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    Thank you! Having moved here from a very successful and altruistic state where gay marriage has been legal for a decade, I find all these assertions that hellfire and economic ruin are going to rain down upon Georgia now that some people have closer to equal rights to be perplexing at best.

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    Our state “leaders” seem intent on making us the laughingstock of the country yet again. They should mind their own business, which usually does need minding, and leave everybody else alone. It’s called “private life” for a reason. And, no – I’m not gay, lesbian, bi or trans – just minding my own business.

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    Not So Fast

    Lil says, “Any minister who chooses to not perform a same sex marriage need do no more than say “NO” to a request.” That simply is not the case and why this legislation is necessary. Lil, turn on the TV please. I have watched multiple interviews with folks across the country they have said the the next step in the fight for same sex marriage is to mount a legal test of the Church’s ability to deny performing a same sex marriage in their church.

    I think most people today accept that the LGBT community should have the same legal rights of marriage in order to plan their estates, divide their assets upon dissolution of their partnership, to not be discriminated against by employers, etc. In fact, it is the law of the land. The issue at hand is the push to force Christian churches to perform a SACRAMENT of the church in a way that is against its faith. Yes, the LGBT community can get married in a civil ceremony or by faith communities that support same sex marriage. But that is not enough…the push is to force Christian churches whose faith does not support performing this church sacrament for same sex marriages to do so. Similar to what has happened with Christian bakers and florists.

    The LGBT community has asked for society’s tolerance of their lifestyle while some in it are totally intolerant of the relegious faith of others. I think this type of extreme intolerance is the greatest threat our society faces. A church whose faith does not support gay marriage should not be forced to perform a sacrament of the church to bless such a union. That is a violation of its freedom of religion and why the state legislation is needed to clarify this.

    By the way, contrary to what Lil would what like us to believe, those in my Christian community do not judge those who do not live in accordance with Biblical principles because the Bible also teaches love and forgiveness. Three of my family members are gay and they understand the difference between a legal right and a church sacrament.

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    I’ve got no issues with the LBGT community or any others, I only have issues with any government making rules for how I think or act. If i choose to be a fool, it’s my right, and other’s rights to ignore me.

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    “I have watched multiple interviews with folks across the country they have said the the next step in the fight for same sex marriage is to mount a legal test of the Church’s ability to deny performing a same sex marriage in their church.”

    Multiple interviews or not – this is absolutely not the case. There is no law requiring churches to marry somebody – and likely never will be.

    A church is not a bakery or photographer – not only do churches receive special protection under the Constitution – the other two entities are commercial enterprises.

    Constitution: Churches are protected by the Church Autonomy Doctrine (from the 1st Amendment) which allows churches to make their own decisions (absent a “compelling” government interest which is a high standard). Churches are also protected under the Free Exercise, Establishment, Freedom of Speech, and Freedom of Association Clauses (all from the 1st).

    Commercial Enterprises: Commercial enterprises (like bakeries and wedding photographers) have to follow certain rules in order to be involved in commerce – including non-discrimination. If a church is organized as a church or place of worship – and not as a for-profit enterprise then they do not have the same restrictions against them. (It was the “Heart of Atlanta motel” ruling in which the Supreme Court found that Congress can force private businesses to follow the Civil Rights Act of 1964 so Georgia lawmakers should really already know these things.)

    So: Any state law designed to allegedly protect churches is unnecessary; if it is designed to protect private businesses it will be ineffective against federal laws.

    Not only is it a waste of time but think of some of the “religious freedoms” which we might not be too excited to have:

    FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) is a religious ceremony in some parts of the world.
    Ritual animal slaughter is a religious ceremony found in (among other places) the Old Testament.
    Apostasy is punishable by death by some religions (as is blasphemy, sodomy, adultery, etc).

    And so this is the bigger issue: when you create a law requiring “religious freedom” you don’t get to pick and choose – even those religious beliefs which are otherwise unacceptable become protected (until Congress or the Courts step in).

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    Kevin Fitzpatrick

    That is baloney. Notsofast, you are entitled to your opinion, but not your own facts. There is nothing in the law that forces a minister to marry anyone he or she does not want to. But if 100% of your news comes from the nonsense pedaled by Fox news and right wing websites, you might believe otherwise. The RFRA is not being proposed to protect clergy. There is another bill called the Pastor Protection Act that Speaker Ralston is pushing that does that. The RFRA is designed to protect people who operate businesses that cater to the public and who wish to discriminate against LGBT people. Why stop there? Why not turn the clock back 50 years and protect the right to discriminate on the basis of race? The pro RFRA arguments are the exact same arguments that were pushed by the backers of segregation in the 60’s.

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    Eddie E.

    The various iterations of this outrageous concept in law are just the dying quivers of the undue influence a certain religious sect has had on the governance of this state for the last century and a half.
    Modern marriage is as much a business contract as any illusion of the ‘sacred’, it is a function of the STATE.
    Our Constitution keeps the affairs of the State and affairs of belief separate. By following the dictates of the Constitution, we all benefit.

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    I agree, churches currently have constitutional protection as to their freedom of belief and a wide degree of protection in terms of actual practice. Anyone can file a lawsuit challenging a church’s practice of not performing same gender unions; but under the current legal interpretations the suit would most likely fail and only cost a few hundred thousand dollars to defend (Scientology uses this method all the time to coerce critics).

    I’m more interested in the conflicting patchwork of laws dealing with business practices. Pharmacies may claim religious objections to providing contraception of any kind when refusing to fill prescriptions (there are religions that object to other medical practices such as antibiotics, should you have to suffer or die because your pharmacist doesn’t believe in certain treatments). Businesses claim religious objections to insurance coverage for contraception (though not for E.D. treatments for some odd reason). The courts have upheld these practices even though they can severely affect the lives of many others in the wider community. In these cases, business seem to have the same religious practice protections as individuals; but not when it comes to same gender unions (so far).

    The view that a same gender couple wouldn’t choose a church that objects to their union, would also apply to choosing to do business with a company or business owner with this same objection, yet we have seen several lawsuits dealing with this very issue; and businesses being forced to change their policies and practices, or face closure. The question of whether private religious belief is allowed to determine business practices in the public market place and wider community is not a settled point yet and there are conflicting decisions on both sides of the issue. I’m not so sanguine that churches won’t face a challenge to their fundamental practices when it comes to same gender unions.

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