In light of the disappointing legislation passed by the North Carolina legislature and signed into law by Governor McCrory last night to undo and prevent municipal nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people, the need for Governor Nathan Deal to veto House Bill 757 is more apparent than ever.

As the youth affiliate of the Democratic Party of Georgia and the state affiliate of the Young Democrats of America, the Young Democrats of Georgia is steadfastly against discrimination of any form toward anyone — and that is exactly what HB 757, a religious refusal bill, would do.Young Democrats of Georgia at the “Rally to Stop LGBT Discrimination” at the Georgia Capitol earlier this year.(L-R) YDG Stonewall Caucus Chair Colton Griffin, YDG President Sarah Z. Beeson, YDG member Brandon Paxton

HB 757 opens the door to discrimination on multiple levels under the false pretense of religious beliefs. Although the bill originally began as a Pastor Protection bill, it was amended through the Georgia Senate to become a packaged anti-LGBT bill: a Pastor Protection, First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), and a Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (RFRA) rolled into one. Now, it’s known under the innocuously named “Free Exercise Protection Act” (FEPA) — intentionally the same initials as the inclusive Fair Employment Practices Act, which has been endorsed by pro-equality groups for years.

Young Democrats of Georgia at the “Rally to Stop LGBT Discrimination” at the Georgia Capitol earlier this year.(L-R) YDG Stonewall Caucus Chair Colton Griffin, YDG President Sarah Z. Beeson, YDG member Brandon Paxton

Thus far, many organizations and businesses have spoken out against this bill, including the National Football League (NFL), DisneySalesForceGoogle, Twitter, and more than 400 other major corporations with a presence in Georgia.

Members of the Young Democrats of Georgia Executive Board, including President Sarah Zibanejadrad Beeson and Executive Vice President Luke Boggs, along with YDG Stonewall Caucus Chair Colton Griffin are also speaking out as to why they staunchly oppose the passage of HB 757 and urge Governor Nathan Deal to veto:

Sarah Z. Beeson
President of Young Democrats of Georgia; Straight Cisgender Ally

“I am utterly disappointed by the level of ignorance and bigotry displayed by the Georgia legislature with the passage of HB 757. As someone who works for one of the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) advocacy groups in the country — I devote every day to promoting equality for all. And this piece of legislation is clearly a leap in the wrong direction.

Although I recognize the importance of respecting religious beliefs, that is why the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution exists. This bill goes beyond preventing a preacher from being forced to solemnize a same-sex marriage, which is prevented by the First Amendment. Rather, it goes directly to the heart of the matter — allowing Georgians and state-funded businesses to discriminate against their neighbors on the basis of who they are or whom they love.

This discriminatory bill opens the door for privately-owned businesses, such as emergency medical services (EMS), or state-funded religiously-affiliated adoption agencies to deny LGBT people with the same life-saving services that any other straight, cisgender person would have access to. Thousands of major businesses and individuals have spoken out against this senseless bill — the passage of which could cost the state a fortune in legal fees battling the countless discrimination lawsuits that the passage of HB 757 could cause.  

I am urging Governor Nathan Deal to veto HB 757 immediately — it’s terrible for business in Georgia and even worse for residents.”

Luke Boggs
Executive Vice President of Young Democrats of Georgia; Christian

“As a lifelong Christian and a Georgian, there are many times that both my faith and my state have made me extremely proud. In our history, we have seen the likes of Martin Luther King Jr. and Ivan Allen stand up against discrimination. However, there have been other times when we have had far less to be proud of — for there have been others in our history, men such as Lester Maddox and Eugene Talmadge, who preyed on bigotry and fear. Today, I am disheartened that the Georgia General Assembly has succumbed to those same temptations.

Religious liberty is an important and fundamental right for all Georgians, indeed for all Americans, and protecting it is necessary for all faiths. But with HB 757, the Georgia General Assembly has opened the door to discrimination without expanding any real protections. I have no doubt that many of those who advocated for or voted for this legislation are sincere in their beliefs, but this is simply the wrong way to pursue a just goal. I would hope that anyone who is genuinely committed to protecting religious freedom sees the potential danger in a bill that confuses injustice for liberty.

When faced with social change, we should not look for short-sighted policies that come from a place of fear, but instead we should seek greater understanding. As Georgians, we must consider how this law would affect our friends and our neighbors, our coworkers and our children. I would hope that we can rise above our base instincts, and embrace our fellow Georgians with a genuine love and respect. For there is no fear in love.

Georgia needs to protect religious liberty and civil rights, to be accepting and unafraid of those who believe and live differently than we do, and those efforts do not and should not compete with each other. Religious liberty and legally equality must always go hand-in-hand in a just and free society. We all have an obligation, no matter our faith, to stand up against those who claim to love God but fail to love their brothers and sisters. This bill fails to achieve any of its stated goals and only detracts from legitimate efforts towards the noble goal of ensuring that all Americans continue to be guaranteed freedom of worship. For that reason I strongly hope that Governor Deal honors his commitment to take a stand against any attempts at discrimination in Georgia and veto HB 757.

For there is no fear in love.”

Colton Griffin
YDG Stonewall Caucus Chair; Openly Gay Man

“This bill is a direct attack on me, my family, and my friends in Georgia. In an era where the world seems to be finally moving forward on acceptance and inclusion, certain state legislators are determined to return us to a darker past. Rolling back and restricting the rights of some doesn’t promote “freedom” or “liberty” as these legislators assert. It creates a climate of discrimination, exclusion, fear, and hate. It will cost our economy dearly. It will directly or indirectly cost lives. It will tarnish our reputation. And ultimately, it won’t promote anyone’s ‘freedom.’

Religious liberty is already fundamentally protected in this country. Perhaps these legislators need to re-read the constitution. Perhaps they need to reflect on what freedom means. This bill does not promote freedom. It protects some from restricting the freedom of others. It does not protect liberty. It seeks to cool the LGBT liberation movement. We no longer want to hide who we are. We don’t want police raids on our bars. We don’t want to be harassed in the streets. We don’t want to be refused services because of who we love.

Some of us will be OK no matter what legislation authorizing discrimination is passed. Those aren’t who I am worried about. I am worried about the teenager struggling with their identify, seeing they aren’t welcome in this world, and committing suicide. I am worried about an unmarried woman being turned away because of someone’s judgment. I am worried about the thousands of workers who will be out of work because of boycotts. I am worried about how my business will be impacted by this. I’m worried about missing out on hiring top talent because that talent doesn’t want to work in an environment promoting discrimination. I’m worried for Georgia’s future.”