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Anti-Gay GOP State Lawmaker Unveils New, More Dangerous Weapon Against LGBT Rights

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Expert Says Georgia Senator’s First Amendment Defense Act Is ‘RFRA on Steroids’

If 2015 was the year of RFRA madness, 2016 may be all about FADA fever. 

The bad news is, so-called First Amendment Defense Acts (FADAs) are generally worse than Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRAs). In fact, one LGBT legal expert called Georgia’s FADA “RFRA on steroids.” 

This week, Georgia freshman GOP state Sen. Greg Kirk — a former Southern Baptist pastor — introduced a state version of a proposed federal law designed to give virtually every individual and entity — from government employees and contractors to for-profit businesses — a license to discriminate against same-sex couples, even legally-maried ones, and their children. Similar bills have been introduced in at least four other states, Illinois and Oklahoma, Virginia and Washington. 

Kirk, who is in his first term, was elected in 2014 and won the GOP primary by just 222 votes. There was no Democratic challenger.

“The consequences of FADA would be devastating, if upheld,” constitutional law scholar Anthony M. Kreis writes at GeorgiaPol.com. “The fear of discrimination against LGBT persons, women, and others, that stokes opposition to the proposed Religious Freedom Restoration Act is – unlike [with] RFRA — a feature of FADA and not a bug.” 

Kirk’s Senate Bill 284 would prohibit government from “taking discriminatory action” based on a person’s belief that “marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman” or that “sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.” 

In other words, SB 284 could allow any “person” — which the bill defines as “any individual, corporation, partnership, proprietorship, firm, enterprise, association, public or private organization of any character, or other legal entity” — to discriminate against gay couples, their children, single parents, unmarried couples, pregnant women and others, based on religion. 

Although some are calling it “the Kim Davis bill,” Kirk maintained at a press conference Thursday SB 284 wouldn’t allow government employees to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

However, Kreis notes that SB 284 doesn’t define “public officer” or “official duties.” Moreover, he writes, the bill would violate free speech and equal protection under the First and Fourteenth Amendments, respectively, because it favors a particular viewpoint and singles out LGBT people. 

“Do not be fooled,” he writes. “FADA is not an accommodation law for religious objectors. It is, however, a blunt tool to browbeat and demean LGBT Georgians, unconventional families, and unmarried individuals deemed morally corrupt.” 

Lambda Legal called Kirk’s bill “divisive” and “dangerous,” saying it would unleash “legal havoc” and effectively treat for-profit businesses like churches. 

“It encourages discrimination, invites litigation, and collides with fundamental rights protected under the US Constitution,” the group said. 

The Human Rights Campaign called SB 284 “despicable” and “reckless,” adding that it “threatens to create a breakdown of state government services.” And Georgia Equality said the FADA “flouts the rule of law.”

“This legislation sets a dangerous precedent — we can’t pick and choose which laws we want to follow based on our personal beliefs,” Georgia Equality wrote. “This bill not only exposes married same-sex couples and their children in Georgia to harm, but it risks imperiling our state’s economy.” 

The bill could cost the state’s economy $1 billion, according to Georgia Equality, which pointed to recent surveys showing damage to Indiana’s business reputation as a result of the state’s passage of a RFRA in 2015. After weeks of intense economic backlash, the Indiana Legislature passed an emergency “fix” clarifying that the RFRA doesn’t sanction anti-LGBT discrimination. 

Kirk claims his bill — which would also nullify local nondiscrimination ordinances — is needed to protect business owners against being “criminalized.” 

Watch Kirk’s press conference below. 

Some responses via Twitter:

 

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Watch: Schumer Compares McConnell to Southern Segregationists for Blocking Voting Rights

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On Tuesday, following Senate Republicans’ lockstep vote to block debate on voting rights, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) gave a thunderous speech comparing Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to the southern segregationists who fought the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

“Republican state legislatures across the country are engaged in the most sweeping voter suppression in 80 years,” said Schumer. “Capitalizing on and catalogued by Donald Trump’s big lie. These state governments are making it harder for younger, poorer, urban and non-white Americans to vote. Earlier today, the Republican leader told reporters that, quote, ‘Regardless of what may be happening in some states, there is no rationale for federal intervention.’ The Republican leader flatly stated that no matter what the states do to undermine our democracy — voter suppression laws, phony audits, partisan takeovers of local election boards — the Senate should not act.”

“The Republican leader uses the language and the logic of the southern senators in the ’60s who defended states rights, and it is an indefensible position for any senator, any senator, let alone the minority leader to hold,” said Schumer. “When John Lewis was about to cross that bridge in Selma, he didn’t know what waited for him on the other side. He didn’t know how long his march would be. And his ultimate success was never guaranteed. But he started down that bridge anyway. Today Democrats started our march to defend the voting rights of all Americans. It could be a long march, but it is one we are going to make.”

Watch below:

 

 

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BREAKING NEWS

Pelosi Will Create Select Committee to Investigate January 6 Insurrection After GOP Kills Bill for Bipartisan Group

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Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has just told Democrats she will create a special Select committee to investigate Donald Trump’s violent January 6 insurrection, a deadly attempted coup.

The House voted to approve a bipartisan committee but Senate Republicans killed that bill.

Pelosi made the announcement as Senate Republicans killed debate on the voting rights bill.

 

This is a breaking news and developing story.

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GOP Senators Orchestrate ‘Blockade’ of Key Biden Agenda Bills: Voting Rights Bill Killed, Infrastructure in Doubt

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Republicans Tuesday evening killed debate on the For the People Act, a key component of Democrats’ agenda to protect democracy, expand and strengthen voting rights, and reduce the influence of dark money in elections. As Senators were voting on the motion to begin debate on the bill, news broke that the GOP Whip, Sen. John Thune of South Dakota had announced another critical piece of Democratic legislation, the infrastructure bill, was even further in doubt.

GOP Senators appeared to be orchestrating a complete and total shutdown of key legislation critical to President Joe Biden’s progressive agenda.

Democratic Majority Leader Schumer immediately denounced Republicans’ “blockade.”

Sen. Thune also said Republicans would oppose a slimmed down version of a voting rights bill:

60 votes were required to begin debate on the voting rights bill. The motion failed in a 50-50  vote. As voting was taking place GOP Minority Leader Mitch mcConnell could be seen huddling with other top Republican Senators including John Cornyn of Texas and John Kennedy of Louisiana.

The only option to pass the bill now would be for a simple majority of Senators agree to kill the 60-vote filibuster. Some are supporting a modification to 55 votes. Democratic Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona had steadfastly refused to support killing the filibuster.

“This is a dark day in this country,” Al Sharpton said on MSNBC.

“This is a dark day for Republicans,” host Nicolle Wallace replied. “Republicans won’t just walk over norms, they will burn them down,” she told host Ari Melber during the handoff.

Voting rights expert Ari Berman weighed in, chastising the GOP:

 

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