Georgia Senate passes amended religious freedom bill

[JURIST] The Georgia State Senate [official website] passed an amended version of a religious freedom bill, HB 757 [text, PDF; materials], which some critics believe may be used to discriminate against same-sex couples. The bill gives religious leaders the right to refuse to marry any couple if it is against their religion without facing penalties and bars the government from taking any adverse action against any person who acts in accordance with their religious views towards marriage. The bill also allows religious organizations to deny others use of their property if it would go against their beliefs. The Georgia House passed the legislation last week, but will review [CNN report] the legislation again to vote on the added provisions. If the bill passes the House, it will be sent to Governor Nathan Deal [official website] to sign. One sponsor of the bill, State Senator Greg Kirk, stated that the bill's purpose is to provide equal protection to people with sincerely-held religious beliefs. However, critics of the bill believe it could lead to discrimination toward the LGBT community and unmarried couples.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights, as well as freedom of religious practice, remain controversial issues in the US. At least nineteen states have enacted some variety of religious freedom laws, most modeled after the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act [text] signed into law by Bill Clinton in 1993. Following the US Supreme Court [official website] ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges [JURIST report] in June, Kentucky clerk Kim Davis refused to issue [JURIST report] marriage licenses, arguing that her Christian faith should exempt her from issuing the licenses to same-sex couples. In June North Carolina lawmakers passed SB 2, a law that permits magistrates to refuse to perform same-sex marriages on religious grounds, overriding a veto [JURIST reports] by Governor Pat McCrory. Earleir this year, an Indiana legislative committee approved a bill [JURIST report] that would repeal the controversial religious freedom law passed last year.

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