Could business interests influence Georgia lawmakers on the fate of pending bills that would allow businesses and government workers to deny services based on religious grounds?
Delta Air Lines is the first major business in Georgia 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, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The sponsors of the bills say the legislation is aimed at protecting Georgians from government intrusion on religious freedom, says WGCL TV. Federal law now only protects religious freedom on the federal level, not the state level, proponents of the bill say.
The Georgia legislation is similar to a bill passed by the Arizona Legislature last week allowing any business, church or person to cite the law as a defense in any action brought by the government or individual claiming discrimination, says The Huffington Post. The Arizona bill, which has not been signed by the state’s governor, has caused a national uproar with the business community, the state's Super Bowl Committee and both Republican U.S. senators calling for a veto.
Delta’s website notes that it sponsors gay pride events around the country. The airline is “deeply concerned” about legislative proposals in both Georgia and Arizona that could harm people and result in job losses.
The Delta statement says: "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."