States map 2015 for blog Written by Don Byrd

The Georgia legislature is back in session, and a few newly filed bills that seek to impact religious liberty are worth keeping an eye on. Both address religious freedom fears emerging from last year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling barring states from prohibiting same-sex marriage.

HB 756 provides that no “sole proprietor, partner in a business partnership, or statutory close corporation” can be compelled to sell goods or services for a wedding ceremony if it would violate their religious freedom rights.”

HB 757 ensures that no minister will be required to perform a marriage ceremony that conflicts with their religious beliefs.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the latter bill, called the “Pastor Protection Act,” is unlikely to meet resistance. That may be because the proposal is redundant. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution already provides robust protection for pastors and other clergy against being required to perform marriage ceremonies.

HB 756, on the other hand, which seems to allow small and closely-held businesses to discriminate in providing marriage-related services, “will likely be met with fierce criticism,” according to the report.

The Georgia House may also be poised to revisit a bill creating a state Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The bill’s sponsor has been advocating for it across the state since it was tabled in committee last year. The bill (SB 129) passed the Senate, but still needs House approval and the Governor’s signature to become law.