Georgia lawmakers adjourn without vote on religious freedom bill

Georgia state capitol in Atlanta David Grant

Georgia state capitol in AtlantaDavid Grant

Georgia state capitol in Atlanta

ATLANTA — Georgia lawmakers finished the year’s legislative session Thursday evening without considering a religious freedom bill similar to those in Indiana and Arkansas that became a flashpoint for a debate about discrimination against gays.

The Georgia bill would have prohibited government from infringing on a person’s religious beliefs unless the government can prove a compelling interest.

It would have also covered individuals, closely held companies such as Hobby Lobby and religious organizations. Opponents said it would have provided a legal basis for discrimination against LGBT individuals.

But supporters tabled the Georgia bill last week after a Republican member of the panel added language preventing it from being used as a defense for discrimination banned under federal, state or local law.

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The measure’s sponsor, state Sen. Josh McKoon, said earlier Thursday that he would make every effort to get a vote, but Republican House Speaker David Ralston shut down the possibility of any attempts to evade the House committee process.

“I was disappointed about some of the rhetoric that came out of that debate,” Ralston told reporters after the House adjourned Thursday at midnight. “I’m hoping that we can step back over the interim and catch our breaths and have a calmer, more reasoned discussion about that measure.”

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