The fight against another anti-LGBT "religious freedom" bill from state lawmakers gained a new ally: Georgia voters.
Georgia voters lined up strongly against lawmakers trying to pass a "religious freedom" bill in 2017, according to a new AJC poll. In fact, voters want more medical marijuana and casino gambling than another bite at controversial "religious freedom" legislation.
- Forty-four percent of respondents oppose lawmakers again trying to pass a religious liberty bill. Only 40 percent support it.
- Fifty-four percent say lawmakers should not try to pass a campus gun bill again.
- Supporters of casino gambling take heart: 56 percent of Georgians support the idea, compared with just 38 percent opposed.
- Sixty-one percent support expanding school choice for parents, and of those, 69 percent remain supportive even if it means sending public tax dollars to private schools.
- An overwhelming majority, 71 percent, support expanding medical marijuana in Georgia to include an in-state harvesting program.
- The strongest number, however, came on the question of Medicaid expansion: 75 percent support expanding it, including 57 percent of Republicans.
The poll found a big change on "religious freedom" legislation. A year ago, 52 percent of voters supported the legislation, according to the AJC.
Sen. Josh McKoon – who has pushed the anti-LGBT legislation for three legislative sessions – has promised to revive the issue again in 2017, complaining that aggressive LGBTs are trying to blackmail him over it. Some GOP lawmakers are plotting exactly how to pass a bill that would meet the approval from Gov. Nathan Deal, who vetoed a wide-ranging anti-LGBT bill in March.
But Georgia voters want to move on, according to the AJC poll. They aren't the only ones.
Ahead of the 2017 legislative session, which opened on Monday, top Republicans in the General Assembly downplayed the chances of anti-LGBT legislation. House Speaker David Ralston called it a time suck and wants to punt to federal lawmakers. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle said fears driving the legislation in past years "subsided some."
The state's three openly LGBT lawmakers – the number grew to four on Monday – have warned against "vicious" anti-gay bills. The Metro Atlanta Chamber said don't bother. And faith leaders and activists are ready for a fight.
Also, Reporter Newspapers – which covers Brookhaven, Buckhead, Dunwoody and Sandy Springs – asked readers to name their most pressing issues for state lawmakers. "Religious freedom" ranked second to last.
Some issues that have tied up much legislative debate in recent years ranked low among the survey’s respondents. Only 2 percent chose “Religious Freedom Act” to protect those who publicly exercise their beliefs as their top issue. Only a single respondent picked expanding gun owners’ rights.