LGBT lawmakers warn against ‘vicious’ anti-gay bills in Georgia

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Georgia's LGBT lawmakers issued a stern warning to their colleagues at the Gold Dome: Spare the state from an anti-LGBT bill like the one that has plunged North Carolina into political and economic trouble.

The warning from state Reps. Karla Drenner, Keisha Waites and Park Cannon – the state's three LGBT lawmakers; Sam Park takes office in January – comes less than two weeks before Georgia lawmakers open their 2017 session. Drenner, Waites and Cannon said “the price of discrimination is steep” and Georgia should avoid the problems that North Carolina has encountered since passing – and a failed attempt last week to repeal – House Bill 2.

“We stand to urge our colleagues to oppose any anti-LGBT legislation that risks taking Georgia down the same disastrous path in 2017,” Cannon (photo left) said in a press release issued Thursday by Georgia Equality.

“The price of discrimination is steep. North Carolina has lost hundreds of thousands of jobs; over $600 million to frozen investments and cancelled events; and irreversible national reputational damage and political strife. And with the law still on the books designed to leave LGBT North Carolinians vulnerable to discrimination, these costs will only continue mounting,” Cannon added.

The legislation in North Carolina bans cities from protecting LGBT people in non-discrimination ordinances and requires transgender people to use the bathroom that matches the gender assigned at birth. Some Georgia lawmakers have said a similar measure could be proposed here. State Sen. Josh McKoon has promised to again push for an anti-gay “religious freedom” bill in the upcoming session. And he hinted last week that he may write his own North Carolina-styled legislation for Georgia – or back a similar bill from a colleague.

Waites (photo right) said such a bill could plunge Georgia into the kind of political chaos seen in North Carolina.

“North Carolina lawmakers had the opportunity to begin to repair the damage done by anti- LGBT legislation, House Bill 2,” Waites said. “But in the eleventh hour, a provision was added to place a moratorium on local LGBT non-discrimination protections. In other words: the HB 2 repeal failed, and LGBT North Carolinians remain unprotected. The economy remains in jeopardy, and the state politics are declining into chaos.”

Drenner (photo center) cautioned fellow lawmakers that it's a matter of protecting the Georgia economy. Earlier this year, the state faced economic blowback after passing House Bill 757, an anti-LGBT measure that sparked a national controversy before Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed it.

“For three years, we’ve had to fight at our State Capitol against vicious attempts to codify discrimination into Georgia law,” Drenner said in the press release. “And this year, we are grateful for the leadership displayed by Gov. Nathan Deal, who vetoed anti-LGBT, HB 757. In closing, we urge our colleagues to do what’s right for Georgia: invest in Georgia’s economy and avoid the disastrous path the State of North Carolina has chosen.”

The warnings from the LGBT lawmakers come as Georgia Equality is gearing up for the legislative session. The statewide group is in a final push to raise $20,000 by the end of the month to help support its efforts at the Gold Dome and initiatives with voter registration and HIV.

We are fighting the biggest tidal wave of anti-LGBT legislation that we’ve seen since the 2004 marriage amendment fight in Georgia. This isn’t just about homophobia, racism, or bigotry. This is about standing up for what is right, standing up for your friends, family, neighbors, and even standing up for those you don’t know.

The group ticked off a long list of accomplishments in its year-end fundraising push:

We are stronger together and together in 2016 we have:

  • Squashed more than 10 bills- more than we’ve ever seen- that threatened to undermine the equal rights of LGBT people
  • Narrowly avoided North Carolina’s fate by convincing Governor Deal to veto shameful legislation that would have given license to discriminate against LGBT Georgians under the guise of religion
  • Elected a record number of LGBT legislators who will push for nondiscrimination protections
  • Registered nearly 2,000 new voters in Georgia, and organize hundreds of volunteers who have had thousands of conversations about why updating our nondiscrimination laws to include transgender people is so important
  • Advocated for stronger programs crucial to curtailing HIV disparities and finally ending the HIV epidemic
  • Grown the next wave of advocates through our legislative advocacy training and transgender competency trainings for police officers

So far, Georgia Equality has raised $17,850 of its $20,000 goal.


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