Delta comes out against Georgia ‘religious freedom’ bills

This story was originally published on Feb 26, 2014.

Delta Air Lines has become the first major business in the state to announce its opposition to two bills under consideration in the state Capitol that critics say would allow individuals to refuse service to gays and lesbians on the basis of religious convictions.

A similar measure was recently passed by the Arizona legislature, but has not yet been signed by that state’s governor, Jan Brewer.

From the airline’s website:

"As a global values-based company, Delta Air Lines is proud of the diversity of its customers and employees, and is deeply concerned about proposed measures in several states, including Georgia and Arizona, that would allow businesses to refuse service to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals.

"If passed into law, these proposals would cause significant harm to many people and will result in job losses. They would also violate Delta's core values of mutual respect and dignity shared by our 80,000 employees worldwide and the 165 million customers we serve every year. Delta strongly opposes these measures and we join the business community in urging state officials to reject these proposals."

A hearing scheduled this morning on HB 1023, sponsored by state Rep. Sam Teasley, R-Marietta, has been cancelled. SB 377, sponsored by state Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, has received committee approval but still faces a floor vote.

One senses a general retreat from the legislation. We asked Gov. Nathan Deal about the pending bills this morning. Said Deal:

“That’s not one of my pieces of legislation.”

The follow-up: So do you see it as a priority?



On Tuesday, the Senate approved a bill that would place Common Core under review, but would not immediately require the state to withdraw the controversial educational standards aimed at creating a national standard for math and English.

Afterwards, we caught up with state Sen. William Ligon, R-Brunswick, the bill’s sponsor, who predicted safe travels for SB 167 in the House.

So who will be carrying it? Replied Ligon:

“Mike Dudgeon (R-Johns Creek) will be carrying it in the House.

“I’ve been working with the House, and the chairman of the education committee, and Jan Jones, the speaker pro tem. And I believe that we have agreed on the language in the bill. And we worked with the governor’s office.”

So this has wheels? we posited. Ligon agreed:

“This has wheels.”


We have some curious maneuverings around a pair of anti-abortion bills focused on insurance coverage.

This morning, Georgia Right to Life issued an alert to its supporters, charging that SB 98 has been held up in the Senate Rules Committee.

The measure has two aspects: First, it would bar abortions from being covered by insurance policies offered through health care exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act. Secondly, it would ratify Gov. Nathan Deal’s decision to eliminate abortion coverage from state employee health insurance policies.

GRTL is urging its members to “politely and respectfully” contact Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle.

But Walter Jones of Morris News Service reports of another effort this year to codify Deal’s decision on employee insurance policies --  a bill dropped Monday by Republican state Rep. Darlene Taylor of Thomasville.

At a hastily-called hearing Tuesday, Taylor told the House Insurance Committee that she introduced House Bill 1066 at Deal's urging.

Generally speaking, when a repetitive bill is dropped at the last minute, it means the first one is in trouble.


HB 875, the measure that would open up Georgia’s bars and churches to concealed weaponry and decriminalize the same on public university campuses, has attracted the attention of Americans for Responsible Solutions – the group headed up by Mark Kelly, spouse of former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

The group refers to the measure as “the most extreme gun bill” in the country. From the email:

“It’s bad enough that the bill would flood public spaces in Georgia with guns. But that’s not all. It would actually allow someone who has been convicted of threatening another with a gun to receive a concealed carry permit.”

HB 875 has passed the House and is currently lodged in the Senate.


Now that he has withdrawn his bill to lift restrictions on sex offenders, state Rep. Sam Moore, R-Macedonia, has moved on to other topics. It’s been a while since we’ve seen a good fight over fluoridation. From HB 1057:

“On and after December 31, 2014, no county, municipal corporation, or public authority shall introduce into a public water supply any chemical or agent not directly related to and necessary for the purification of water for human consumption."


Sometimes the Deal administration must feel like it can't win.

After the second round of wintry weather rumbled through Georgia two weeks ago, Deal's staff invited several journalists to travel by helicopter to hard-hit Augusta. The trip was aimed at spotlighting the recovery efforts underway and, of course, to showcase the governor's more vigorous response compared to the Jan. 28 Snowjam.

In all, seven journalists took the flight, including a photographer from the AJC.  It should be noted that these types of press trips are routine in the wake of severe storms or other emergencies.

The Augusta Chronicle found the journey cost $12,000 and questioned why the press weren't loaded onto other aircraft that wouldn't have cost as much money. Answered Deal spokesman Brian Robinson:

“This was a state of emergency and we used all mediums available to us to communicate with the people of the state. We had a duty to get out information and part of that was educating people on the damage the ice had brought to a large swath of the state.”


Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s decision to shrink the military is just the first salvo in a complicated Pentagon budget process, and already it's putting lawmakers and candidates in an awkward situation.

Democrat Michelle Nunn appeared at Q-Time restaurant on Atlanta's west side on Tuesday with a gaggle of veterans to talk about military issues, and it wasn't long before she was asked whether the Hagel plan to slash the military to pre-World War II levels was a good idea.

Nunn, who has built much of her campaign around the need to reduce $17 trillion in federal debt, said the idea needed more study, but that the military must adapt to "certain constraints." Added Nunn:

"We are going to have to make strategic choices and make sure we are aligning those choices with evolving threats. We need to be very cautious about making sure we don't make past mistakes about reductions that would diminish our capacity to fight."

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