Why We're Leaving Georgia
Last Friday as I was watching the casket holding the body of Justice Antonin Scalia being carried up the stairs, I posted on social media that I was watching just to see if the pallbearers could make it up the steps without dropping him. I can’t lie — I didn’t feel one ounce of sadness learning of Scalia’s death. How could I? This would be the chance to get a progressive-leaning court, finally. But a friend of mine, Steve Ruge, commented, “You’re not watching this?” and provided me a link to the Georgia Senate’s live stream.
To be honest, I try to ignore everything done under that gold dome in downtown Atlanta — both chambers are controlled by closed-minded conservatives, Christians in name only. Everything they do is backward and oppressive, so I know better than to follow their shenanigans — it’s bad for my blood pressure.
But I clicked the link.
As I watched the debate preceding the vote, I sat there staring in disbelief that this House Bill 757 could even be debated. I opened another browser window and did a little research and learned the bill started life as the Pastor Protection Act (in the House), another unnecessary piece of legislation, but nothing compared to the First Amendment Defense Act it had morphed into when it reached the Senate.
At first, HB 757 was intended to protect pastors from lawsuits for refusing to marry people of the same sex due to their religious beliefs or church doctrines. It passed the House and went on to the Senate, where it became the most ugly piece of pro-discrimination legislation I’ve ever seen. When it passed the Senate it enabled any individual or organization with “deeply held religious beliefs” to deny services to a person whose marriage or lack thereof goes against their “deeply held religious beliefs.”
In case you missed it, this legislation that enables hate — officially the Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act — passed the Senate by a vote of 37-15. At that moment I sat speechless. During the debate, one of our Democratic senators, Emanuel Jones, actually asked the bill’s sponsor if it presented a problem to him that the Ku Klux Klan could classify itself as a faith-based organization. To which Republican Sen. Greg Kirk responded, “No.”
After a few moments, I started thinking, I’m gay; one day I may get married. Employees of my company are gay or lesbian. With the exception of two employees, both white, conservative, heterosexual Christians, every single one of my other heterosexual employees could be discriminated because they’re divorced, had children out of wedlock, are in an interracial relationship, or aren’t Christian. The fact of the matter is, we’re a high-tech company. We hire people based on their skill set and abilities; their genetic or religious makeup means nothing to us. And we’re in hiring mode. I asked myself, If you didn’t live in Georgia and you were offered a job, would you go? And the answer was a definite Hell, no! So after a brief chat with the rest of the team, we published this tweet, which apparently was heard around the world.
— 373K, Inc. (@373KInc) February 19, 2016
And we meant it. I instructed our president and general counsel to immediately find a new home for this corporation. Because under no circumstances would I want to stay domiciled in this state, paying taxes to this state, this state that has almost legalized hate. With the diverse group that we already have working together, and knowing that our next hire may not meet the requirements of someone’s “deeply held religious belief,” I was not going to take the chance of us not being able to attract the talent we need to keep this company growing.