Ga. House panel kills gay workplace bias ban
Anti-gay bias once again showed that it gets an easy pass at the Georgia General Assembly on Tuesday when a House subcommittee quickly tabled—and effectively killed—a gay-inclusive workplace bias ban.
The measure, House Bill 630, received a brief hearing before a Judiciary subcommittee in which six people spoke in favor of the measure and just one against it. But after the nearly half-hour session, the committee voted 3-2 to table the proposal.
“We may be able to bring it back [but that’s] unlikely,” state Rep. Karla Drenner, the lesbian lawmaker who introduced the measure, said immediately after the committee vote. “It’s dead. That’s my guess. To table it means they killed it.”
The measure would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity for state employees. It would bring the state in line with 13 of its municipalities that already offer some protections to gay employees.
When Drenner introduced the bill last year, it included bipartisan support and a coalition of co-signers that included 57 Democrats, 12 Republicans and 1 Independent.
Opponents of the bill trotted out anti-gay rhetoric from the 1990s to rally against the bill. Georgia Equality warned its supporters early Tuesday about opposition to the bill and urged them to lobby lawmakers to support it.
Tanya Ditty, state director of Concerned Women for America of Georgia, compared gay and lesbian people to pedophiles and other criminals. Watch her video testimony as Georgia’s newest anti-gay hater-in-chief.
“What is going to protect our children from someone that is a pedophiliac and comes in and gets a teaching job, is a bus driver, is a custodian. It could be people that want to prey on children and they could be protected. We have a real concern,” Ditty told the committee.
Drenner also spoke to the committee, urging them to approve the measure to bring state policies in line with LGBT protections in place at scores of companies that are located in Georgia.
“The gist of the bill, in my opinion, is about fairness. Fairness for all state employees, that they should be treated and judged based on their job performance,” Drenner said. “There is nothing civil about discrimination.”
Rep. Simone Bell, a lesbian, also spoke in favor of the bill during Tuesday’s hearing. Rep. Keisha Waites, a lesbian who took office on Feb. 13, did not appear. As a candidate, Waites pledged to support the legislation if she was elected. Rep. Rashad Taylor, the other openly gay member of the state House, also did not appear at the hearing.
State Reps. Stephen Allison, Billy Maddox and Randy Nix voted to table the bill, with Reps. Mary Margaret Oliver and Pam Stephenson voting against the move.
UPDATE: Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality, says tabling the bill doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s dead for the remainder of the legislative session. “The bill may be on life support, but it is not dead yet. We can continue to work on a number of channels to bring the bill back up. This is the most conservative group that the bill could come up against. It is not what we wanted, but it is not dead,” says Graham, who also testified during the hearing.
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