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Religious Tolerance logo


Religious "freedom to discriminate" bills in Georgia:

Part 2 of ten parts

2016: Reactions to bill HB 757.
The bill's sponsor, Sen. Greg Kirk (R)
makes a claim. The claim is analyzed.

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In this web site, the acronym "LGBT" refers to the
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Transsexual community.

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This topic is continued from the previous essay.

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U.S. map with Georgia highlighted Reactions to the merged bill: HB 757 in Georgia:

  • A group of 272 clergy in Georgia signed a statement in opposition to the bill. Included were 31 Jewish Rabbis, 29 Baptist pastors, and 32 Episcopalian, 42 Methodist, & 53 Presbyterian ministers. It states:

    "As clergy and civil rights leaders, we are concerned to hear that some elected Georgia officials continue to push a 'Religious Freedom Restoration Act' (RFRA), a vague and broad religious exemptions bill that could result in discrimination and have many unintended consequences.

    As faith leaders from diverse traditions, we believe freedom of religion is one of our most fundamental rights as Americans, but religious freedom does not give any of us the right to harm or exclude others.

    We oppose this proposed legislation. First, it would put an individual’s religious beliefs ahead of the common good. Second, it could unleash a wave of costly lawsuits that will add burdens to both the courts and taxpayers alike. Third, our freedom of religion is already guaranteed and protected by the U.S. Constitution and Georgia’s State Constitution.

    Fourth, a state RFRA could legalize discrimination by allowing businesses to refuse to serve customers based on religious objections. We believe that businesses that are open to the public should be open to everyone on the same terms. We strongly oppose giving for-profit corporations religious rights that could allow them to pick and choose which laws to follow and discriminate against employees based on any characteristic -- from their religious practices to their sexual orientation. This principle harkens back to the civil rights movement and our nation’s core values of equality and justice." 1

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  • Georgia Unites Against Discrimination is a group composed of members of the LGBT community and their allies. They have advocated against the passage of "religious freedom to discriminate" bills. The header on their web site reads:

    "LGBT Georgians are under attack. Fight back. ... This year, the Georgia Legislature faces a rash of harmful bills designed to promote LGBT discrimination under the guise of religious freedom. It's time to fight back." 2

  • Georgia Prospers describes themselves as a "partnership of business leaders committed to a prosperous Georgia that welcomes all people." They have written an anti-discrimination pledge and asked interested business to sign it. The pledge states:

    "We believe that treating all Georgians and visitors fairly is essential to maintaining Georgia’s strong brand as the premier home for talented workers, growing businesses, entrepreneurial innovation, and a thriving travel and tourism industry.

    We believe that in order for Georgia businesses to compete for top talent, we must have workplaces and communities that are diverse and welcoming for all people, no matter one’s race, sex, color, national origin, ethnicity, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

    As signers of the Georgia Prospers pledge, we are committed to promoting an attractive, prosperous, and economically vibrant Georgia. A united Georgia is a prosperous Georgia." 3

    As of MAR-13, 348 business have signed their pledge, including Arby's, AT&T, Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta Zoo, Bank of America, Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Chase, Coca Cola, Dow, Equifax, Georgia Chamber of Commerce, Georgia Hotel & Lodging Association, Georgia Power, Georgia Restaurant Association, Georgia Trade Center, Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta, Home Depot, Honeywell, Hyatt Regency, IBM, Life University, Marriott, Mercedes-Benz, Norfolk Southern, Porsche, Sage, Sheraton Atlanta, Stone Mountain Golf Club, Turner, UPs, Wells Fargo, and over 300 other businesses. 3

  • Georgia Senator Greg Kirk (R), sponsor of the bill, strongly supports its passage into law. He said:

    "The reason we need this bill in Georgia there are millions – listen to me - millions more Georgians who hold that marriage is between a man and a woman than that marriage is to be between same sex couples" 4

    We have seen many comments like this from all over the U.S. They seem to imply, incorrectly, that someone wants to pass legislation to prevent opposite-sex couples from marrying. The svyis; conflict is not whether marriage is to be restricted to opposite-sex couples or restricted to same-sex couples. The conflict is between limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples only, or allowing marriage equality where both same-sex and opposite-sex couples can marry.

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An important reality check on Senator Kirk's claim:

The Public Religion Research Institute's (PRRI) report titled "Profile of Georgia Residents’ Attitudes on LGBT Issues 5 concluded that a plurality of adults in Georgia favor prohibiting gay marriage. However, the margin is only two percentage points. The poll found that 45% of adults favored and 47% opposed marriage equality in 2015.

According to Suburban Stats.org, there are about 5.3 million adults in Georgia is. If we assume that the poll's 2 percentage point margin is accurate, then the number of adults in Georgia who oppose marriage equality is only about 100,000 greater than those who support equality -- not "millions" as Senator Kirk says. He is out by a factor of at least 20 times. He was either lying or didn't bother to have the polling data analyzed.

However, polls are never precise. An agency might take ten polls, on ten successive days, involving ten different groups of randomly chosen polling subjects, and get ten different results. The only way to obtain a precise number would be to ask all 5.3 million adults in Georgia what they thought about gay marriage. The PRRI obviously did not do this, because on Page 1 of their report, they stated that the sample size was about 42,000 people spread across all 50 states.

We can probably assume that the PRRI carefully spread their 42,000 interviews evenly across the U.S. According to the Kids Count Data Center there were 245,273,438 adults in the U.S. during 2014, a number that was growing at about 2.39 million a year. So the total adult population was about 248 million during 2015 when the poll was taken. That means that the percentage of adults living in Georgia was about 2.1% of the total U.S. population; Georgia is an average sized state in terms of population. Thus the number of adults polled by PPRI who lived in Georgia would probably have been on the order of 880. We have emailed PPRI to ask for the exact number.

With a sample size of 880 adults from Georgia, the margin of error for the poll was ±3.3 percentage points. That means that if a large number of separate polls of that size had been taken, then 95% of the time, the margin between those who support and those who oppose gay marriages would be within ±3.3 percentage points of the 2 percentage points reported. Thus, the actual margin could have easily been anywhere between a plurality of 5.3% opposed to gay marriage and a plurality of 1.3% in favor of gay marriage! We simply don't know the exact figure. We don't even know whether a majority of adults in Georgia favored or opposed gay marriages in 2015.

In addition, all of the public opinion polls that we have seen on gay marriage indicate that support for marriage equality is increasing steadily across the U.S. This is largely a generational shift, as teens with more liberal ideas on homosexuality and more secular ideas on culture become adults. Meanwhile elderly adults who generally have greater bias against the LGBT community die off. A plurality of adults in Georgia might actually have supported allowing same-sex couples to marry during 2015. If not, then a plurality may support marriage equality in 2016, or will do so in a year or two from then. That is a long way from Senator Kirk's (R) statement that "millions" more oppose than support marriage equality in the state.

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This topic continues in the next essay.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "272 Georgia clergy oppose discrimination in the name of religion," Clergy United Against Discrimination, undated, at: http://www.clergyunitedagainstdiscrimination.org/
  2. Home page, "Georgia Unites against discrimination, at: http://www.georgiaunites.org/
  3. "Georgia Prospers," undated, at: http://www.georgiaprospers.org/
  4. Donna Lowry, et al., "Ga. clergy members voice opposition to religious freedom bills," 11-Alive, 2016-FEB-24, at: http://www.11alive.com/
  5. R.P. Jones, et al., "A Profile of Georgia Residents’ Attitudes on LGBT Issues," Public Religion Research Institute, 2016-FEB-25, at: http://publicreligion.org/

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Copyright © 2016 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
First posted: 2016-MAR-12
Latest update: 2016-MAR-13
Author: B.A. Robinson

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