Parliament adopted anti-discrimination bill with 112 votes to 0 with its second reading on May 1.
Although the text has been amended since it was passed with its first reading, lawmakers refused to remove “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” from the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination - striking off these terms from the bill was a demand of the Georgian Orthodox Church.
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The Georgian Dream parliamentary majority group also refused to introduce those amendments, which were pushed by human rights organizations to, as they insisted, provide efficient implementation mechanisms.
Discussion of the bill with its second reading at the parliamentary session was preceded by a two-hour meeting of two senior GD lawmakers – Manana Kobakhidze and Eka Beselia, with several Orthodox clerics; meanwhile outside the Parliament in Kutaisi an Orthodox group was holding a protest rally against the bill, calling it “legalization of deadly sin”. The meeting, as MPs put it, aimed at explaining to the Orthodox priests that contrary to their claims, the bill was not about “propaganda of homosexuality.”
After that meeting a wording “public moral” was introduced in the bill. Part two of article 2 of the bill defines “direct discrimination” as a treatment based on any of the grounds of discrimination wherein a person is placed in less favorable position than other persons in a comparable situation; but it also says that it cannot be the case in a situation when such treatment “serves legitimate cause and is required in a democratic society.” This part was amended to also add that it cannot either be the case when such treatment serves the cause envisaged by the law “for the protection of public order and moral.” “Insult of public moral” is an offense under Georgia’s code of administrative offenses, but it does not provide a definition what precisely “public moral” means.
During the discussions UNM lawmakers, who voted for the bill, spoke out against inclusion of “public moral” wording in the legislation.
In other changes, the bill says that this legislation applies to the conduct of all the state bodies, as well as legal entities and individuals in all the areas, but it will no longer specify the list of these areas.
The bill no longer includes a clause in which “creation of hostile, intimidating, humiliating… environment” for a person or group of persons on any ground of discrimination was also defined as a form of discrimination. Citing that this wording was vague, GD lawmakers removed it from the bill “to avoid double interpretation”.
GD lawmakers voted down an amendment, which was pushed by human rights organizations and formally initiated for voting by the UNM parliamentary minority group. Human rights groups have been insisting on introduction of efficient implementation mechanisms, as well as financial penalties for those responsible for cases of discrimination.
The Parliament is expected to discuss and adopt the bill with its third and final reading on Friday.