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first amendment defense act

David Goldman / Associated Press

Former Atlanta fire chief Kelvin Cochran was at the center of a debate on Capitol Hill recently as members of the U.S. House of Representatives debated a federal “religious liberty” bill.

At the first hearing on July 12, Cochran shared his story of being fired by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed.

Georgia Capitol Interior
Al Such / WABE

There are fewer than ten days remaining in the 40-day Georgia legislative session, and lawmakers have as many days to compromise over a bill that would allow religious organizations to deny services to same-sex, straight and unmarried couples based on the religious beliefs of the organization.

HB 757, originally known as the “Pastor Protection Act,” passed overwhelmingly in the House with vocal support from Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge. It was meant to reassure clergy they would not be forced to perform same-sex marriages.

Two high profile bills meant to expand religious freedom in Georgia have been combined in the state legislature: the “Pastor Protection Act” meant to reassure clergy they won’t be required to marry same-sex couples, and the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) which allows religious organizations to deny services to same-sex couples.

Sen. Greg Kirk, R-Americus, the sponsor of the FADA, proposed in the Senate Rules Committee Tuesday a new version of the “Pastor Protection Act” that includes slightly revised language from his bill.

State Sen. Greg Kirk, R-Americus, speaks on a bill he plans to introduce that provides religious exemptions in the wake of last year's U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016, in Atlanta.
David Goldman / Associated Press

Sen. Greg Kirk, R-Americus, filed Thursday what he called the "First Amendment Defense Act of Georgia." Contrary to numerous statements he has made over the past few weeks, Kirk said the bill would not include specific protections to public employees who refuse to perform their duties because they oppose same-sex marriage.

“This is about the fourth or fifth edition of the bill so I’ve listened and I’ve heard what the concerns were,” Kirk said, "and in the end I said, you know what, I think we just need to remove that from the equation, and that’s what I did."

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) during a hearing at the Senate Finance Committee, May, 2013.
Charles Dharapak / Associated Press

Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson said Thursday that laws addressing conflicts between same-sex marriage and religious freedom should be left to Congress and the federal government.

Last year, Isakson and Georgia's other senator, Republican David Perdue, co-sponsored a bill called the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), which was designed to protect people who act on their religious opposition to same-sex marriage.