Opposition rallies as Georgia House considers LGBT adoption ban

Opponents of legislation that allows faith-based agencies to ban adoptions and foster care by LGBT people – which passed the Georgia Senate on Friday – are planning a rally as criticism of the bill continues to escalate.

Several LGBT, progressive and business groups have denounced Senate Bill 375 since it passed by a 35-19 vote in the state Senate on Friday. Georgia Equality and Georgia Unites Against Discrimination hope to channel that anger into the Rally to #StopSB375 on Thursday at Central Presbyterian Church, which sits across Washington Street from the State Capitol.

The Georgia State Senate has passed the discriminatory SB 375, which allows adoption agencies to refuse to work with same-sex couples, and we've got to stop it in the House of Representatives. Join us on Thursday, March 1 as we rally against this discriminatory legislation.

Thursday's rally comes on the same day as Georgia Equality hosts LGBTQ Lobby Day.

Central Presbyterian has served as a rallying point against anti-LGBT legislation in the past.

In 2016, LGBT activists gathered there before they walked across the street to deliver more than 75,000 emails to Gov. Nathan Deal opposing a sweeping anti-LGBT "religious freedom" bill. Deal later vetoed the legislation.

A year earlier, LGBT, progressive and faith activists denounced an anti-gay "religious freedom" bill during a rally at the church and then marched on the State Capitol (photo).

In 2010, the church provided the setting for an LGBT counter-demonstration that dwarfed a rally by the National Organization for Marriage.

S.B. 375 now moves to the state House, where its fate is unclear. House Speaker David Ralston told the AJC in January that revisiting "religious freedom" legislation is "not very productive." He also told WABE that he wants to "move forward."

But after the vote on Friday, Ralston spokesperson Kaleb McMichen said the legislation will receive "due consideration" from the House. Via the AJC:

The Senate’s passage of the bill, along with Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle’s support, requires the House to give it “due consideration,” said Kaleb McMichen, a spokesman for House Speaker David Ralston.

“Some have called SB 375 a ‘license to discriminate’ against people wishing to adopt in Georgia. That is not a charge to take lightly,” McMichen said in a written statement. “House members will need to take appropriate time to study this measure and consult with experts in the field before proceeding.”

Gov. Nathan Deal has not commented on the legislation since it passed. But last year, Deal criticized a similar LGBT adoption ban when it was amended to other legislation.

 

'Mean-spirited legislation'

 

Ahead of the Senate vote, criticism of the legislation was growing. The Metro Atlanta Chamber and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce criticized the bill for "sanctioning discrimination" and First Data, a Fortune 500 company headquartered in Atlanta, said it "perpetuates discrimination."

Georgia Prospers – a statewide coalition of 700 businesses across the state – referred to it as "divisive social legislation" in a statement issued after the vote. Via the Atlanta Business Chronicle:

While not taking a position on the current bill, citing its tax-exempt status, a statewide coalition of 700 Georgia businesses released a statement following Friday's Senate vote.

"Georgia's economy – and therefore its families – has benefited greatly because our state's leadership has focused on pro-growth policies while avoiding divisive social legislation," said Brian Robinson, spokesman for Georgia Prospers. "We're competing fiercely for billions in new investments ... and we know that inclusive, welcoming policies give us a distinct advantage in that race."

Two former lawmakers and Democrats now running for governor also denounced the bill ahead of Friday's vote. Stacey Abram blasted the legislation as "bigoted," while Stacey Evans called it "hateful." Via the AJC:

“Right now, Republicans are pandering to a segment of their primary that wants this hateful legislation,” Evans [said].

In the wake of the Senate vote, criticism of the bill quickly surfaced.

Jeff Graham, Georgia Equality executive director

“This is mean-spirited legislation that hurts Georgia’s families, does an incredible disservice to the thousands of children in the state foster care system, and really threatens our ability to attract vibrant businesses that strengthen our communities – like Amazon. No one is trying to undermine freedom of religion in Georgia – that’s why religiously affiliated adoption agencies already enjoy the freedom to work exclusively with families that share their faith values. This legislation goes out of its way to make it harder for loving and committed same-sex couples to start a family – and unfortunately, it’s children in need of permanent homes who will pay the steepest price.”

Michael Smith, Georgia Democrats communications director

“Thousands of kids in Georgia are waiting to become a part of loving families, and the GOP’s solution to this problem is to create new problems. When will Republicans stop targeting Georgia’s LGBTQ community out of political spite? Love is love, and when children need a home, they should be placed in the safe care of the Georgians willing to open their doors and grow their family. Period.”

Marty Rouse, Human Rights Campaign national field director

“Plain and simple – SB 375 is discrimination dressed up as a ‘solution’ to a fake problem. It creates an unnecessary hardship for potential LGBTQ adoptive or foster parents in Georgia and primarily harms the children looking for a loving home. It’s unfortunate that leaders are focusing on this bill, instead of concrete ways to improve the child welfare system in Georgia. We ask the Georgia House of Representatives to reject this bill.”

Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD president and CEO

“Senate Bill 375 is a dangerous step backward that would codify permission to discriminate against the LGBTQ community into Georgia state law. This bill is not about freedom of religion, which is one of our nation’s fundamental values, but rather about imposing one’s personal religious beliefs on others to discriminate against loving foster or adoptive parents simply because of their identity and deny services to LGBTQ youth.”

Lucas Acosta, Democratic National Committee media director

“Plain and simple, Georgia’s Republican lawmakers are discriminating against LGBTQ parents. Rather than focusing on empowering families or uniting children with loving parents, Georgia Republicans want to strip qualified potential parents of their ability to provide for a child in need. With over 400,000 children in foster care nationwide and nearly 14,000 in Georgia alone, the Georgia legislature should be focusing on how it can attract more qualified and loving parents to the system – not rejecting potential homes based on the gender identity or sexual orientation of the parents.

 “As the special elections in GA SD-06, HD-117 and HD-119 proved, voters are rejecting the far-right, extremist agenda of Georgia Republicans and will hold them accountable in November.”