Yesterday the Georgia Legislature revealed new changes to their proposed Religious Freedom Restoration Act [RFRA] AKA Hate The Gays Because The Baby Jeebus Said So bill, and then quickly passed it, paving the way toward legalized anti-LGBT discrimination in the state.
When introduced earlier this year, the bill promised pastors they could not be forced to perform a same-sex wedding ceremony. But that wasn’t enough for Georgia lawmakers who, last month, added language to allow faith-based organizations and individuals to opt out of serving couples — gay or straight — if they cited a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction about marriage.
And this week the Senate made a couple of other changes that both the governor, Nathan Deal, and Republican House Speaker David Ralston objected to; while the bill still says no pastor can be forced to perform a same-sex wedding ceremony, it adds language saying no individual can be forced to attend one.
Wait. They actually believe that people would be forced to attend a same-sex wedding against their will?
And all this was done in the name of religion despite the fact that Georgia’s powerful corporate community — including Microsoft, Google, Coca-Cola and Home Depot — oppose the bill and have said it would have a crippling effect on Georgia’s economy due to threats of boycotts from both business convention organizers and national LGBT advocates, in addition to businesses in the state packing up and moving somewhere less hate-filled. In addition, the Metro Atlanta Chamber says this bill could cost the state up to $2 billion if national groups boycott Georgia or cancel conventions and events based on perceived discriminatory efforts by the state.
The bill is headed to Governor Deal for his signature, but just last week Deal quoted the Bible in saying that “allowing discrimination isn’t a proper reflection of who we are [as a state].” Deal has said he would reject any bill that legalizes discrimination.
Now, this next story isn’t a case of what would happen if the Hate Bill becomes law, but it does show that when you create, via the legislature, bills and laws that say gay people are less than and should be treated differently you create an atmosphere where things like this might happen more often …
Marquez Tolbert and his boyfriend, Anthony Gooden were sleeping in Gooden’s apartment one night last week when Martin Blackwell, Gooden’s mother’s boyfriend, entered their bedroom and threw boiling water on them because … Gay.
According to Marquez Tolbert, Martin Blackwell “pulled me up and said, 'Get out of my house with all that gay,'" even though Blackwell did not live in that apartment.
After his arrest, Blackwell [left] told police he was disgusted by the men's relationship, and said, "They'll be all right. It was just a little hot water on them." He is charged with two counts of aggravated battery.
Marquez Tolbert suffered second and third-degree burns along his neck, back and arms, and spent 10 days in the hospital undergoing surgery to graft skin from his thighs to his back and neck; Anthony Gooden’s burns weren’t as serious, though he was hospitalized for several days as well.
Georgia has no Hate Crimes laws on the books, but an Atlanta Police Department LGBT liaison, who sure Martin Blackwell did not make bond, said that federal hate crime charges are a possibility.
Again, I’m not saying there will be a rash of anti-LGBT Hate Crimes in Georgia as a result of this new RFRA, if it passes, but when you legalize discrimination of a group of people, based on race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, you allow people like Martin Blackwell to think that a physical attack is warranted and legal and right and, really, just a little hot water.
Hate is hate and discrimination should never be legalized.