Georgia’s first openly gay lawmaker, Rep. Karla Drenner, has teamed up with a powerful Republican ally to introduce a bill that would prohibit discrimination against state employees on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
“Now is the time for the state of Georgia to send a clear message that we will not discriminate against any employee in regard to their sexual orientation and gender identity,” Drenner said in a statement to the media. “Everyone deserves to be treated equally, and we should value our persity.”
The Georgia Voice reports her proposed amendment to the Fair Employment Practices Act of 1978, introduced Thursday as HB 323, has 77 cosponsors, including 17 Republicans and 1 Independent. The bill’s chief supporters are Republican Rep. Wendell Willard, chairman of Georgia’s House Judiciary Committee, and Jamie Ensley, the newly named national chairman of the Log Cabin Republicans.
“Thank you for your leadership and efforts to build bi-partisan support for nondiscrimination protections for the State of Georgia employees on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity,” Ensley wrote in a letter to Denner and Willard.
This amendment has repeatedly failed in recent years, even though 58 cities and counties in Georgia already have similar protections in place. HB 323 would expand that coverage statewide.
According to Drenner’s statement, the bill does not address private employment in Georgia, which The Georgia Voice reports would have little to no chance of passing in the Republican-controlled legislature. However, if enacted, the bill would extend LGBT protections to state colleges and universities.
“This bill will help us attract and retain the best and the brightest employees, not only from Georgia and across the United States, but from across the world,” Drenner said.
Drenner, a Ph.D,. environmental expert and scientist, was first elected to Georgia’s legislature in 2000 and represents the state’s 85th district in Avondale Estates, DeKalb County, an overwhelmingly Democratic-leaning middle-class area east of Atlanta.