A look at LGBT claims in Georgia

Supporters wave rainbow flags for the 2013 Pride Parade in Atlanta. AJC photo by Curtis Compton/Ccompton@ajc.com
Supporters wave rainbow flags for the 2013 Pride Parade in Atlanta. AJC photo by Curtis Compton/Ccompton@ajc.com

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.

This weekend, gay rights supporters in Georgia will celebrate that legal victory during the 45th Annual Pride Festival in Piedmont Park.

PolitiFact Georgia has checked several claims surrounding gay rights issues this year. A sample is below, or read all fact-checks on those issues here.

No openly gay man has ever been elected to the Georgia Legislature.

Georgia Voice on Sept. 17, 2015 in a news story

Atlanta’s newspaper for the LGBT community recently said Georgia could make gay rights history in next year’s general election.

If elected, two announced candidates for seats in the Georgia House of Representatives would become the first gay men elected to the state Legislature, according to the Georgia Voice.

"Roughly a dozen have tried and failed in the last decade," Patrick Saunders wrote in the piece examining the campaigns of Rafer Johnson and Josh Noblitt.

But gay lawmakers, and allies, led the unsuccessful fight against Georgia's 2004 ban on same-sex marriage and were part of the effort to kill state religious freedom bills for the past two years.

So with lawmakers pledging to bring back, for the third, time, the religious freedom bill, PolitiFact Georgia wondered: Have voters never sent an openly gay man to the 236-member General Assembly?

Newspaper archives and a statewide advocacy group that follows the issue back up the claim.

Voters have sent three lesbians to serve under the Gold Dome. And one man came out during his stint in office but lost when he ran for re-election.

We rated the claim True.

There is debate among constitutional scholars about whether the First Amendment will continue to protect faith leaders from being forced to perform marriages against their religious beliefs.

David Ralston, July 13, 2015 in an interview

Georgia House Speaker David Ralston recently announced he will propose a pastor protection bill, spelling out that faith leaders in the state have the right to refuse to perform any marriage ceremony that goes against their religious convictions.

"In Georgia, we're going to come down clearly on the side of the separation of church and state, and as long as you have constitutional scholars debating among themselves whether this is covered, then I think we need to remove all uncertainty and all doubt," Ralston said.

PolitiFact Georgia could find no evidence from any constitutional scholars who believe the Supreme Court’s marriage ruling for gay couples diminishes the First Amendment protections of religious freedom or forces religious leaders to marry people against their personal religious beliefs.

Ralston, himself, acknowledges that. But he says there’s unease in the community and a "perception" to contend with. That’s a different argument for the bill.

We rated his statement Mostly False.

The religious liberty bill proposed in the Georgia House of Representatives does not specifically exclude corporations, which means they can legally claim a religious exemption.

Jeff Graham on Jan. 7, 2015 in an interview with WABE radio

A proposed religious liberty bill failed in this year’s Legislative session for the second year in a row, but sponsors have pledged to bring it back in the coming session.

Supporters say the measure is necessary to prevent government overreach. Opponents worry the law would effectively legalize discrimination against gays and other minority groups.

As one bill was written in the last session, the head of a gay advocacy group recently said it also would allow private businesses to discriminate against customers by citing religious beliefs.

The question gets into the details of legal minutiae, because the bill did not specifically exempt corporations from the original draft.

Under Georgia law, a corporation is also a "person," which means companies could claim religious exemptions.

We rated the claim True.