Georgia doesn’t need to legislate hate

Rocco's Litte Chicago Pizza in Tucson, AZ

Rocco’s Litte Chicago Pizza in Tucson, AZ

Arizona’s Republican United States Senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake, are joining the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and major corporations and calling for Gov Jan Brewer to reject SB 1062, a bill designed to allow discrimination against gay people (and who knows who else) based on the religion of the person who feels a need to discriminate. The uproar and pushback are so strong that four major companies are reconsidering decisions to bring thousands of jobs to the state. Arizona hobbled itself over establishing a Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday years ago, and there is already plenty of talk about moving the 2015 Super Bowl out of the state if Brewer signs the bill.

Arizona’s bad idea is also a bad idea for Georgia, and there are two bills in the General Assembly that would hurt our state by legalizing discrimination based on the “preservation of religious freedom.” The House version of this hate bill masquerading as religious freedom is HB 1023. The Senate’s version is SB 377.

I was stunned to find Rep Mack Jackson’s name on the House version of this bill. Mack, a Democrat who serves District 128 where I live, is the minster of St. James Christian Fellowship in Tennille.

My first questions to him were, “Have you talked to Dr Lowery about this? Would Dr. King support you on this?”

I value religious freedom and the separation of church and state. But there’s a big difference between religious freedom and legalizing discrimination based on one’s personal faith.

What lies at the heart of this bill is legalizing discrimination against gay people. In addition to a business choosing to refuse service to gay people, they could also discriminate against Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, …….. How about overweight and obese people if your faith deplores people who are more than a healthy weight (that could reduce revenues for businesses in the South where we seem to have an epidemic of weight issues)?

It is stunning that in the state where Dr King is buried, and Civil Rights champions Dr Joseph Lowery and Rep John Lewis call home, any state legislator would put their name on a bill like HB 1023/SB 377.

Crossover Day in the General Assembly is Monday, March 3rd. That means you need to act now! You can sign this petition, contact your legislators, or do both.

As this morning has progressed Mack replied to my text message saying he took his name off the bill (it still appears in the online version). A couple of hours later he posted on Facebook that he didn’t sponsor this bill. Now, as I am posting here, he has texted me saying, “My name was on the bill but was taken off in the clerk’s office after it was brought to my attention the effect of this bill. It is never my intention to discriminate against anyone. I did not sponsor the bill.”

Thank you for stepping back Rep Jackson. You and others under the Gold Dome will better serve your constituents if you fully understand the impact legislation will have on individuals, families, businesses, and our state before filing bills. Our job is to hold you accountable.

About Katherine Helms Cummings

By day I am an environmental and social justice advocate working from a rural perspective. Nights and weekends I am an artisan making accessories and clothing with Upcycled cashmere, fine wools, and woven textiles. My handmade items are available at The Sassy Gal http://thesassygal.org
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