Lawmakers In Florida And Georgia Reject LGBT Protections

CREDIT: Twitter/@igofatlanta

Protesters rally against pro-discrimination legislation in Georgia on Tuesday.

With dozens of anti-LGBT bills popping up in state legislatures across the country, there are at least a few attempts underway to actually create protections for the LGBT community. This week, two such bills faltered.

In Georgia, there is no state law establishing public accommodation protections for any protected class. Lawmakers are considering HB 849, a bill that would create the same protections that exist on the federal level. Though there are limitations in the bill’s definition of public accommodations, it would protect against discrimination by any place of lodging (inn, hotel, motel, etc.), any restaurant (food-serving place), any gas station, and any event space (movie theatre, concert hall, stadium, etc.).

The bill currently only offers protections based on race, color, nationality, and religion, but on Tuesday, Democrats tried to add sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability with an amendment. Rep. Tom Weldon (R) opposed the change, claiming, “Those who get bullied usually are the ones that end up doing well on down the road in life.”

The House subcommittee considering the measure rejected the amendment 6-4 vote, and the bill advanced to the House Judiciary Committee without any LGBT protections. Last week, the same subcommittee also advanced a Pastor Protection Act (HB 757), which protects religious officials from having to officiate same-sex marriages. As currently written, it would allow religious organizations to refuse to let their property to be used for purposes it objects to, but an amendment added prevents such discrimination in housing and shelter. Other “religious freedom” bills that could enable anti-LGBT discrimination are also still pending.

Florida lawmakers have similarly considered a bill that explicitly creates new protections for LGBT people. The bill, SB 120, would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the protected classes in employment, housing, and public accommodations, along with new language guaranteeing that the law would “not limit the free exercise of religion guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the State Constitution.”

In the Senate Judiciary Committee Monday, conversation got wrapped up in conversations about which restrooms transgender people would be allowed to use. Sen. Wilton Simpson (R) expressed concerns about “weirdos doing weird things in public bathrooms with men or women,” but Sen. Jeremy Ring (D) wryly mused, “My guess is the transgender community has used the bathroom before.”

Though the bill has the support of several big business interests in Florida, including AT&T, Disney, Office Depot, Home Shopping Network, Marriott, and Wells Fargo, it failed to advance in a 5-5 vote. All votes against it came from Republicans, while two Republicans actually voted for it. Chairman Miguel Diaz de la Portilla (R), who supported the measure, promised, “It will be back.”

There are currently 28 states that offer no protections to LGBT workers, 28 states that offer no protections to LGBT tenants, and 29 states that offer no protections to LGBT patrons.