A rally protesting against HB 757 was held from 12pm to 6pm in downtown Macon on Thursday, February 25, 2016. It started at the Macon-Bibb Government Center (formerly known as City Hall), and later moved to the Macon-Bibb County Courthouse. It was organized by local activist Dustyn Archer, with the help of Georgia Equality/Georgia Unites Against Discrimination. Various organizations represented at the rally, including Georgia Equality, GLBAL, the Gay-Straight Alliance of Wesleyan College, and the Middle Georgia State University Gay-Straight Alliance (MGA-GSA). Nearly 200 people RSVP’ed to come to the event.
Local media varied in its coverage of the event. 13 WMAZ ran a story on it which included protesters at the event and a Catholic clerical supporter of the bill, and so did 41 NBC WMGT and the Telegraph. Meanwhile, according to Archer, 41 NBC got it wrong on the scope of the bill:
If anyone saw the story on the protest from WMGT (originally mistakenly said WGXA), they made it seem like the bill’s purpose is to make it so that pastors aren’t legally required to provide marriages to gay couples. The ORIGINAL bill was three basic points, of which the Pastor Protection Act was the main deal. THIS IS NO LONGER THE CASE.
Essentially, the bill, as amended by the senate, tacked on what amounts to a whole new bill that eliminates the government’s ability to prosecute or punish organizations, both public and private, that discriminate… It directly protects discriminatory businesses that discriminate by denying goods and services AND protects any speech conducted by these organizations as long as it’s based on the idea that marriage is between a man and a woman (meaning that hate speech is protected). Another big kicker is that the government must continue providing grants and other public funding in spite of any discriminatory language or practice. If these businesses wish to deny rights or discriminate in the name of religion, then they should not receive public funding support of any sort, as they are not in support many of those who pay their taxes, which is where public funding comes from.
If this were just about pastors not having to marry gay couples, there wouldn’t be businesses leaving the state, there wouldn’t be thousands of people against this bill — this is NO LONGER about religious freedom. This is about state-sanctioned fear and hate being laid down as the law of the land; this is about tying the government’s hands behind its back and blindfolding it against the criminal actions of those who wish to perpetuate hate.
Our Civil Rights are still under assault. Let us never forget that we must continue to fight for the rights of every man, woman, and child from the fears of a few zealots in the name of religion. If your religion brings the people of this world into discord and battle with one another, your religion belongs in the dark ages. The Jesus I knew wills for love to trump hate.
No Hate in Our State! Solidarity to all of you.
Of course, you can also send a letter opposing HB 757 to the Governor by Friday at midnight. Much thanks to Jessica Whitley from MGA GSA, Candace Neller-Harper and James GF Stair for allowing me to post the photos here with credit.