As lawmakers gather in Atlanta today to start a new Legislative session there are at least two issues from last year still hanging over the Gold Dome like a dark cloud:
- Georgia’s hospital crisis
- Religious discrimination legislation
Before Georgia’s lawmakers went home last year, four rural hospitals stopped services and slammed their doors shut for good. Our lawmakers did nothing but make it harder to help the rural communities who depend on hospitals for emergency and preventative care.
This year, Gov. Deal and our lawmakers need to do more than talk about the problem and find a way to keep our hospitals thriving. It’s beyond time to expand Medicaid in Georgia.
And there’s more unfinished business.
In a rare sign of moderation, Georgia lawmakers killed a bill — twice!! — that would have legalized discrimination in the name of “strongly held religious beliefs.” Some of Georgia’s biggest businesses, including Coca-Cola, Delta, Home Depot and UPS, opposed the bill.
But State Sen. Josh McKoon and Rep. Sam Teasley have introduced the bill again, this time in a way that they claim would be restricted to state and local governments. But a little bit of discrimination is just as wrong as a lot of it. The new bill is as bad as the old one and needs to be squashed quickly.
We know the fight ahead won’t be easy.
Conservatives are trying to spin the firing of anti-gay, anti-women, anti-Semitic Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran into a ‘freedom of religion’ issue.
Sen. McKoon, Rep. Teasley and other out-of-touch conservatives will try to turn Cochran into an American hero and use him as an example of why we need these hateful laws, when, in fact, Cochran’s case is a perfect example of how Georgians would suffer under the laws.
Freedom to practice and speak about your religion is already protected by both the U.S. and Georgia Constitutions. But imposing your religious views on others is not protected — nor should it be.
There is nothing more un-American than using religious beliefs as an excuse for discrimination.