June July 2016
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Georgia Tries (and Fails) to Target Boycotting Companies

Georgia

Conservative Georgia lawmakers took aim at businesses supporting a state boycott … and missed.

On Thursday night, a conference committee, including antigay lawmakers Rep. Barry Fleming, Sen. Josh McKoon, and Sen. Greg Kirk, modified House Bill 904, which was made up of “legal updates involving the state Department of Labor and the Department of Revenue,” according to the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The committee added eleventh-hour language to this bill that would have allowed an employee to file suit against a private employer if he or she believed the company violated its own nondiscrimination policy.

This new language, which termed such a violation an “unfair or deceptive practice,” specifically targeted Disney, the National Football League, and the slew of other companies that have threatened to boycott Georgia over House Bill 757.

HB 757, which has reached Gov. Nathan Deal's desk, would allow businesses, nonprofits, and individuals to discriminate against LGBT people and others by citing religious beliefs.

Here’s how McKoon, who has been one of the biggest proponent of so-called religious freedom in the state Senate, described the modifications:

“In essence, it is an amendment to the Georgia Fair Business Practice Act. And what we are saying is, if you hold yourself out as a company with a policy that is beyond the discrimination policies that are protected by federal and state law … and you do not follow your own policy, then you can be liable to a lawsuit from either an employee who’s aggrieved by a violation of your policy or a consumer who’s damaged.”

In the past, McKoon has criticized businesses like Salesforce — which supports the boycott — for hypocrisy, as the company operates in nations “that chop off the heads of homosexuals,” he claimed, reports Project Q  Atlanta.

The modified bill would have allowed, for example, a consumer to sue Salesforce if he or she purchased one of its products with the belief the company supported LGBT rights, and then discovered a fact or figure such as this that contradicted an initial perception of inclusiveness.

But the language the conservative lawmakers added got stripped from the bill, and the measure returned to its previous form, the Journal-Constitution reports. Both houses of the legislature then passed HB 904 and sent it on to Deal for his signature.

As for HB 757, Deal has until May 3 to decide whether to sign or veto it.

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