A proposed amendment to a long-standing Georgia bill that would make it illegal for women to wear hijabs in public has been withdrawn.
The current law in question was initially established in 1951 to prohibit Ku Klux Klan members from wearing their hoods in public and explicitly states: “A person is guilty of a misdemeanor when he wears a mask, hood, or device by which any portion of the face is so hidden, concealed or covered as to conceal the identity of the wearer and is upon any public way or public property or upon the private property of another without the written permission of the owner or occupier of the property to do so.”
In an attempt to revise the gender-specific law to include women, Republican State Representative Jason Spencer recently proposed the language be amended to read as follows in House Bill 3: “a person is guilty of a misdemeanor when he or she wears a mask, hood.” If Rep. Spencer’s proposal was accepted, it would effectively become illegal for coverings such as hijabs, burqas, or niqabs to be worn in public as well, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. The proposed revision would also make it illegal for women to wear the coverings in government issued photo IDs and while operating any motor vehicle.
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Naturally, news of the openly discriminatory proposed amendment sparked widespread outrage among both Muslim and non-Muslim communities. “We have a new president, but not a new Constitution,” Edward Ahmed Mitchell of the Georgia Council on American-Islamic relations said. “The bill is unnecessary and unconstitutional, and we intend to oppose it if it goes forward.”
In response to the barrage of opposing responses, Rep. Spencer announced on Thursday that he would withdraw the bill. “After further consideration, I have decided to not pursue HB 3 in the upcoming 2017 legislative session due to the visceral reaction it has created,” Spencer said in a statement. “While this bill does not contain language that specifically targets any group, I am mindful of the perception that it has created. My objective was to address radical elements that could pose a threat to public safety.”