A new bill filed in the Georgia legislature, HB 756, would allow florists, caterers and other businesses to refuse services to same-sex couples and churches for “matrimonial ceremonies” that violate the religious beliefs of the business’s owner.
The bill, which is sponsored by Republican Rep. Kevin Tanner of Dawsonville, states: “No sole proprietor, partner in a business partnership, or statutory closer corporation … shall be required to sell goods or services directly to a religious organization or for a religious or matrimonial ceremony in violation of such seller’s right to free exercise of religion under the Constitution of this state or the United States.”
“It would not mean that if someone came into your restaurant, for instance, to eat, you would not provide them service or food,” Tanner said, “But if someone wanted you to provide catering to a religious ceremony that violated your personal faith, than you could not do that.”
Tanner has also filed a related bill called the “Pastor Protection Act,” which is meant to reassure churches that do not want to be involved in same-sex marriage ceremonies. That bill has the strong backing of Republican House Speaker David Ralston. Those protections already exist under federal law.
Both new bills on religious freedom have been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee. That is also where the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act will be taken up this year, after it stalled there in 2015.