This morning, the Georgia Senate will debate HB 757, a hybrid of the House Pastor Protection Act and the Georgia First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) (previously SB 284). Many are likely asking: how did they get combined? What does the hybrid bill do? What happens next? What can I do?
How We Got Here
Just last week, the House voted unanimously to pass HB 757, the Pastor Protection Act. That bill was intended to ensure that the state could not force clergy and houses of worship to perform marriages with which they disagree. At the same time, the Senate Rule Committee was attempting to take up its FADA bill (a far worse bill than the Pastor Protection Act), but kept delaying the hearing because the members of the committee couldn’t decide on what language they wanted to pass.
On Tuesday of this week, the Senate Rules Committee met again and decided to add its FADA onto the Pastor Protection Act that had passed the House (HB 757). The language that passed out of that committee is here. Then, just yesterday, the Senate Rules Committee placed this hybrid bill on today’s Senate floor calendar. So today, the full Senate will vote on this bill.
What Is In The New Bill
The new bill is pretty terrible. In short, it allows any individual or “faith-based” business, non-profit entity, or taxpayer-funded organization to ignore any law that conflicts with their religious beliefs about marriage. This bill would cause real harm to real people and would (ironically) violate the Free Speech and Establishment Clauses of the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Thus, any person, business, or taxpayer-funded organization could refuse anyone else rights, services, and benefits because they are part of an interracial couple; are part of an interfaith couple; are a single mother; are part of a same-sex couple; are divorced; are remarried; live or have lived with a partner without being married; or have had sex outside of marriage at any time in their life.
Just a few of the troubling real life consequences could include:
- a single mother and her child being denied safety at the domestic violence shelter;
- a hospital denying a man the opportunity to say goodbye to his dying husband;
- a cemetery corporation denying an interracial couple a shared cemetery plot;
- a restaurant refusing to allow a child’s birthday party because his parents are divorced; or
- an unmarried couple and their child being denied a room at a hotel late at night after their car broke down.
For more info on what the bill does, check out the letter we sent to the Rules Committee this morning.
What Happens If The Bill Passes the Senate Today
Every bill must pass through the House and the Senate before it is sent to the Governor. The Senate Committee was smart: It placed its FADA onto HB 757, which already passed through the House. So, the FADA will bypass the House committees and a full floor debate and vote. Instead, the bill will be transmitted back to the House, which can then vote to accept or reject the changes. If it accepts the changes, the bill goes to the Governor. If the House rejects the changes and the Senate committee insists on them, a conference committee is formed to hash out the differences. Beware. This could happen immediately and the bill could be through both chambers by the end of the day.
What You Can Do Today
You can email your State Senator and tell them to vote no on the bill. You can also urge your friends and family to do the same thing.