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Tanner: Bill aims to balance rights
Legislation would allow businesses to reuse to participate in religious ceremonies
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The author of a controversial faith-based bill introduced last week says opponents are not considering both sides of the debate.

"My take is simply this, as a state, we are going to have to have conversation about how to balance rights," Rep. Kevin Tanner, (R-Dawsonville.) "What we're seeing happen is a lot of people want to take one side of the argument and then force those rights to be more important than the other side's rights. Somehow, I think, there has to be a balance."

Dubbed the "Live and Let Live" bill, HB 756 would give business owners the right to refuse service if participation in a religious ceremony, such as a wedding, violated their personal beliefs.

"What it says is that a sole proprietor, a partnership, a corporation that is privately owned ... that they cannot be required to, or forced to, participate in a religious ceremony that they have a conscientious objection to," Tanner said.

He used an example of a bakery owner who knows a young gay couple that buys cakes and cupcakes at his shop on a regular basis.

"But then one day, they come in and want you to bake a cake or cater their wedding," Tanner said. "At that point, this legislation would say you would not be forced to participate in a religious ceremony, like a marriage."

Nothing in the proposed bill would allow the business owner to deny services when a religious ceremony was not involved, according to Tanner.

"I don't think any of us want a situation where people come into eat at (a restaurant) and be told they're not going to serve them," he said. "There's a difference between that and saying ‘I'm a Jewish deli owner and a Muslim family wants me to cater their wedding.'

"There's a difference between going out and participating in a ceremony that I fundamentally don't believe in, forcing me to choose between my livelihood and my personal religious convictions."

Tanner admits the bill may not be the ideal fix, but it's a place to start the conversation.

"This is a conversation we've got to have in an unemotional way. That's what we're trying to do," he said. "I think there's a way to balance that. That's what I'm hoping, even with the controversy, that we will get to."

Tanner believes much of the controversy surrounding the bill is due in part to opponents not reading the entire legislation and firing on emotions sparked by incomplete information on the Internet.

"They make assumptions. They listen to social media on the Internet, but they've really not read the legislation. It's created a lot of controversy because people say it's giving people a license to discriminate," he said.

"In America we're not supposed to discriminate. One is supposed to be able to live their life and be successful, but at the same time, you have the right to have personal convictions that you can exercise. I don't know how we get there, but we have to have the conversation."

The legislation is one of two faith-based bills Tanner introduced last week.

He is also the lead sponsor on a bill that would make clear that a member of the clergy would not be forced to perform a same-sex marriage.

That bill, which Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) has said he would support, is not expected to receive much, if any, opposition.