All eyes were turned to Atlanta and the state that is known as the Hollywood of the South. Like any of the tantalizing movies and television shows that are filmed in Georgia, this audience was left with questions. Will he? Won’t he? Was the governor willing to have a billion dollar industry walk away from Georgia? Could lawmakers continue to tragically meddle in cases of human rights and religious preservation? We all stay tuned for more details around this hot new water cooler topic.
Religious Liberty. Rather, within the context of Georgia’s House Bill 757, discrimination on the basis of religious and moral beliefs is, no matter how many ways you look at it, discrimination. Economic implications aside, the bill left a very unpalatable taste in the mouth of anyone who is a proponent of inclusion and equality. How is being a part of the LGBTQ community any different from being human? And although the bill wasn’t what many may have believed, a measure that would allow rampant discrimination in the name of religion, it did open the door for what would have likely been the deluge of other discriminatory measures. Additionally, perception can often be even more important and powerful than fact.
On the one hand, the bill’s intention was to protect religious freedom but on the other, this type of protection could have caused even more discrimination for those whose religious beliefs or practices (or the lack thereof) are different from the status quo. Do I think that a pastor should be forced to perform a wedding if they deem, based on their understanding of the bible, that doing so is wrong? No. But I also don’t believe that being married is wholly owned by those who are of the religious persuasion. What the passage of this bill would have done was to further ostracize those of religion, shining a brighter light on how non-inclusive religion can sometimes be. It’s as if to say that discrimination is okay as long as it’s for religious reasons.
I grew up in the church and have had a long love/hate relationship with it. While I believe myself to be a good and decent person, I also know that many people can get on their religious high horses and forget about the actual people who are being impacted by theses types of laws. I liken this to the longstanding debate regarding a woman’s right to choose. Sometimes, you can have the best of intentions but that’s all they really are good intentions. Am I surprised that this legislation was in the forefront in the land of Dixie? No, but I am surprised that a state so steep in history, redemption and metamorphosis found itself on the wrong side of the issue.
I often find myself uncomfortably laughing at the term “separation of church and state.” By most accounts this is nearly impossible. And while I do believe that the mere existence of religion, its morals and its teachings have a place in society, I don’t agree with it being used in any way to discriminate against anyone on the basis of them not believing in the same thing as “everyone else.” Just like the many things that can be disproven (or proven) by science and by putting a theory into practice, persecution and discrimination, religious or not, is not okay.
Was it really so long ago that society was brought to task for its treatment of people of color? Native Americans? Women? Must we continue down the road of exclusion? The thing is, whether you realize it or not we’ve all likely interacted with or personally know someone who is a part of the LGBTQ community. They’re no different from “regular” people. They’re your next door neighbors, your coworkers, they’re the very same people they’ve always been before or after you may have found out their sexual preference or orientation. There is a place for us all.
And about the money, Georgia is, in fact, the Hollywood of the South, only 3rd in the country behind California and New York. Movies including Ant-Man, The Hunger Games, X-Men: First Class and even Magic Mike XXL as well as television shows such as The Walking Dead and The Vampire Diaries all film or were filmed in Georgia. I am filled with pride when I think of the state that is my home. But like any relationship, while I always love Georgia, I don’t always like it (or its lawmakers) and in this case, it is my “sincerely held belief” that this Pandora’s box issue should, thanks to the governor’s veto, remain closed.