Conservatives Regroup on Religious-Freedom Bills

The core issue at stake? What happens when a person’s religious convictions conflict with the law.

Demonstrators attend a rally on the steps of the Arkansas state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark., on March 31, 2015, in protest of a bill that passed in the state House that critics say will lead to discrimination against gays and lesbians.

Photographer: Danny Johnston/AP Photo

Indiana isn’t the only state having trouble with religious freedom legislation. In March, Georgia’s Senate approved a religious freedom bill. Like similar laws passed the same month in Arkansas and Indiana, it expanded protections for people claiming to be acting according to their religious beliefs. Some Democrats said the vote was rammed through committee during a bathroom break, but the bill had overwhelming support on the Senate floor, where it passed 37-15. It then ran aground in the Georgia House, where moderate Republicans sided with Democrats and added an anti-discrimination amendment that the legislation’s sponsors refused to accept. “The term ‘discrimination’ is a very elastic thing that can mean a lot of different things to different people,” says Republican State Senator Josh McKoon, who sponsored the bill. “It really was going to render the underlying bill meaningless.”

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