ATHENS, Ga.—Some Athens residents are speaking up about a newly introduced state senate bill that – if passed – could have a big impact on the LGBTQ community. Senate Bill 119, also called the ‘Georgia Civil Rights For All’ bill, would create full protections in public accommodations for LGBTQ individuals.
The bill was introduced in the state legislature in an effort to extend protections to LGBTQ individuals. The state currently has no laws prohibiting discrimination against them.
Athens For Everyone is an organization that advocates for state legislation they believe will benefit and empower the local community. The group includes around 900 members, and believes that this bill would be a step in the right direction for the state.
Athens For Everyone Secretary and Operations Manager Chris Dowd hopes the legislation will get passed during this state session.
“This particular bill is really important because the state of Georgia does not really have any protections for discrimination against race, gender, gender identity [or] religion,” says Dowd, “[there are] no protections for LGBTQ people — there are really not a whole lot of protections at all — we are one of the worst states in the country when it comes to this.”
Dowd feels feels the bill will give individuals without protection the equal rights under the law that they deserve.
“It’ll just give equal protections under the law to public accommodations for everyone,” says Dowd, “It’s kind of amazing we don’t have that already, and the fact that it wouldn’t pass is mind-blowing — it’s very shameful.”
Ben and Jerry’s ice cream shop in Downtown Athens is a business that protects its employees that identify as members of the LGBTQ community. Manager Luis Correa says he is happy to work in a business that advocates for social issues.
“At Ben and Jerry’s I enjoy a special privilege of working for a company that really cares about societal change and being an activist,” says Correa, “already on the books in our policies and procedures we have sexual orientation included as a protected minority class.”
Correa says he and other staff members appreciate working in a company where they feel welcome.
“As a gay man myself I particularly appreciate that and we have other people on staff who consider themselves queer [or] transgender and I think that I appreciate the security and so does everyone else that works here too,” says Correa.
Senate Bill 119 has not been assigned a committee yet in state session.
By: Cassie Daigle