HB 757 presents religious liberty and potential economic fallout - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

HB 757 presents religious liberty and potential economic fallout for state

(Source: WTVM) (Source: WTVM)

Weeks have passed since Georgia’s State Senate approved House Bill 757. 

It moved up from the State House with relative ease, and after amendments including newer language, legislators await Governor Nathan Deal’s decision on whether to sign it into law or veto it.   

HB 757 – better known as the "Pastor Protection Act" – introduces potential new laws that would allow pastors, churches and other faith-based organizations to refuse to perform a marriage for some groups, including LBGT couples, based on their sincerely held religious beliefs.

Jeremy Hobbs, director for COLGAY Pride of Columbus, said passing HB757 would not just negatively impact the LGBT community in Georgia; it may also lead to major economic consequences.

Major corporations, including Coca Cola, Apple, and the NFL have already voiced their opposition to HB 757, stating should companies decide to boycott Georgia, the state could experience an economic downturn.

“We have a lot of conventions here in Georgia,” Hobbs said. “They’ll stop coming as well. We’ve got to be attractive to all people; not just some.”

State Sen. Josh McKoon (R-29th District), who supports the bill in its current form, said this version of HB 757 includes most of the religious freedom previsions he wrote when he sponsored Senate Bill 129 earlier this year.

Currently, no laws in the state of Georgia protect LGBT citizens from certain types of discrimination, including employee discrimination.

McKoon said he's waited for citizens to provide him evidence of discrimination against the LGBT community.  

“Show us where this is occurring,” he said.

McKoon also said he believes this bill does not lessen the status of same-sex couples, who have been able to legally marry since the Supreme Court declared all same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional last June.

“All it does is it makes sure that the government is not going to punish people of faith,” McKoon said.

Some Columbus residents, including Matthew McCray and his wife Amy, said they agree with McKoon’s argument, in that those who practice their religion and lead congregations should not be forced to do anything that goes against their beliefs.

“I don’t think you should force a preacher to conduct a marriage he doesn’t believe in,” McCray said.

Hobbs said states which have recently passed similar religious freedom laws, such as Indiana in 2015, repel businesses from investing into the state economy, and stall progress for minority groups.

“Why are we always trying to punish citizens because we don’t agree with something?” Hobbs said. 

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