Despite being the birthplace of Martin Luther King, Jr., Georgia is one of 5 states (all in the South) which still does not have civil rights legislation protecting basic classes from discrimination in public accommodations. A bill, HB 849, has been introduced by State Rep. Rich Golick (R-Smyrna) to fix this. From the AJC:
But legislation introduced Tuesday by the chairman of the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee would end that distinction. It would ban businesses from turning away customers based on their race, color, religion or national origin and apply to hotels, restaurants, gas stations, entertainment venues and other service industries.
The bill is modeled after federal civil rights law passed in 1964, the chief sponsor, Rep. Rich Golick, R-Smyrna, said.
“I believe that 99-something percent of Georgia businesses who would potentially be affected by this bill are run by good people who would never discriminate against anyone — and therefore have nothing to worry about,” Golick said. “But the possibility does exist and we have nothing in our state law to address it.”
Like federal accommodations law, House Bill 849 would not ban discrimination based on gender or sexual preference.
Golick called his proposal a proper starting point. “My hope is that the General Assembly in collaboration with the governor will expand that list and be as inclusive as possible when it comes to the issue of anti-discrimination,” he said.
The bill is being co-sponsored by Columbus’ own long-serving representative, Calvin Smyre (D-Columbus), in addition to Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones, R-Milton, Judiciary Committee Chairman Wendell Willard, R-Sandy Springs, House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, D-Atlanta, and openly-LGBT member Rep. Karla Drenner, D-Avondale Estates.
How would it work? More from the AJC:
HB 849 would allow people who believe they are victims of discrimination to file a complaint before the state Commission on Equal Opportunity. The commission would then launch an investigation and, upon a finding that discrimination likely occurred, it would file a formal charge against the business. A hearing would then be held before a board that could award compensatory damages to the aggrieved person and impose a fine against the business.
I would also like to see this bill pass. If even this bill, without SOGI protections, can’t overcome the hue and cry over “forced” accommodations in the General Assembly, then Georgians across the board will have left a gaping hole that MLK fought to fill.