Ga. Lawmakers Table Proposed Ban on Discrimination Against LGBT State Employees
A bill that would ban job discrimination against state employees based on their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression failed to pass out of the House Judiciary Committee last week.
State Rep. Karla Drenner (D-Avondale Estates) introduced House Bill 630 late last year at the end of the legislative session. A public hearing on the measure took place late last month.
Despite the failure of HB 630 to advance out of committee, Drenner told EDGE that the outcome did not surprise her.
"This was not a one-time bill," she noted, adding that she plans to reintroduce the measure during next year’s session.
Drenner said her goal this year was to introduce HB 630 with sexual orientation and gender identity explicitly included. She said the bill’s proponents wanted to see who would come out against it and to hear their arguments.
One such person who spoke out against HB 630 was Tanya Ditty, state director for the Concerned Women for America. During last month’s hearing, Ditty said that such a measure would open the door to mandating the state hire pedophiles and necrophiliacs.
"Concerned Women for America (CWA) of Georgia strongly opposes the government granting special protected ’minority’ status to those who define themselves by aberrant sexual preferences and changeable sexual behavior," wrote Ditty on her website.
Although Drenner found the group’s concerns far-fetched, she said that she is glad that she has heard the opposition’s arguments and concerns. She said sexual orientation and gender identity will be clearly defined in the bill the next time she introduces it.
Various groups have described the State Fair Employment Practices Act as an affirmative action bill that will create quotas. Drenner maintains that this is not the case.
Drenner: I Could Be Fired Because I’m Gay
The bill came about after Drenner, who is openly gay, thought about what would happen if she decided to switch careers and work for the state. "I became concerned that even though Georgia is a right to work state that because I’m an out-lesbian that I could be fired because I’m gay," she said. "If we have those four words added, it gives the gay community a recognized protection if they are ever terminated because of being gay."
LGBT activists have enthusiastically backed HB 630-with many personally thanking Drenner for introducing it.
Georgia Equality has been keeping the LGBT community up to date on HB 630 and other relevant issues. In a release on the bill, the organization asked members to stay engaged as they continue to have conversations with lawmakers and present them with the facts about the lack of employment protections for LGBT state employees.
"Some of them are seeing and hearing this information for the first time and they are becoming more open to really listening," said Georgia Equality to its members and supporters. "We will continue to send you information and strategic Action Alerts as this bill moves through the process."
When she reintroduces the bill, Drenner said that she will spend more time explaining to conservative and other right-wing groups why HB 630 is necessary.
"I want to spend more time talking and explaining the bill to them," she added.
Georgia would join 21 other states that ban discrimination against public employees based on their sexual orientation if HB 630 were to pass. Twelve states have passed laws that prohibit discrimination against state employees based on gender identity and expression.
After testing the waters, Drenner is eager to begin the work necessary to reintroduce the bill. She expects HB 630 will gain more support in 2013 because it is not an election year.
"That worked against us, most people are concerned about votes than dealing with social issues," said Drenner, noting she is prepared to continue to fight for her bill. "We shouldn’t give up hope because we live in the South. Fighting the fight is worth it in the long run."