Doug Richards, Four religious freedom bills in Georgia, WXIA

There are four bills in the legislature – and maybe more coming – designed to protect religious freedom.  And the parade of bills concerns gay rights groups.  Critics say the bills overlap to allow discrimination based on sexual orientation – and more.

State senator Greg Kirk says that people who don’t believe in same sex marriage need to be protected from discrimination.

“It’s my opinion that millions of Georgians still hold to the traditional view of marriage that it is between a man and a woman,” Kirk said Thursday.  “And I definitely want to protect them.”

Kirk’s bill is one of four religious freedom bills floating through the Capitol this election year.  He calls it the First Amendment Defense Act.

It joins a list that started with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which allows religious exemptions from government rules.

There’s also a bill called the Pastor Protection Act – which would allow clergy to bow out of performing gay marriages.

And a bill that could be called the “florist protection act” — which would allow contractors like florists to decline to do business with gay weddings.

“Individual members of the clergy have always had the right to say which couples they will and will not marry,” said Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality.

Critics worry that so many bills invoking religious freedom will muddle the potential consequences.

“I don’t know that there is an emergency situation that we need to rush to pass legislation around,” Graham said. “It’s a process that has frankly gotten out of hand. And bad things can happen.”

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