State-sanctioned discrimination is legal, according to the Georgia state Senate’s religious freedom bill. The Georgia State Senate passed the GOP-backed legislation on February 19 by a 38-14 margin along party lines. Should the bill get the go-ahead from the Republican-led house, and wind up on the desk of Governor Nathan Deal, his approval could pave the way for legislation that has been heavily criticized for violating the equal protections clause of the Constitution.
If there were any doubts about where the Republican Party officially stands on the question of LGBT rights, its recent action settles it. On August 14, the Republican National Committee (RNC) passed a resolution supporting strongly anti-LGBT legislation. The First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) was designed specifically to prevent the federal government from taking any “adverse action” against individuals or organizations for discriminating against LGBT individuals on the basis of religious belief. “Adverse action” is given an uncommonly broad definition in the bill, covering everything from imposing tax penalties to refusing contracts, grant awards or employment.
The bill, which also allows individuals and organizations that have discriminated against LGBT individuals to sue the federal government for monetary damages, was introduced specifically in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, the widely celebrated civil rights decision that legalized same-sex marriage in all fifty states.