As answers go, this counts:
Georgia’s “religious liberty” legislation succumbed to a quiet death on Thursday, but it will surely return in January just in time for election-year politicking.
Gov. Nathan Deal (R) advised supporters of the measure to follow the 1993 model in order to avoid unintended consequences. It is an interesting outlook:
“As close as a state can stay to the original federal language, the safer you are,” said Deal, who voted for the federal legislation while a member of Congress in the 1990s. “It has been interpreted in the courts, so by having that model you narrow some of the arguments about what it does or does not do.”
He called the anti-discrimination clause “the most important” addition.
“And that is a delicate thing to do,” he said. “There’s been so much hyperbole. It’s hard to identify what can you say without saying too much, what can you say without saying too little, and what will people read into either version.”
Another benefit from the bill’s failure, Deal said, is a year’s distance from the uproar over similar bills in Arkansas and Indiana, which led to threats of boycotts, travel bans and international criticism.
As Laura Clawson suggests:
That’s not exactly a strong “don’t discriminate because discrimination is bad” statement, but if the threat of lost business and reputation is what it takes to keep more states from passing laws allowing anti-gay discrimination in the name of religion, so be it.
Additionally, the tabling of this bill provides us an answer of sorts. It is important keep two points close at hand when watching these situations play out:
• Unintended consequences: There is nothing “unintended” about it; this is not a matter of “hyperbole”. The whole point of these laws is to create a context in which this sort of discrimination is acceptable. Deal is saying what he must, and exactly nothing more.
• This bill is even worse: While the situation in Indiana and its fallout in Arkansas has made the point pretty clearly about anti-gay discrimination, this was an especially awful bill, and here we might wonder about unintended consequences, because while the whole point is to empower discrimination, we also know that such zealotry does not often pause to consider the implications of its pursuits. More directly, even with the discrimination issue being resolved by force of basic sanity, this bill might well have implications in domestic violence and child abuse cases when the accused cites religion as part of the legal defense. And that part, well, apparently Nathan Deal is just fine with that.
And to think they’re going to try again next year.
Last month, Jay Michaelson wondered at the silence around the rest of the country:
Oddly, the most effective forces in killing Arizona’s “Turn The Gays Away” bill—corporations and the Chamber of Commerce—seem to be sitting this battle out. Maybe it’s because Arizona was bidding on a Super Bowl and Georgia isn’t. Or maybe it’s because no one is paying attention. But for whatever reason, the corporate silence is deafening ....
.... If big business, national media, and national LGBT organizations continue to sit on the sidelines, the bill’s fate may be a matter of vote-counting. The House bill had 59 cosponsors, out of 180 total members. But Graham pointed out that a pending non-discrimination bill has 78, including 19 Republicans. So it is up for grabs.
So here we find something of an answer. The business community just thrashed Indiana hard enough that Arkansas folded and Georgia balked. And as answers go, that counts.
We’ll see if anyone cares about the rest of it. A nondiscrimination clause? Sure. Are we going to do this again next year for a nonviolence clause? Or, you know, is that part not going to be important?
(Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn ....)
Bluestein, Greg. “Nathan Deal’s advice for ‘religious liberty’ supporters next year”. Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 3 April 2015.
Clawson, Laura. “Georgia watches Indiana and Arkansas, then lets discrimination bill die quietly”. Daily Kos. 3 April 2015.
Michaelson, Jay. “Georgia Bill Helps Wife Beaters”. The Daily Beast. 13 March 2015.