Politics

Ga. Hotel Industry Braces For Religious Exemption Bills

Leaders in Georgia's hotel industry say they're watching for religious exemption bills to come up again in Georgia's legislature.
Leaders in Georgia's hotel industry say they're watching for religious exemption bills to come up again in Georgia's legislature.
Credit Al Such / WABE

Some Georgia business leaders are bracing for a possible resurrection of religious exemption legislation in the upcoming state legislative session.

State lawmakers earlier this year passed a religious exemptions bill that was eventually vetoed by Governor Nathan Deal. Supporters have said the bill was needed to protect people’s religious liberties, but critics in the business and civil rights community said it could lead to discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.  

Governor Nathan Deal vetoed the bill, saying Georgia is a welcoming state, but some lawmakers have vowed to continue fighting for such legislation.  

At a hotel industry gathering last week, several lawmakers spoke about the possibility of religious freedom legislation coming up in the next legislative session that starts in January.

“I’ve not heard of any specific bills that are coming back forward, but my assumption is that we will see it be broken up into smaller issues,” said state Rep. Geoff Duncan (R-Cumming.) “To that point, it allows more information to be given out based on specific issues.”

Ron Tarson, general manager of the Westin at Peachtree Plaza and chairman of government affairs with Georgia Hotel and Lodging Association, said he expects religious exemption legislation to be back next year.

Tarson said he doesn’t want Georgia to be like North Carolina, which passed HB2, a controversial bill that bars transgender people from using public bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity.  

“We know there’s huge impact because we’ve gotten business from North Carolina, and we don’t want our business to go somewhere else,” Tarson said.

The Atlantic Coast Conference, for example, moved its competitions out of North Carolina earlier , to host some of those tournaments in Georgia. 

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