GA religious freedom bill sparks debate over KY's clerk arrest

GA religious freedom bill sparks debate over KY's clerk arrest

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - A senator from Columbus is pushing a religious freedom bill on the heels of a county clerk being jailed for not issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples because of her religion.

He says it will help people like Kim Davis not face discrimination.

Supporters and opponents of the bill have different interpretations of Georgia's Religious Freedom Bill. They're also not seeing eye to eye on how the clerk in Kentucky stopped issuing marriage licenses. The clerk was released from jail Tuesday.

"The Kim Davis case demonstrates that religious freedom laws works the way they are intended to work. She was simply not allowed to instruct her employees not to issue marriage license," said Senator Josh McKoon of Columbus.

McKoon, the bill's sponsor, says Davis' case is proof there needs to be protections in place to avoid discrimination. But opponents of the bill argue this is a purely legal matter.
"It has absolutely nothing to do with religion and absolutely everything to do with breaking the law. If you break the law you're going to be held in contempt of court then you will go to jail," said Patricia Lassiter, opponent of the bill.

Davis has said her religious beliefs prevents her from issuing licenses to same-sex couples.

"I think she thinks of herself as a religious martyr, when most of us just think of her as a law-breaker," added Lassiter.

Patricia Lassiter thinks because Davis is an elected official she should obey the law or leave from her position as clerk. Deputies in her office are now issuing licenses to all eligible couples. McKoon calls the situation a win-win for the state of Kentucky.

"Her right of free exercises are being respected, the fundamentally right to marry is being honored by that clerk's office," said McKoon.

McKoon says his bill is narrowly written to prevent state and local governments from intruding on people's religious beliefs, but Lassiter thinks otherwise.

"The law right now reads as a license to discriminate. If he is true in his license not to discriminate then there need be no law at all," explained Lassiter.

McKoon's bill wasn't passed, but will go before Georgia lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee again in January.
As for Kim Davis, she plant to return to work in Kentucky on Monday. Back in July, the U.S. Supreme Court voted to allow same sex marriages in all states.

Copyright 2015 WTVM. All rights reserved.