Political Insider

An AJC blog about Atlanta politics, Georgia politics, Georgia and metro Atlanta election campaigns. Because all politics is local.

The Jolt: Same-sex marriage becomes unabashed focus of ‘religious liberty’ bill

The Senate Judiciary Committee gave 5-2 approval this morning to Senate Bill 375, a measure offering legal protection to faith-based child placement agencies that refuse to engage with LGBT couples.

A similar provision was stripped from a massive overhaul of the state’s adoption law last month, when it was condemned by Gov. Nathan Deal and House Speaker David Ralston for threatening passage of the larger bill.

Last year, many lawmakers denied the LGBT focus of the “religious liberty” provision. However, the current version now says faith-based agencies that receive taxpayer dollars must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

No discrimination by race or physical handicaps will be allowed, in other words – which placed the issue of same-sex marriage at the forefront of the Tuesday morning debate.

“States have failed our faith-based agencies agencies. These are agencies that have been provided services to children – some of them, through their affiliation with churches, for hundreds and hundreds of years,” said state Sen. William Ligon, R-Brunswick, the primary author of the measure. Ligon said other states had forced these agencies to “choose between violating the tenets of their faith or going out of business.”

Under questioning from Elena Parent, D-Atlanta, Ligon conceded that the state of Georgia currently has no law barring discrimination against LGBT couples – which she said negates the need for the bill.

“There are LGBT kids in the system. They are more likely to be in the system that do not identify as lesbian or gay. So I think there is a real question about whether or not they could be harmed,” she said. Parent and the one other Democrat on the committee voted against the measure.

SB 375 now must pass through the Senate Rules Committee before going to a vote by the full chamber. It faces a Feb. 28 deadline for passage by the originating body.


Only rarely is it possible to locate the exact moment that a piece of legislation is born.

Last week, the state Senate gave the thumbs-up to Senate Bill 342, a bill authored by Marty Harbin, R-Tyrone, that makes it more difficult for law enforcement authorities to impound motor vehicles with expired license tags.

Doug Richards of 11Alive has traced the birth of this bill to May 11, 2017, at about 10:11 a.m. That’s when Senator Harbin was pulled over by a Tyrone police officer with a body camera. For having an expired tag. The senator’s pick-up truck was towed. Watch the YouTube clip here.


First this:

Then this:

And then this:


After a year in D.C., Ashley Bell is coming home. The former Hall County commissioner had held a pair of positions within the Trump administration – first as special assistant to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, then as associate director for external affairs for the Peace Corps.

But today, Bell moves into a third position – as regional director of the U.S. Small Business Administration. The job is Atlanta-based, but he’ll oversee SBA activity in Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee as well.

We’re told Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle will handle the swearing-in duties.


State Rep. Tommy Benton, the Jefferson Republican who attracted national outrage for his kind words for the Ku Klux Klan, has drawn a GOP challenger.

The former schoolteacher faces primary opposition from Sam Thomas, a debate team coach and youth teacher from Jackson County. 

He’s trying to outlfank Benton on his right, saying the district is the “most conservative in the state and that our representation should reflect that.”

What he’s not talking much about, though, is Benton’s unapologetic embrace of the state’s Confederate heritage and his remarks that while he didn’t agree with all of the KKK’s methods, they “made a lot of people straighten up.”

Said Thomas: “That’s a distraction from the real issues.” 


Our Revolution, the progressive movement inspired by Bernie Sanders, has made its pick for Georgia’s governor race. 

The group’s Georgia chapter said its members voted unanimously to endorse former House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams. And the group didn’t hold back over its frustration with her Democratic rival, former state Rep. Stacey Evans.

In its endorsement, the group wrote that the strategy of “pursuing legacy dixiecrat voters and their sympathizers must be consigned to the dustbin of history.” And it said its members were hurt when Evans failed to campaign for El-Mahdi Holly, a failed Democratic candidate for a Stockbridge-based House seat. 

“Stacey Abrams boldly and clearly articulates a new path forward,” it wrote. “In our view, a better path. People of color and progressives are the Democratic Party’s backbone, and it’s time major candidates acted like it.”


Two liberal opponents of U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, R-Monroe are planning to debate one another a handful of times in the lead-up to the May 22 Democratic primary. The campaigns of Chalis Montgomery and Richard Dien Winfield, two first-time candidates with Bernie Sanders-style platforms, said they will meet in four head-to-head debates between mid-March and May 1. Five others have filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to challenge the deeply conservative Hice in the 10th District ahead of Georgia’s March qualifying period. Hice ran unopposed in 2016. 

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