA – Today, Georgia’s General Assembly will hold committee hearings on HB 1023 and SB 377–a pair of reckless bills that would, among many other things, open a Pandora’s box of LGBT discrimination and unfairly target women based on their health care decisions. The move to have both bills discussed in their respective committees at 4:00pm ensures that public comment will be split.
“These bills are dangerous and virtually immeasurable in scope,” said Democratic Party of Georgia Spokesperson Michael Smith. “What makes this even more alarming is the fact that Republicans are using a tactic they seem to be quite fond of lately by scheduling the hearings in tandem to sidestep opposition testimony.”
The potential impact of both bills is far-reaching. Under the proposed laws, individuals and private organizations could claim an imposition on their religious freedoms to make decisions otherwise protected by current law. For instance, both of these bills would allow employers to discriminate against potential employees based on current protected legal statuses—like race, sex, age, pregnancy, sexual orientation, nationality and even religion under the guise of protecting the employer’s religious freedom.
While Republicans state that the bills are designed to protect religious freedoms that are already guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution, the legislation is tailored in a way to limit some of our most basic protections—including access to birth control for women and protection from state-sanctioned discrimination against LGBT individuals.
According to legal scholars at Americans United for Separation of Church and State, HB 1023 and SB 377 would allow nearly any claim of religious burden to overturn or allow exemptions to any state law. U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Scalia wrote on a similar case that the traditional compelling interest test would be “courting anarchy” and open the prospect of religious exemptions from civic obligations of almost every conceivable kind.
“The pathetic part of this is that Republicans could have spent their time crafting legislation that put people back to work or armed Georgia’s future workforce with a first-class education,” concluded Smith. “Instead, the Georgia GOP has connived ways to manufacture right-wing primary fodder for the far fringe of their base that stealthily silences the voice of any mainstream voter who will find this legislation objectionable.”
The rule respondents favor would open the prospect of constitutionally required religious exemptions from civic obligations of almost every conceivable kind — ranging from compulsory military service, see, e.g., Gillette v. United States, 401 U. S. 437 (1971), to the payment of taxes, see, e.g., United States v. Lee, supra; to health and safety regulation such as manslaughter and child neglect laws, see, e.g., Funkhouser v. State,763 P.2d 695 (Okla.Crim.App.1988), compulsory vaccination laws, see, e.g., Cude v. State, 237 Ark. 927, 377 S.W.2d 816 (1964), drug laws, see, e.g., Olsen v. Drug Enforcement Administration, 279 U.S.App.D.C. 1, 878 F.2d 1458 (1989), and traffic laws, see Cox v. New Hampshire, 312 U. S. 569 (1941); to social welfare legislation such as minimum wage laws, see Susan and Tony Alamo Foundation v. Secretary of Labor, 471 U. S. 290 (1985), child labor laws, see Prince v. Massachusetts, 321 U. S. 158 (1944), animal cruelty laws, see, e.g., Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye Inc. v. City of Hialeah, 723 F.Supp. 1467 (S.D.Fla.1989), cf. State v. Massey, 229 N.C. 734, 51 S.E.2d 179, appeal dism’d, 336 U.S. 942 (1949), environmental protection laws, see United States v. Little, 638 F.Supp. 337 (Mont.1986), and laws providing for equality of opportunity for the races, see, e.g., Bob Jones University v. United States, 461 U. S. 574, 461 U. S. 603-604 (1983). The First Amendment’s protection of religious liberty does not require this.