GA senators hold debate in Tifton - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

GA senators hold debate in Tifton

A south Georgia state senator defended his support of religious freedom bills, but said he will not introduce any legislation like that in the upcoming General Assembly session. (Source: WALB) A south Georgia state senator defended his support of religious freedom bills, but said he will not introduce any legislation like that in the upcoming General Assembly session. (Source: WALB)
Senator Greg Kirk (Source: WALB) Senator Greg Kirk (Source: WALB)
Senator Vincent Fort (Source: WALB) Senator Vincent Fort (Source: WALB)
Dozens of people attended the debate, and most seemed most interested in the religious freedom debate. (Source: WALB) Dozens of people attended the debate, and most seemed most interested in the religious freedom debate. (Source: WALB)
Harold Chambers (Source: WALB) Harold Chambers (Source: WALB)
TIFTON, GA (WALB) -

A south Georgia state senator defended his support of religious freedom bills, but said he will not introduce any legislation like that in the upcoming General Assembly session.

Senator Greg Kirk, a conservative Republican from Americus, made a name for himself by introducing a controversial religious liberties bill at the state capitol.

On Thursday night, he debated the merits of that legislation and other issues, with Senator Vincent Fort, a liberal Democrat from Atlanta.

Kirk said he may support new religious freedom measures, but he won't sponsor one after the one bill that passed last year was vetoed by Governor Nathan Deal.

Fort worried new bills could be modeled after a North Carolina law focuses on bathroom use by transgendered people.

He said that would lead to economically disastrous boycotts, but Kirk said that is a legitimate issue.

"I think the transgender person should have some responsibility in it of themselves. If they're going to identify with the opposite sex they're some things that they need to do to earn the right to go that other bathroom for instance a sex change operation," said Kirk.

"You may have it that way where you can require people to use the bathroom of their choice. But you can't receive federal funds and do it. That is the issue," said Fort.

Fort also expressed opposition to the Opportunity School District amendment which would allow the state to take over chronically failing schools.

Kirk said it's not a silver bullet, but he does think it will help.

Both men said they're willing to work together in the next General Assembly session to improve health care access and help rural hospitals.

Dozens of people attended the debate, and most seemed most interested in the religious freedom debate.

Some worried that legislation would legalize discrimination against the LGBT community, but others said the state needs to protect people's religious expression.

"I want to see how they field these questions and how they support our constitution and basically go back to my original point, how are they going to support churches, and preachers and their opinions as they try to support their beliefs based on the bible," said Harold Chambers.

Thursday's debate was the last of four the two senators held around the state to get people talking about important issues.

Copyright 2016 WALB.  All rights reserved.   

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