Shannon Clawson, lobbyist for Georgia Equality, told Oconee County Democrats last month that her group had a mixed record during the 2019 Georgia legislative session.
Clawson pointed to passage of a number of bills that she said served the interests of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities of the state.
She included among the successes passage of a bill sponsored by Oconee County Representative Houston Gaines making it possible for “syringe services” programs to distribute syringes or needles without civil or criminal liability.
Clawson cited as a serious setback passage of House Bill 481, the so-called “heartbeat bill,” that defines an unborn child as a human being and makes abortion illegal in the state after about six weeks of pregnancy, except in the cases of rape and incest.
Gaines, along with Oconee County’s other representative, Marcus Wiedower, voted for that bill, as did the county’s senator, Bill Cowsert. All are Republicans, and the bill passed the House by only two votes.
Clawson was the featured speaker at the Oconee County Democrat’s monthly meeting.
The group is scheduled to meet at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday at the Oconee County Chamber of Commerce in Watkinsville, where the featured speakers will be Superior Court Judge Lisa Lott and Jimmy Williamson, who has announced his plans to run for Oconee County Sheriff.
In her nearly hour-long presentation, Clawson reviewed legislation her group supported and bills it sought, sometimes successfully, to keep from making it to the floor of the House or Senate for a vote.
|Shannon Clawson From Georgia Equality|
Clawson, who is statewide outreach coordinator for Georgia Equality, spoke on June 16 at the Chamber of Commerce in Watkinsville. Only 11 people were in attendance.
Georgia Equality has as its mission the advancement of fairness, safety and opportunity for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities in the state. The group works to pass pro-equalilty legislation and elect “fair-minded” officials.
Clawson said she was pleased to review the work of her group from the 2019 session.
“This is the first year we really actually got some stuff done instead of just stop the bad stuff,” Clawson said. “It’s really exciting.”
Clawson said the state has about 300,000 LGBT adults, with about 58,000 children in that classification.
The group works with both parties, she said.
It also continues its work once the session is completed and is now trying to help shape how the waivers that Georgia is seeking for Medicaid expansion are written.
Clawson said her group did not take the lead in opposing HB 481 but voiced it opposition for two reasons.
“Just because you’re LGBT doesn’t mean that you can’t get pregnant or that you don’t need reproductive healthcare,” she said.
“The other is that it’s about bodily autonomy,” she said. “That is how we conceptually understand it.”
The bill is “trying to control medical decisions that are made by a doctor and a patient,” Clawson said. Her group’s view is that “the state really doesn’t have a role in that.”
“That very much is in line with our position on trans rights,” she said. “You have the right to make the decision with your doctors around hormones and surgery and all those kinds of things without the interference of the state.”
Georgia Equality sought a ban on the use of “conversion therapy” for children and minors through House Bill 580, which was introduced with six sponsors and referred to the Regulated Industries Committee.
Clawson said the bill did not make it out of Committee but did receive a positive response. She is optimistic about its future.
Clawson said her group worked for passage of Gaines’ HB 217, which makes it legal for people to run syringe service programs.
The bill exempts from state prohibitions on selling, lending, leasing or distributing a “hypodermic syringe or needle designed or marketed primarily for human use” those individuals “employed by or acting as an agent of a registered syringe services program.”
“The opioid crisis is here, it is happening,” Clawson said. “2018 really changed people’s perceptions of what constituents really care about, and how they feel about things, and we’ve seen a lot more flexibility and openness than we have in the legislature in a decade.”
Clawson’s commented on a long list of bills, including House Bill 19, which she referred to as a comprehensive civil rights bill, and Senate Bill 221, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
She said there wasn’t much action on the former, which did not make it out of the House Judiciary Committee, but she said she will continue to push for it in the future.
Clawson said her group will be “ever vigilant” on the Religious Freedom Bill, which did not make it out of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Clawson’s comments begin at 7:57 in the video below.