Temple Sinai member Andy Bauman, who represents Sandy Springs’ 6th District on the City Council, is proud of the decade-old city’s record of nondiscrimination, and he doesn’t want to see that position change in light of House Bill 757, the religious liberty legislation the Georgia General Assembly last week sent to Gov. Nathan Deal.
H.B. 757 is “a thinly veiled and shameful attempt to sanction discrimination,” Bauman said in a statement Monday, March 21.
In addition to joining calls from business leaders, rabbis and the LGBT community for Deal to veto the bill on the grounds that it would legalize discrimination on religious grounds, Bauman called for Sandy Springs to adopt a formal policy prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and promoting equal employment opportunity.
The policy would apply to the city government, all contractors and organizations doing business with or on behalf of the city, and organizations wishing to use city property, from parks and recreation facilities to the under-construction performing arts center.
“This is not just a moral and legal issue, it is an economic imperative,” the statement reads. “Economic Development is one of our City’s adopted priorities, and I am proud Sandy Springs is home to many Fortune 500 and multi-national corporations. These companies have brought thousands of jobs and prestige to our City and many, if not most, have policies that speak unambiguously against any form of discrimination. We owe it to the business community to stand with them in support of those values.”
Bauman praised Reps. Joe Wilkinson, who represents Sandy Springs, and Beth Beskin, whose Buckhead district borders Sandy Springs, for being among the few Republicans who voted no on H.B. 757. He also called for all legislative candidates to declare their positions on the measure before the May 24 primaries.
The state legislation includes a nondiscrimination clause, but it applies only to classes protected under state and federal laws, which don’t cover sexual orientation or identification. By not mentioning local ordinances, H.B. 757 would appear to override city and county measures that protect LGBT people.
In a subsequent email message to constituents, Bauman noted that Sandy Springs’ employment application does recognize sexual orientation as a protected area, but no city ordinance or policy supports that stance or extends that protection to city contractors.
“We are an open and tolerant community and I believe that formally adopting these policies is entirely consistent with our community values,” he said.
Bauman’s policy statement came about a little more than an hour before the Buckhead Coalition, the business group led by Atlanta’s only Jewish mayor, Sam Massell, issued its own plea for Deal to veto H.B. 757:
“The Buckhead Coalition is a nonprofit membership of 100 men and women from the ranks of chief executive officers of leading area businesses. It has respect for all who strive to theologically protect diversity in religion.
“However, we empathize with the many fearful of potential discrimination the “Religious Liberty” HB 757 Georgia Legislation could cause. Thus we endorse its opposition recorded by both the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and The Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, and over 400 other organizations in our State.”