Category: Law

Final Contempt Order in Thompson Case Issued

Douglas County Judge Eddie Barker this afternoon issued his final contempt order following Monday’s hearing over whether State Senator Curt Thompson should be found in contempt of court for providing false information about why he could not appear in court for a hearing on September 24th. From the order:

The Respondent offered excuses for his conduct that included his legislative obligations, problems with email, office staff member with health issues and confusion over whether Mr. Stuber had a warrant in Clayton County.

The Respondent further tried to explain that the reason he failed to give the Court the name of the Judge in DeKalb County was that he had the name of Judge George Johnson written down, but also realized Judge Courtney Johnson may have the case.

This excuse was nonsensical as there is no current DeKalb County Superior Court Judge named George Johnson. In any event, Respondent alleged he had just been in front of that Judge and should have been able to determine if the Judge was male or female. Yet, the failure to give the Judge’s name is clear evidence of the dishonesty of the Respondent. His continuance to adhere to that story is also evidence of a complete lack of remorse for his conduct.

The conduct of the Respondent as an officer of the Court in his representations to the Court, by telephone, email and in court, requires this Court to punish the Respondent accordingly. Failing to comply with the requirements ofU.S.C.R. 17.1 was a problem; however, the Respondent compounded that issue by being dishonest with the Court.

WHEREFORE, this Court finds the Respondent in Indirect Criminal Contempt of this Court beyond a reasonable doubt and as such, Orders the Respondent to serve ten (1 0) days in the Douglas County Jail.

The full order is below the fold Read more

Sen. Curt Thompson Found In Criminal Contempt of Court; Jailed in Douglas County

District 5 State Senator Curt Thompson of Norcross was found in criminal contempt of court in Douglas County on Monday after failing to provide information about why he couldn’t appear at a September court case in which he was the defendant’s lawyer.

According to a Contempt of Court order filed on October 5th, a bench trial in the case of B Line Curbing and Decorative Concrete v C. Marti Martin had been scheduled for September 24, 2015. Thompson is the lawyer for B Line, and informed Judge Eddie Barker two days prior to the court date that a conflict had arisen with two separate cases in DeKalb County being tried together that were scheduled for the same time. According to standard rules regarding conflicts, the DeKalb case would take precedence, and Thompson requested a continuance of the Douglas case until a later date.

After a tip from the lawyer for Martin, Judge Barker’s law clerk reached out to the clerk of DeKalb County Court to verify that court’s schedule. According to the DeKalb clerk, the cases Thompson referenced weren’t scheduled until October. When Judge Barker’s clerk contacted Thompson to clear up the situation, Thompson promised to call back with details by the end of the day. After failing to provide the information requested by the clerk, even after a follow up email the next day, Judge Barker set the contempt hearing for November 2nd.

At Monday’s hearing, Thompson was found to be in criminal contempt of court, and was sentenced by Judge Barker to spend ten days in the Douglas County jail. According to someone present at the hearing, Judge Barker told Thompson there was proof beyond a reasonable doubt that he had deceived the court, provided false information about his time conflict, and then lied to cover up the deception. The judge indicated that the record of the hearing would be forwarded to the State Bar Association for further action.

Senator Thompson was booked into the Douglas County jail just before 7:30 PM. Thompson is expected to post an appeal bond of $1,000 Tuesday morning, after Judge Barker’s formal order in the case is issued.

The October 5th contempt order is below the fold. Read more

U.S. Appeals Court Blocks Enforcement of the EPA’s Waters of the US Rule

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit issued a nationwide stay of the “Waters of the United States” rule that opponents say would have given the Environmental Protection Agency jurisdiction over small irrigation ponds, drainage ditches, and other waters that wouldn’t be considered navigable. The rule was opposed by many Georgia elected officials, including Senators Johnny Isakson and David Perdue, and the entire Georgia House delegation.

Georgia was one of the states that appealed to the Sixth Circuit for relief. In a statement issued Friday, Attorney General Sam Olens praised the ruling.

I am pleased that the Sixth Circuit has granted a nationwide stay of the burdensome Waters of the United States rule. Under this illegal rule, Georgia families, farmers, and businesses would be subject to excessive and intrusive federal regulation. As the federal government continues to issue massive and unconstitutional executive directives at an alarming rate, I remain steadfast in my commitment to protect and defend the interests of Georgians,” said Olens.

As the Sixth Circuit said it its ruling, “A stay temporarily silences the whirlwind of confusion that springs from uncertainty about the requirements of the new Rule and whether they will survive legal testing. A stay honors the policy of cooperative federalism that informs the Clean Water Act and must attend the shared responsibility for safeguarding the nation’s waters.

According to National Hog Farmer, the ruling comes a month after a North Dakota District Court issued an injunction against the rule’s enforcement. That injunction applied to 13 states.

But, said the Court of Appeals, “In light of the disparate rulings … issued by district courts around the country – enforcement of the rule having been preliminarily enjoined in 13 states – a stay will, consistent with Congress’s stated purpose of establishing a national policy, restore uniformity of regulation under the familiar, if imperfect, pre-rule regime, pending judicial review.”

In reaching its decision, the court found that there’s a substantial likelihood that the EPA’s WOTUS rule fails to comply with the Supreme Court’s instructions in previous Clean Water Act cases and that the agency’s actions in the rulemaking process, to which the NPPC objected at the outset, are “facially suspect.”

The stay iasued by the Sixth Circuit will remain in effect until further notice.

Georgia Joins Lawsuit Against EPA’s Air Quality Plan

Last week, we told you about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, which some have estimated will increase electricity prices in Georgia by 25%. The EPA’s regulations have been denounced by Georgia’s Senators and Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols, among others.

Now, Georgia has joined a lawsuit along with 16 other states that would overturn regulations involving industrial plants brought about by a lawsuit filed by the Sierra Club. It is still considering whether to join a similar lawsuit over the Power Plan.

In a prepared statement, Attorney General Sam Olens said,

Today I join a broad coalition of attorneys general in challenging the EPA’s latest tax on America’s consumers. The EPA has issued a decision that will make it more expensive for Georgia’s families to heat and cool their homes, and for Georgia’s businesses to keep the lights on and the machines running. Everyone who has seen a truck move after a red light understands this issue; it is important for Georgia power plants and industries to keep living up to their responsibilities on overall emissions, but this new mandate is simply the result of EPA working with the Sierra Club in yet another example of “sue and settle” decision-making.

EPA’s new rule also demonstrates once again that EPA has no respect for the states’ primary role in determining how to meet emissions targets. Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division, working cooperatively with other state agencies, has done an excellent job ensuring that Georgia’s industrial plants operate in an environmentally responsible manner. The EPA’s new rule is a costly and unnecessary burden.

You can view the suit, which was filed as a petition for Review in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit below the fold. Read more

Josh McKoon Proposes State Version of First Amendment Defense Act

State Senator Josh McKoon was one of the speakers at Saturday’s 8th Congressional District GOP Fish Fry in Perry. While most of his speech was devoted to his effort to pass a state version of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Sen. McKoon also announced his intention of introducing a state version of a proposed federal law known as the First Amendment Defense Act.

He repeated his intention this morning in this Facebook post:

Thought for the Day: Every Republican in Georgia’s Congressional Delegation has co-sponsored the First Amendment Defense Act. If Georgia’s Supermajority Republican General Assembly fails to pass a state FADA in January, it will be clear proof that Elected State GOPers are to the left of our own U.S. Congressmen and Senators.

I wrote about the First Amendment Defense Act last month. The federal version of the legislation would prevent the federal government from discriminating against individuals or organizations because of their belief that marriage is between a man and a woman. Presumably, passage of the act would protect an organization from losing its tax exempt status or federal funds because of it’s religious or moral beliefs.

The federal version would not apply to state law. If a state version of the act were to pass, it presumably would protect a baker or florist who prefers not to participate in a same-sex marriage from a discrimination claim.

Assuming Sen. McKoon follows through with his intention to introduce the First Amendment Defense Act, Speaker Ralston pushes for passage of the Pastor Protection Act, and efforts to pass the religious liberty bill continue, that will mean there are three separate bills before the legislature in an election year dealing with the aftermath of June’s Supreme Court Obergefell decision.

SCOTUSblog Misrepresents Senator Isakson on Twitter

In light of today’s decision by the Supreme Court on King v. Burwell over the Affordable Care Act, Senator Johnny Isakson expressed his displeasure on the outcome with this tweet:

That tweet drew this late response from the SCOTUSblog Twitter account:

SCOTUSblog claims they are rooting out trolls, but maybe they are inventing them as well.

I like SCOTUSblog, and they are recognized as one of the independent sources for news about the Supreme Court. I follow them on Twitter, and retweet their stuff. That being said, this is inappropriate.

Update: Maybe the original tweet was deleted. See the comments.

h/t Daniel Funke

Ehrhart has good intentions on assault policy, but he gets one thing very wrong

I’ve been following the news closely about Rep. Earl Ehrhart’s upcoming attempts to look more closely at the adjudication process for allegations of sexual assault on college campuses. And in some ways, I welcome the news. College students across the country (myself included) have been asking for this kind of attention for years because we want to be able to study in college without a constant fear of sexual assault – a fear, quite frankly, that is more pervasive among women than men.

I’ll go further to say that I truly believe that Rep. Ehrhart has gone into this investigation with good intentions. He has some good ideas about strengthening universities’ commitment to safety and making the process more transparent.

All that said, I want to be very clear: any attempt to strip colleges of their responsibility to independently adjudicate sexual assault policy would be disastrous for survivors of sexual assault.

I’ve been working on sexual assault policy as a college student for a while now. In that process, I’ve realized a few things:

  1. There is a lot of confusion about how Title IX works.
  2. There is even more confusion about why Title IX regulations came into existence.
  3. This really isn’t even a partisan issue – most lawmakers truly want to make college safe for students, but they often wind up making changes with good intention that only make things much worse.

If you’re new to sexual assault policy on college campuses, here’s the most important fact you need to know: courts handle criminal proceedings, and universities handle campus safety. Both serve vital functions for both the accused and the accuser. Read more

Appeals Court Affirms Injunction on “Executive Amnesty”

President Obama’s executive actions to expand the programs that would allow more than five million unlawful immigrants to obtain work permits and drivers licenses received another delay on Tuesday, as a panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals refused to halt an injunction imposed by a district court that put the president’s plans on hold. While the administration could ask that the injunction be reviewed by the entire circuit court, it’s more likely that the next stop will be the U.S. Supreme Court.

A portion of the court’s decision reads,

The United States has not demonstrated that it “will be irreparably injured absent a stay.” . . . It claims that the injunction offends separation of powers and federalism, but it is the resolution of the case on the merits, not whether the injunction is stayed pending appeal, that will affect those principles.

The states have shown that “issuance of the stay will substantially injure” them. A stay would enable [Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents] beneficiaries to apply for driver’s licenses and other benefits, and it would be difficult for the states to retract those benefits or recoup their costs even if they won on the merits.

The state of Georgia was one of 26 states in the original suit that alleges President Obama does not have the power to grant legal residence and other benefits to such a wide group of people in the country illegally. Attorney General Sam Olens, speaking to those in attendance at the Walton County GOP BBQ Tuesday night, hailed the decision as a victory, and he issued the following statement in a press advisory: Read more

U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Georgia Race Discrimination Case

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case of Georgia death row inmate Timothy Tyrone Foster. Foster, who is black, was convicted in Floyd County of the 1986 murder of a white schoolteacher, Queen Madge White. During jury selection, prosecutors removed all four black prospective jurors through preemptory challenges. When questioned as to their motivations for removing the black jurors, prosecutors presented race neutral justifications. Later evidence from the prosecution’s notes, however, suggest something more nefarious may have been afoot.

As SCOTUSblog describes, the prosecutors’ records strongly indicate the jurors’ removal was racially motivated. Despite the new evidence, the Georgia Superior Court rejected the race discrimination claim and the Georgia Supreme Court subsequently denied to hear Foster’s case. Foster has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to answer whether the “Georgia courts err[ed] in failing to recognize race discrimination…in the extraordinary circumstances of this death penalty case?”

Timothy Tyrone Foster’s petition to the Supreme Court.

Attorney General Olens’ brief in opposition.

Tea Party Patriots and Georgia Integrity Project Guilty by Default in Breach of Contact Suit

A Gwinnett County State Court judge recently entered a default judgement against the Georgia Tea Party Patriots, the Georgia Integrity Project, and Debbie Dooley, apparently because of unpaid hotel bills following one or more events the groups held at the Hilton Atlanta Northeast hotel in Norcross.

According to court records, the case was filed on February 27th, 2015 by Crestline Hotels and Resorts, doing business as the Hilton and as Sky Harbor Results. The three defendants were served their summonses on March 3rd, and on April 24th, the plaintiffs filed for a default judgement, which was granted by Judge Pam South on April 30th.

The Georgia Integrity Project sponsored a Repeal Obamacare Summit that was held at the Hilton in February, 2014. The Tea Party Patriots held a boot camp at the Hilton in August 2014. It is unknown if these were the specific events that led to the lawsuit.

Dooley is one of the original founders of the Tea Party Patriots, and the Georgia Integrity Project was announced at the Georgia GOP State Convention two years ago as a conservative alternative to the president’s Organizing for America effort. During the 2014 cycle, most of the group’s effort appeared to be in trying to unseat House Speaker David Ralston.

Why Haven’t Riots Happened In The Deep South?

UPDATE: I should have given the post the title “Why Haven’t Riots Happened In The Deep South In The Post Ferguson Era?” I’m not saying riots have never happened in the Deep South, I was referring to the recent number of incidents we’ve seen around the Country.

Watching the events in Baltimore has been discouraging. Thankfully it seems that the rioting and looting have lessened and hopefully now the folks in Baltimore can come back together and work on fixing the issues they face.

Yesterday during Peach Pundit Radio on WGST, Sully, Mike and I talked about Baltimore and some of the larger issues we’ve seen in American recently. One thing I pointed out is that we in the Deep South haven’t seen the type of demonstrations and rioting that we’ve seen in places like Ferguson, MO and Baltimore, MD. Why is that? Have we just been lucky or are we doing something different than those communities?

We’ve certainly had incidents that could have sparked mass demonstrations and rioting like those mentioned above. In Savannah an Officer shot and killed a man already in custody. Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Chief Julie Tolbert immediately called in the GBI to investigate the incident. Also responding promptly was Mayor Edna Branch Jackson who met with the family and spoke to community groups, in private and in public:

Speaking to people congregating in West Savannah, the mayor said: “This will be cleared up. This will be cleared up. We don’t need anything to happen. And we are going, we are going to keep the family and the community informed of everything that is going on. Now, does that sound fair?” Tolbert told those gathered that the investigation is “going to take time.” In the meantime, “What we are asking you to do is not jump to conclusions, not make rash decisions, not … do something that will cause you problems.”

In North Charleston, SC, an Officer shot to death a man attempting to flee. After video evidence of the shooting surfaced, the Officer was quickly arrested and charged with murder.

I think the key point of these two tragic incidents was that local officials acted promptly to address the situation. I’m not sure that happened in Ferguson and Baltimore. Officials throughout Georgia should look to how their counterparts in Savannah and North Charleston reacted.

Another item worth noting is a point made by Congressman John Lewis in the early days of the Ferguson trouble:

“We have to get police officers, locally-elected officials to respect the dignity and the words of every human being. It’s a shame and a disgrace that in a city that is almost 70 percent African American to have only three African American police officers.

Ferguson is not in the American South. But we’re doing much better in the small towns and cities in Georgia and Alabama and Mississippi.

I agree with the Congressman on this point.

Of course, we need to take a look at our laws and how we enforce them. Every encounter a citizen has with the Police can become dangerous for the Officer and the citizen. We need to do all we can to make sure the people of Georgia are safe and secure and law enforcement are doing all they can to avoid potential lethal situations. Every Law Enforcement Official I’ve met spends hours each month in training to avoid having to use lethal force and how to diffuse tense situation. We need to make sure they have what they need to make their training a reality, always.

I’d like to hear your thoughts on this subject. A violent reaction to an officer involved shooting is certainly possible here in Georgia. Let’s think and talk about this now so we can avoid a riot and the tragic death that may spark it.

Sam Olens Discusses Upcoming Ruling on Same Sex Marriage

Next Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments over whether same sex marriage should be permitted nationwide. If the court rules in favor of same sex marriage, Georgia’s present constitutional definition of marriage being between a man and a woman would be struck down. In a question and answer session this morning at the Atlanta Press Club, Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens discussed the upcoming decision and his office’s possible reaction as part of wide-ranging series of questions.

Olens stressed that he saw his role in the issue as one of following the law, not interpreting it. When several gay couples filed a lawsuit challenging Georgia’s definition of marriage a year ago, Olens maintained he would defend the state’s constitution. He confirmed that position this morning, noting that he has no discretion in following the law, and stating that he disagrees 100% with other state attorneys general that decided to act as the judicial branch rather than the executive branch. He noted that with a ruling by the Supreme Court at the end of June, there will be a definitive answer, and the state of Georgia will follow the law.

Addressing the policy of his office with regards to the same sex marriage case, Olens said,

In the case of same sex marriage, I think our office has tried to do as best we can to show compassion, and to limit the discussion to what’s solely legal.

The court will rule at the end of June. If the court rules Georgia’s constitution is legal, the press release from my office will be “The Supreme Court has spoken, and Georgia will follow the law.” If the Supreme Court at the end of June says constitutional amendments like Georgia’s are unconstitutional, the press release from my office will be “The Supreme Court has spoken, and Georgia will follow the law.”

When the Supreme Court rules on an issue, we’re going to follow the law.

A recent court order in Alabama to allow same sex marriages was defied by some county officials, who refused to perform gay weddings. When asked about the possibility of the same thing happening in the Peach State, Olens pointed out that his office is not responsible for setting policy, but that his office would encourage those agencies responsible for policy to follow the law. “I cringe just as much when an attorney general seeks to defy the law as much as anyone else,” Olens said. “When the United States Supreme Court rules, it’s not time for criticism. It’s not time for banter.”

The Supreme Court’s decision is expected by the end of June.

Porter Responds to Criticism of Search and Seizure Bill

Editor’s Note: over the course of the legislative session, Peach Pundit has covered House Bill 56 and Senate Bill 94 / HB 430. HB 56, along with companion bills in the Senate, is dead for the year. An amended version of SB 94 containing the language of HB 430 was passed by the House last week, and awaits action in the Senate. The amended version has been endorsed by the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

Gwinnett Judicial Circuit District Attorney Danny Porter, who is Chairman of the Prosecuting Attorney’s Council of Georgia, issued the following statement in support of SB 94. He speaks for himself, not the other organizations who have worked to advance the bill.

Since the beginning of the 2015 Legislative session, the District Attorney’s Association of Georgia and the prosecutors of this State have pursued a legislative agenda that we believed was necessary to help restore public trust in law enforcement officials and prosecutors. We have consistently supported an agenda of government transparency and accountability by supporting bills which would authorize the use of body cameras by police officers when, under current law, such use is limited. We have supported bills which would increase judicial oversight and place more stringent requirements on the execution of so-called “no-knock” search warrants, which despite false claims elsewhere, are currently allowed in Georgia according to decisions of the United States Supreme Court and Georgia Appellate Courts. We have also strongly supported House Bill 430 which modernizes and updates search and seizure Georgia law for the first time since 1966 and which places MORE judicial oversight over the government’s ability to obtain search warrants from the judges of this State who are authorized to issue such warrants.

Prosecutors have also worked with the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers to codify best practices for law enforcement agencies when they use pre-trial identification procedures to identify suspects. This has been a five year process and resulted in Senate Bill 94, which all of the involved parties agreed was a good addition to our law.

House Bill 430 was introduced later in the session than anticipated and thus the committee hearings on the bill were later in the session. Prosecutors worked with Sheriffs and with the defense bar to alleviate the concerns of those groups and in the end we had a bill we could all agree on. But time ran out. Senate Bill 94 which was also a bill we had all agreed upon had crossed over to the House, so with the consent and agreement of all the groups involved, the two bills were combined in a public hearing of the House Non-Civil Judiciary Committee by a vote of the full committee.

Surprisingly, this agenda which we believed was important to all Georgians has been the subject of a torrent of “information” which is so breathtakingly false that it is hard to believe that these critics have read House Bill 430 at all. Add to this misinformation the level of personal invective directed at the sponsors, the executive director of the PAC, and at me, it appears that now is the time that, in the interest of the truth, certain misconceptions must be addressed. Read more

A Way Forward for Religious Freedom and Civil Rights

The debate over religious liberty in Georgia is approaching the end of its second year, and at least for the moment, the question is not resolved. Supporters of the measure, which is based on the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, say they want to extend to state laws the same protections provided against the encroachment of federal laws on religious rights. Those opposing the measure are concerned that enacting the bill into law would allow discrimination against other Georgians, especially the gay and transgendered.

Had Georgia’s RFRA been proposed five years ago, it probably would have passed without controversy. The rapid growth in support for gay rights, especially among millennials, and a push by gays and lesbians to assert their right to be treated as equals have tied religious freedom and civil rights together. At this point, they can’t be separated. And yet, both must be dealt with.

The events in Indiana over the past week are instructive. Section 8 of the Hoosier State’s version of RFRA, which specifies when government can interfere with a person’s exercise of religion, is almost identical to section 50-15A-2 of Senate Bill 129. After Governor Mike Pence signed the bill into law, the calls to #BoycottIndiana drove that hashtag to the top of Twitter’s trending list. Major companies, including Salesforce.com and Angie’s List threatened not to do business in the state, and the NCAA expressed its concern that students could be negatively impacted by the law at this weekend’s Final Four basketball tournament, which will be held in Indianapolis. On Saturday, Governor Pence realized that a firestorm was brewing, and said he will propose legislation to ensure the law won’t be used to discriminate against sexual minorities.

If nothing else, this should be a reminder to those under the Gold Dome that they should cross their Ts and dot their Is before passing the Peach State’s RFRA.

And that’s the task Chairman Wendell Willard’s House Judiciary Committee has taken on. Over more than nine hours of hearings last week, a subcommittee and then a full committee heard witness testimony and considered possible amendments to the bill that would clarify the intention not to discriminate. They considered a proposal from former Rep. Edward Lindsey based on the Texas and Missouri RFRAs on Tuesday, yet adopted a substitute on Wednesday that contained no anti-discrimination language. At a full committee meeting on Thursday, they passed an amendment offered by Rep. Mike Jacobs, also drawn from Missouri’s RFRA:

“Compelling governmental interest” includes, but is not limited to, protecting the welfare of a child from abuse or neglect as provided by state law and protecting persons against discrimination on any ground prohibited by federal, state, or local law.

After the committee voted to adopt the amendment, Rep. Barry Fleming said, “This is the amendment, the catfish amendment as we call it, that will make the bill not worth passing.” And with that, the bill was tabled by the committee. Why did Fleming say the Missouri language would gut the bill? The AJC’s Kyle Wingfield offers this explanation, citing three hypothetical examples completely unrelated to gay rights that would infringe on religious expression. But, there’s another reason to oppose having anti-discrimination language contained inside a RFRA. Read more

RFRA Gets a Hearing

Former Attorney General Mike Bowers testifies against the Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  Photo: Jon Richards
Former Attorney General Mike Bowers testifies against the Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Photo: Jon Richards

Tuesday afternoon, a special subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee conducted a three hour long hearing on Senate Bill 139, the Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The committee took introductory testimony from the bill’s sponsor, Senator Josh McKoon, and then an hour’s worth of testimony from supporters and opponents of the measure.

Supporters, including Mike Griffin, representing the Georgia Baptist Convention and Georgia Right to Life, Tanya Ditty with the Concerned Women of America and Adam Woodward with the Center of Law and Religion, were among those speaking in favor of the bill. Many of the speakers put forward incidents they claimed would be resolved more promptly if Georgia had a RFRA, although by my reckoning, all referred to issues involving mainstream Christianity, and none dealt with smaller, minority religions. And virtually all asked that the bill be passed without amendments, including former State Rep. Bob Snelling, who said, “I am here to ask you to allow a full House vote on the unamended bill. To deny this would be an irresponsible act of legislative injustice.”

Leading off the opposition to the bill was former Georgia Attorney General Mike Bowers. Representing Georgia Equality, Bowers maintained that the bill provides an excuse to discriminate and an excuse to exclude. He claimed that citizens will become arbiters of the law and would be making law unto themselves on issues including vaccinations and school coursework. In questioning from committee members, Rep. Barry Fleming asked why Bowers didn’t present any examples of discrimination against gays as a result of RFRAs passed in other states. Bowers had no good answers to that.

Other speakers opposed to the bill included a representative from the Georgia Hotel and Lodging Association who said that two organizations planning conventions in Atlanta have threatened to go elsewhere should RFRA pass, and Merwin Peake, the brother of State Rep. Allen Peake, who used the example of bakeries refusing to serve a gay couple as a reason to oppose the bill.

The major witness against the bill, however was former State Rep. Edward Lindsey. Lindsey had a seat in front, almost at the table that the committee sat on, and he presented an alternative version of the bill that offered civil rights protections to those that might be discriminated against. Building on the editorial that first appeared in Peach Pundit last Friday, Lindsey took almost half an hour of questions from committee members who treated his proposal, which you can see at the bottom of this post, as if it were a substitute for McKoon’s bill.

What’s next? Chairman Wendell Willard indicated that he planned to call another meeting of the special subcommittee on Wednesday. At that point, they could recommend SB 129 or a substitute, possibly based on Lindsey’s proposal, to the full Judiciary Committee, which is expected to meet on Thursday. If that scenario holds true, a version of the Religious Liberty bill could be heard in the Rules Committee on Friday, making it possible to have a vote in the full House on Tuesday, March 30th, Day 39 of the legislative session.

You can read the text of Lindsey’s proposal below the fold. Read more