News (USA)

Georgia legislature advances anti-marriage ‘Pastor Protection Act’

The measure approved by a subcommittee Thursday also would allow religious organizations to prevent property from being used for purposes “objectionable” to religious beliefs.

Gay-rights supporters question that portion of the bill, arguing it could let nonprofits connected to churches limit access to housing, food pantries or other services but continue to receive federal or state tax dollars without meeting nondiscrimination requirements. Rep. Stacey Evans, D-Smyrna, tried Thursday to limit that section of the bill to wedding ceremonies, arguing that the change would “keep us out of the news.”

“This keeps the message clear that we are simply trying to protect pastors and we are absolutely, in no way, shape or form attempting to discriminate against any citizen of the state,” Evans said.

Georgia’s business community has warned that any legislation viewed as discriminatory could result in economic backlash — like the social-media driven boycotts that followed Indiana’s 2015 passage of a religious freedom law.

Evans later withdrew her change and agreed to talk about the issue more in the full judiciary committee. Lawmakers aren’t in session Friday, returning to the Capitol next week.

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