2 gay groups cry wolf over ‘religious freedom’ bill

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Debate over Georgia's anti-gay “religious freedom” bills moved past ridiculous weeks ago. But two LGBT organizations can now claim credit for the nuttiest response of all: a statewide travel warning.

On Thursday, as state senators neared a vote on Sen. Josh McKoon's anti-gay S.B. 129 – spoiler: it passed – GetEqual Georgia and Rise Up Georgia hyperventilated and belched out a warning that the legislation means it's not safe for LGBT people and other minorities to travel the streets. 

No, really.

No part of Georgia should be considered safe for travelers, including LGBTQ people, women, children, religious minorities, or people of color. The potential for hostility extends across the state. Do not assume that your non-resident status will protect you from Georgia's strict religious doctrine, enforced by minority rule.

Actually, the Republicans pushing the legislation are in the majority in state government, which is why the bills had traction in the first place. But let's not quibble. The bill – and a similar measure from Rep. Sam Teasley – is bad and could open the door to anti-gay discrimination, as faith leaders, progressives and LGBT activists have said during the debate this year and last. 

But will it make the streets unsafe? Hardly. The state already bans gay marriage and refuses to consider a measure that would protect LGBT state employees. The verbal overreach just adds to the noise around the legislation and does nothing to combat it or the serious efforts of faith leaders, progressives, LGBT activists and even some Republicans to kill the measures.

The full release from GetEqual and Rise Up Georgia:

GetEQUAL Georgia and Rise Up Georgia Issue Travel Alert for Those Planning Trips to the State of Georgia

ATLANTA, GA — Today, GetEQUAL Georgia — a statewide grassroots social justice organization working toward the full equality of all lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) Georgians — and Rise Up Georgia — a statewide grassroots organizing group working to create strong communities, invest in the future, and uphold dignity in public, at home, and in workplaces — issued a “travel advisory” to any LGBTQ person planning to travel to the state of Georgia.

This travel advisory (text below) comes as the Georgia General Assembly is moving forward with two companion bills — House Bill 218 and Senate Bill 129 — that would allow the state government, corporations, and privately-owned businesses to discriminate on the basis of their “strongly held religious beliefs.” This bill, though intended to target LGBTQ residents of the state, could potentially lead to unsafe situations for a wide range of individuals, including women, children, religious minorities, communities of color, or anyone else who an individual might want to target for discrimination. These bills will have wide-ranging negative consequences, which bill sponsors are trying to keep under wraps; in fact, the Senate version of the bill was recently passed out of committee during a bathroom break, when all Democrats were out of the room, in order to have the votes necessary to move the bill forward: https://politics.blog.ajc.com/2015/03/03/religious-liberty-bill-passes-during-a-bathroom-break/.

As a result, GetEQUAL and Rise Up Georgia are advising all travelers, especially LGBTQ travelers, to avoid traveling to the state if at all possible. Georgia is the corporate headquarters of Fortune 500 companies like Delta Airlines (Nasdaq: DAL), Home Depot (HD), and Coca Cola (COKE) — while these companies came out in opposition to a similar bill last legislative session, they have not publicly expressed opposition to the bill this year.

These bills have the support of the Family Research Council, an organization designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group (https://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-files/groups/family-research-council). As faith leaders have made clear over the past two months, this effort to write discrimination into law does not represent the views of a majority of Georgians, nor does it represent the views of the faith community in Georgia.

“Georgia should be about supporting families but, instead, this bill targets families like mine,” said Nelini Stamp, co-director of Rise Up Georgia. “How can I expect my mothers to be safe when they visit Georgia if our state cements discrimination into law?”

Jessica Fisher, a Georgia native and lead organizer with GetEQUAL Georgia, said, “The problem with this bill has nothing to do with religious freedom — that's covered, assured, and protected in the First Amendment. The problem is lawmakers who wish to use their religion as a means for justifying discrimination against large communities of people — women, people of color, immigrants, and the LGBTQ community. A more honest name for this bill would be the Peach State Hate Act.”

In response to the swift movement of the bill in the Georgia State Assembly, GetEQUAL Georgia and Rise Up Georgia have issued the following travel alert for all LGBTQ people planning travel to Georgia. This alert extends to families, tourists, meeting planners, hotel staff, convention-goers, business travelers, and all others who might be considering travel to the state.



GetEQUAL Georgia and Rise Up Georgia are alerting those traveling to the State of Georgia of a risk of discrimination based upon real or perceived sexual orientation and/or gender identity. The City of Atlanta currently protects residents from being legally ejected from their hotel rooms or other places of public accommodation such as retail stores, restaurants, recreation centers, public pools, and movie theaters on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. However, the State of Georgia is on the cusp of passing legislation that would allow business owners to legally discriminate against minority groups — effectively eliminating Atlanta’s protections.

No part of Georgia should be considered safe for travelers, including LGBTQ people, women, children, religious minorities, or people of color. The potential for hostility extends across the state. Do not assume that your non-resident status will protect you from Georgia's strict religious doctrine, enforced by minority rule.

GetEQUAL and Rise Up Georgia advise against non-essential travel. Those who are required to travel to Georgia are encouraged to take the following precautions:

– Avoid traveling alone in the state

– If travel to the state is required, visit only known LGBTQ-friendly establishments, including restaurants, bars, and event venues

– Only book travel at hotels which have policies explicitly prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity

– Be aware of your surroundings and adopt other appropriate safety measures to protect yourself while traveling

GetEQUAL Georgia and Rise Up Georgia will continue to monitor this situation and update travelers as needed. If House Bill 218 and Senate Bill 129 do not pass through the state legislature, GetEQUAL Georgia and Rise Up Georgia will withdraw this travel alert.


GetEQUAL is a national grassroots social justice organization whose mission is to empower the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community and allies to take bold action to demand full legal and social equality, and to hold accountable those who stand in the way. For more information, go to www.getequal.org. You can also follow GetEQUAL on Facebook at www.facebook.com/getequal or on Twitter at @GetEQUAL.

Rise Up Georgia is creating strong communities, investing in the future, and upholding dignity in public, at home, & at our workplaces. You can see more about Rise Up Georgia’s work at www.riseupga.org. You can also follow Rise Up Georgia on Facebook at www.facebook.com/riseupga or on Twitter at @RiseUpGeorgia.



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