Religious liberty legislation introduced by Sen. Marty Harbin (R-Tyrone) and supported by 18 other lawmakers failed to pick up steam last week in the Georgia General Assembly.
House Bill 233, which would be the state’s version of the federal 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act signed by President Bill Clinton, was assigned to the Rules Committee, where its fate is bleak.
Gov. Nathan Deal was reported last week as saying he had no desire or appetite to entertain the legislation and indicated he would veto it.
For his part, Harbin on Sunday said he wanted the bill to go to the Judiciary Committee rather than the Rules Committee and that he moved to have the bill “engrossed,” meaning that the legislation would be protected from being changed.
“I wanted the bill to mirror federal law,” said Harbin. “(Lt. Gov. Casey) Cagle sent it to the Rules Committee to try to kill it. HB 233 raises state law to the federal level.”
Commenting on a bill proposed last year, HB 757, Harbin said the bill had a lot of items added on. This year, said Harbin, the bill simply mirrors federal law.
“This year we just wanted to move it 20 yards down the field,” Harbin said, adding that, “The bill is not discriminatory. It raises the standard of state government. State government needs constraints on it.”
With the fate of the bill in question, Harbin said “We might have to wait for another governor” to resurface the legislation.
For its part, the Georgia Equality organization has its own take on the issue.
“We believe that Gov. Nathan Deal sent a very clear message last year that discriminatory measures like this have no place in Georgia. That is why we support comprehensive and inclusive protections that would protect people of faith, members of the LGBT community and others equally under the law,” Georgia Equality said.
The fight last year over HB 757 came with claims by opponents that the legislation would essentially legalize discrimination, with a number of high-profile companies speaking out against the measure and threatening to boycott the state.