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|Ga. bill would protect LGBT state employees from bias|
|by Laura Douglas-Brown & Ryan Watkins|
|March 01, 2013 00:00|
LGBT advocates are still waiting to see if a bill to protect LGBT state employees from job discrimination will get a hearing in this year’s legislative session, but they don’t want supporters to wait to contact lawmakers about the issue.
“If we do get a hearing, it is likely that we will have less than 24 hours notice,” Jeff Graham, executive director for Georgia Equality, said Feb. 26.
State Rep. Karla Drenner (D-Avondale Estates) reintroduced the Georgia Fair Employment Practices Act, HB 427, on Feb. 20. The bill, first introduced in 2011, would add “sexual orientation” to protected statuses for public employment in Georgia.
The measure, which received a second reading on Feb. 22, defines “sexual orientation” as “a person’s actual or perceived heterosexuality, bisexuality, homosexuality, or gender related identity or expression.”
Advocates hope for a hearing on the bill during this year’s legislative session, but said supporters shouldn’t wait for a date to lobby for the measure.
“The most effective way that folks can support this bill is to call their own state representative and either thank him or her for co-sponsoring the bill or ask their representative to support the bill if it comes up for a vote in the House,” Graham said.
A survey of 450 Georgians taken Jan. 28 - Feb. 2, 2013, by the Schapiro Group shows 79 percent of Georgians support the legislation, according to Georgia Equality.
Drenner, who is Georgia’s first openly gay state legislator, introduced the bill with 67 co-sponsors, including 55 Democrats, 11 Republicans and one independent.
“A lot of thanks goes to the bi-partisan first six signers: Reps. Wendell Willard, Mike Jacobs, Stacey Abrams, Rusty Kidd and Simone Bell,” Drenner said in a press release. “I want to particularly recognize and thank one of our newest legislators, Rep. Keisha Waites, for working so hard to secure many of the original 67 sponsors of the bill.”
Drenner, Bell and Waites are the only openly gay members of the General Assembly.
“Treating LGBT employees fairly is simply better for business,” Drenner said. “The Georgia Fair Employment Practices Act would also ensure that Georgia State colleges and universities are competitive with major research institutions in attracting and retaining the best and brightest researchers, students and administrators to study, work and develop new products, industries and jobs in Georgia.”
United against bias
The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT advocacy organization, is partnering with Georgia Equality and local lawmakers to help ensure the bill moves forward. Graham said several national organizations have joined the fight for Georgia’s LGBT state workers.
“HRC is only one of numerous organizations who are actively helping us with this legislation,” Graham told GA Voice.
“We’ve also worked closely with other national organizations such as Equality Federation, National Center for Lesbian Rights and Lambda Legal. These groups have helped us to develop legislative language and conduct research on policies in other states,” he said.
Anthony Kreis, political co-chair of HRC’s Atlanta Steering Committee, said he is working side-by-side with Georgia Equality at the Capitol to promote the bill.
“Fundamentally, HRC believes it is important for the law to protect all LGBT citizens from discrimination,” Kreis told GA Voice.
Some 24 states plus Washington, D.C., bar job discrimination against state employees based on sexual orientation, while 12 also ban job bias against state employees based on gender identity, according to Georgia Equality.
Top Photo: State Rep. Karla Drenner introduced the Georgia Fair Employment Practices Act to protect 174,000 state employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. (official photo)
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