Last Friday, while waiting on the Supreme Court to weigh in on whether or not Baptists have to bake cakes for gay weddings, the Georgia state senate passed another “religious freedom” bill. The Keep Faith in Adoption and Foster Care Act, which was ushered in by a 35 to 19 vote after “an hour of contentious debate,” gives legal protection to tax payer-funded faith-based adoption agencies that refuse to place children with adoptive parents they disapprove of because of their religious beliefs. LGBTQ rights organizations were quick to condemn SB 375, pointing out the dangers it poses to both LGBTQ adoptive parents and LGBTQ foster kids.
GLAAD’s Sarah Kate Ellis called it “a dangerous step backward that would codify permission to discriminate against the LGBTQ community into Georgia state law” while Marty Rouse of the Human Rights Campaign said it’s “discrimination dressed up as a ‘solution’ to a fake problem.” Both urged the Georgia state House of Representatives to reject the bill.
While the pleas of LGBTQ activists will certainly be disregarded by Georgia’s Republican-controlled House and Republican governor, SB 375 is going to, once again, force the state to grapple with the national perception of it. While Lt. Governor Casey Cagle made headlines and spawned Twitter memes Monday by threatening to slash tax breaks for Delta, one of the state’s biggest employers, because the company discontinued discounts for NRA members, Governor Nathan Deal actually vetoed the state’s sweeping religious liberty bill in 2016 because of pressure from corporations. Atlanta is third only behind New York City and Houston when it comes to housing major company headquarters. Home Depot, UPS, Coca-Cola, Delta, and 24 other Fortune 500 companies are all based there. Georgia has also become a serious film-making state. In addition to the dozens of TV shows that film in Atlanta, Georgia outpaced California for feature film production last year. Atlanta’s Pinewood Studios is home to Black Panther, Ant-Man, Avengers: Infinity War, Tyler Perry everything; and all the jobs that go along with those major productions. Oh, and the city is also on the shortlist for becoming Amazon’s coveted HQ2.
TV showrunners who work out of Atlanta were quick to condemn the bill, with some promising to pull production if the House passes it and Deal signs it into law.
Regardless of how this bill plays out, it’s easy to see the current White House’s stance on LGBTQ people as the thing that empowered it. The bill’s sponsor, William Ligon, operated straight out of Trump’s playbook before Trump was even a glimmer in our nightmare’s eyes. Ligon’s other other notable national news-making moments in his Georgia senate career include threatening to defund AP U.S. History in Georgia schools if teachers refused to ramp up American exceptionalism rhetoric; chiding educators for teaching Native history instead of focusing solely on the “Anglo-American traditions of Western Civilization;” using taxpayer money to settle a lawsuit with a Black administrative assistant he fired for being Black; and introducing legislation to make sure liberal activists can’t interrupt conservative speakers on public college campuses.
Like all other “religious freedom” legislation, SB 375 is just bigotry cloaked in Bible verses and Republican talking points. Many white evangelical Christians believe their faith teaches children are in danger with single parents, or unwed couples; and it wasn’t too long ago when they used the Bible to justify those same beliefs for interracial couples.
While it seems unlikely that Governor Deal will sign a law that could torpedo the state’s economy, especially after he already shot down an even broader attempt to institute “religious freedom” laws in the state, it’s hard to be comforted by the knowledge that our civil rights hinge on the whims of Jeff Bezos.