A new LGBTQ anti-discrimination law coming out of Doraville should be copied by other cities, while new religious freedom laws should not emerge from the Gold Dome.
Those were takeaways from a majority of the 200 local residents in a Reporter/1Q.com survey about the ongoing debate of LGBTQ rights and religious liberty. The survey was conducted by 1Q.com via cellphones used by residents of Reporter Newspapers communities. The results are not scientific.
Of the 200 survey respondents, 69 percent said other cities should have an anti-discrimination law like Doraville’s, with 18 percent saying no; another 13 percent were unsure.
“It is ridiculous that in 2019 in the U.S. we need to pass laws such as this, but racism, sexism, homophobia and other diseases of the radical right wing are stronger than ever,” said a 53-year-old Brookhaven man in one response.
As for religious freedom laws, which come in a wide variety of proposed forms, 52.5 percent opposed the idea, 20 percent were in favor, and a significant amount – 27.5 percent – said they were uncertain or did not express a direct preference.
“We have a country with separation of church and state. Religion is already protected under the Constitution,” said a 47-year-old Atlanta man who opposes such laws.
The General Assembly is expected this session to once again take up some form of religious freedom legislation, which has roiled the legislature for several years. Such laws broadly seek to impose stronger limits on the state’s ability to regulate private religious practices, and have drawn controversy for possibly enabling discrimination, particularly against LGBTQ people.
In 2016, amid strong opposition from Atlanta’s corporate community, then Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed one bill that would have permitted religious organizations to discriminate in employment and the providing of charitable services. New Gov. Brian Kemp has pledged to pass a religious freedom law that he says would mirror an existing federal version that is presented as less controversial.
Meanwhile, Doraville recently became the second city in Georgia – after Atlanta – to prohibit discrimination in private businesses, including against LGBTQ people. City Councilmember Stephe Koontz, who spearheaded the ordinance, has said its intent is to get other cities to adopt similar protections. Chamblee and Clarkston already are following suit. Brookhaven and Dunwoody say they have no plans for such an anti-discrimination ordinance, and Sandy Springs says it believes it is legally prohibited from doing so.
A common view among the majority of respondents was that antidiscrimination laws are needed, while religion is already legally protected, and that religious freedom laws are intended to enable discrimination. Several also cited the publicity and economic impacts of the state appearing to be backwards on civil rights.
“Good for Doraville! Since Georgia’s new governor Brian Kemp has vowed to sign a ‘religious freedom’ bill into law, it’s apparently now up to our local communities to offer protections to minority citizens,” a 53-year-old Atlanta man said. “With a multibillion-dollar film and television industry and homegrown businesses like Delta Airlines, Coca-Cola and Home Depot all employing a diverse workforce, we need to prioritize making our state as welcoming and as inclusive as possible to ensure our continued economic growth.”
As for religious freedom laws, a 40-year-old Brookhaven woman said “they are an avenue for entities or individuals to discriminate.”
Respondents who opposed Doraville’s ordinance largely said they do not believe in discrimination, but that the marketplace should weed out private businesses that do so. Some also questioned whether the law is enforceable or will make any difference in practice.
“I think nondiscrimination is something that all people should abide by. However, I don’t think spending time and resources creating a law against discrimination against customers can be justly enforced,” said a 24-year-old Buckhead/Sandy Springs woman.
Many backers of religious freedom laws said that ensuring religious diversity and nondiscrimination is important, and several also cited the private market’s forces.
“The government has no business choosing one party’s freedom over the freedom of another party,” said a 52-year-old Buckhead man. “Making a business owner contradict his or her religious beliefs is wrong, particularly when the service is available elsewhere for the complaining party.”
A few respondents opposed both laws on libertarian grounds. A couple of respondents suggested passing both as a way to ensure everyone’s rights.
“We should allow religious freedom, but we cannot sacrifice our duty we have to our fellow citizens to protect their rights,” said a 22-year-old Sandy Springs man.
“If that means we’re discriminating against LGBT members [of society], there must be additional laws implementing that such discrimination will not occur. Both issues at hand are addressed in the Bill of Rights and it seems like both religious freedom and equality can and should coexist.”
Here’s what some other respondents had to say about the questions.
Should other cities adopt a nondiscrimination law like Doraville’s?
Yes, absolutely. This shouldn’t even be a question. Discrimination is never OK, not only in the workplace, but anywhere in society.
–22-year-old Sandy Springs man
Yes!!! Besides it being the right thing to do in a country that prides itself on the freedom it offers, making these sorts of moves will help businesses outside the South look at the Atlanta area as more forward-thinking than the rest of the state.
–38-year-old Atlanta woman
While I don’t agree with discrimination and personally don’t understand why businesses would turn away customers, I do not believe that additional laws are necessary. If someone does not want my business I am not going to force them to take my money!
–55-year-old Atlanta woman
Yes, because I’m not a bigot.
–21-year-old Buckhead/Sandy Springs man
Should the state pass a religious freedom law?
No, freedoms need to be protected for every U.S. citizen!
–46-year-old Sandy Springs woman
I don’t think any group should be able to [discriminate], but I don’t believe religious institutions should be forced to make change.
–51-year-old Sandy Springs man
No, there should not be any discrimination and I am 100 percent against this law because I am an atheist.
–19-year-old Dunwoody man
These laws reflect poorly on Georgia, drive away economic investments, and reflect a discriminatory animus.
–34-year-old Atlanta man
1Q is an Atlanta-based start-up that sends questions and surveys to a cellphone via app or text messages. Respondents are paid 50 cents per answer, through PayPal, for sharing their opinions. Payments may also be donated directly to charity. Sign up to be included in our local community polls at 1Q.com/reporter or by texting “REPORTER” to 86312.