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Georgia religious freedom bill stalls in House committee

Georgia religious freedom bill stalls in House committee


ATLANTA — A divisive religious freedom bill stalled Thursday in a Georgia House committee after a Republican member of the panel successfully added anti-discrimination language to the proposal.

Members of the Judiciary Committee voted to table the bill immediately after nine lawmakers on the panel supported the addition from Rep. Mike Jacobs, R-Brookhaven. Two other Republicans also voted in favor.

Supporters of the bill said the change swallows the legal protection it is intended to provide for people acting on their religious beliefs.

“This is the amendment which will gut this bill,” Rep. Barry Fleming, R-Harlem, said before the vote on Jacobs’ amendment. He then urged other Republicans on the panel “not to do something which will cause several of us to have to vote no.”

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Opponents of the measure from Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, have pushed for anti-discrimination language to ensure the bill could not be used as legal cover for such treatment of gays and transgender people.

Jacobs said the majority of emails he’s received from his metro Atlanta district were from people opposed to the bill.

“I take at face value the statements of the proponents that they do not intend discrimination with this bill,” Jacobs said. “I also believe if that’s the case we as the General Assembly should state that expressly in the bill.”

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