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Georgia Senate introduces new religious freedom bill

The bill revives a divisive controversy that has roiled the Capitol for the last two years.

Aerial images of the Georgia State Capitol. January 2017

ATLANTA -- Georgia senators have introduced a new religious freedom bill.

SB 233 cites the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed by Congress in 1993 "and shall in like manner apply to this state or any political subdivision thereof." The bill mirrors a controversial bill introduced in 2015 by Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus), "just an even tighter mirroring by simply citing to the federal language," McKoon said in a text message.

McKoon is one of more than a dozen Republicans co-sponsoring the bill.

House Speaker David Ralston has expressed a desire to allow Congress to handle religious freedom issues now that Republicans control the Congress and White House.

Over the last two years, religious freedom has roiled the Capitol. Last year, Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed a religious freedom bill after Georgia business leaders raised concerns about losing jobs and business. Gay rights activists have contended that religious freedom bills would encourage discrimination against the LGBT community.