Georgia lawmakers approve bill shielding gay marriage opponents

- A compromised version of the Religious Freedom Bill was passed through the Georgia House and Senate Wednesday evening.

Georgia House lawmakers approved a rewrite of a bill that made changes to a contentious bill protecting same-sex marriage opponents.

“I think adding a very clear anti-discrimination provision in there was important and then toning down some of the language that was in their version was important,” said Georgia House Speaker David Ralston.

The proposal unveiled Wednesday seeks to resolve years of heated debate over the legal rights of religious citizens and concerns that various bills would encourage or excuse discrimination against gay, lesbian and transgender people.

But gay-rights advocates immediately blasted the measure and said it still allows discrimination.

The bill as approved by the Senate would prevent any government penalty for individuals or organizations that refuse service to couples based on a religious belief about marriage. Supporters said it's intended to prevent religious adoption agencies, schools and other organizations from losing government funding for beliefs about marriage.

It also protects religious officials who decline performing gay marriages.

During a lengthy debate on the House Floor Wednesday, State Representative Karla Drenner, who is openly gay, expressed her opposition to the bill.

“This language does away with the idea of mutual respect and it replaces it with a license to discriminate against a community of Georgians who contribute a great many things to our society, our economy and yes our way of life,” said State Representative Karla Drenner.

Business groups and top employers warned that the bill passed by the Senate will be seen as discriminatory.

The House passed the senate substitution to the bill 104-65.

Many are urging Governor Nathan Deal to veto the bill. The governor has not said if he will sign or veto, but Governor Deal has said in the past that he would reject any bill condoning discrimination.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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