ATLANTA — A bill to open state and university jobs to applicants with any sexual preference died in a House subcommittee Tuesday after a hearing in which all but one witness testified in its favor.
The measure, House Bill 630, was sponsored by Rep. Karla Drenner, D-Avondale Estates. She was the first openly homosexual legislator to serve in the General Assembly when elected 12 years ago. Another of the three openly-gay lawmakers currently serving, Rep. Simone Bell, D-Atlanta, also testified.
Both said the bill would make it possible for them to take jobs as a college professor after retiring from politics.
“The gist of this bill is fairness,” Drenner said. “There is nothing civil about discrimination.”
She noted that 24 states and 13 of Georgia’s local governments already have similar anti-discrimination policies.
A half-dozen witnesses from various groups testified in favor of the bill. Among them was Amanda Studebaker who said gay-rights clubs at 18 Georgia colleges supported the bill, including those at Armstrong Atlantic State University, Augusta State University and the University of Georgia.
“This piece of legislation represents a critical step for us in ensuring the quality and fair treatment of faculty and staff on our campuses,” she said. “It sends the message that one’s sexual orientation or gender identity does not effect one’s ability to contribute to Georgia’s colleges and universities in a meaningful way.”
The lone witness opposed to the bill was Tanya Ditty, state director of Concerned Women of America. She said the bill would erase safeguards against schools hiring child molesters because their sexual preferences could no longer be discriminated against.
“There are people that just want to prey on children, and they would have to be given a job,” she said.
The subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Roger Lane, R-Darien, voted 3-2 along party lines to table the bill and not refer it to the full House Judiciary Committee. While it could be taken off the table for another vote in the next eight legislative days, that is unlikely because the results would almost certainly be the same.
Lane’s subcommittee also voted along the same 3-2 split to recommend the full committee pass HB 861 that would require law enforcement to notify welfare agencies of drug arrests. Welfare recipients who are arrested for drugs would not lose their benefits unless a second test administered by the agency also found drugs.
Lobbyists for social-service advocates complained that the bill would be unfair to recipients, and lobbyists for the state sheriffs and Atlanta Police Department opposed it as a burden that would prevent cops from doing other duties. Atlanta officers made 38,000 arrests, many for drugs, last year alone.