Opponents of a House bill aimed at protecting the religious freedoms of Georgians packed a subcommittee hearing at the State Capitol Monday.
House Bill 1023 by Rep. Sam Teasley (R-Marietta) would prevent state government from overriding an individual’s religious freedom unless it could show a compelling interest to do so.
The bill is based on a 1993 federal law signed by President Bill Clinton which only applies to federal cases. Since then, nearly 20 states have adopted their own version of the law and nearly a dozen others have adopted it as a result of court decisions.
The measure, and a similar one in the Senate, has drawn the ire of the gay community and its supporters who say the bill could lead to discrimination.
“If a waiter says that they look gay to them, they could refuse to serve them,” says Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality.
Teasley says that is far from the bill’s intent.
“This most certainly doesn’t target anyone,” he says. “It is specifically tailored to protect the citizens of Georgia and the free exercise of religion.”
Another hearing is expected on the House version, while Senate Bill 377 has already passed out of committee and could go before the full Senate this week.