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Atlanta bid for Amazon HQ2 gets new political problem: Georgia adoption bill

Key Points
  • Georgia's Senate passed a bill allowing adoption agencies funded by taxes to discriminate based on religious beliefs.
  • LGBTQ advocates say the bill is designed to stop same-sex couples from adopting.
  • More than half of the Amazon HQ2 finalist cities are in states that lack LGBTQ discrimination laws.
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Georgia's Senate passed a bill Friday that won't necessarily help Atlanta's chances of landing Amazon HQ2, the second North American headquarters for the technology giant that 20 metro areas are vying for with a decision expected from Amazon by year end.

The Georgia bill, called Senate Bill 375, or the "Keep Faith in Adoption and Foster Care Act," allows adoption agencies funded by tax dollars to decline referrals if doing so would violate "sincerely held religious beliefs."

The bill's sponsors claim it will encourage more adoption agencies to open in Georgia, but opponents argue it is nothing more than a way to discriminate against same-sex couples looking to adopt or provide foster care. The bill would also allow agencies to deny services to LGBTQ youth.

"Senate Bill 375 is a dangerous step backward that would codify permission to discriminate against the LGBTQ community into Georgia state law," said Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD, in a statement. "This bill is not about freedom of religion, which is one of our nation's fundamental values, but rather about imposing one's personal religious beliefs on others to discriminate against loving foster or adoptive parents simply because of their identity and deny services to LGBTQ youth."

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The bill now heads to the Georgia House.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed a bill in 2016 that would have allowed faith-based organizations to discriminate based on religious beliefs.

Amazon, a company known for its progressive nature, includes "cultural community fit" in its list of factors for deciding on HQ2. Georgia already lacks nondiscrimination laws for LBGTQ citizens.

The City of Atlanta's Office of the Mayor declined comment. The city does have a record of support for the LGBTQ community and earned its fifth-consecutive perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign Municipal Equality Index in 2017. Atlanta was the only city in Georgia to receive a perfect score on the index.

An Amazon spokesman declined to comment but referred to the requirements cited by the company in its Request for Proposal for cultural community fit. The RFP states, "This includes the presence and support of a diverse population, excellent institutions of higher education, local government structure and elected officials eager and willing to work with the company, among other attributes."

More than half of the 20 metro areas in the running for Amazon HQ2 are in states that lack LGBTQ nondiscrimination laws. Critics say that is reason enough to compel Amazon to not select any of those cities, even if they are blue cities in red states. Others, even some LGBTQ advocacy groups, argue that bringing Amazon into one of these states could lead to the development of a more progressive population and politics.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings conceded to CNBC in an interview earlier this year that it is among the Amazon HQ2 finalist cities with a "blue city in a red state" problem.

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