Whether it be the busy bustling streets of Atlanta, the joy of the Coca-Cola Museum, or seeing the terrain displayed during the hit show The Walking Dead, Georgia has forever held a special place in my heart. During the past few decades, many television and movies have decided to film their work in Georgia. Atlanta, specifically has turned into a massive hub for the entertainment industry. When it was decided that I was going to be majoring in Mass Communications and Journalism, the subject of moving to Atlanta to further pursue my career came up again and again.

Growing up, Atlanta sort of felt like a symbol of freedom and liberalism. Cities like San Francisco, Seattle, New York, and Los Angeles have always been a goal for me. I have always held them to be the epitome of success and liberation. The cities never sleep, their streets forever bustling with the minds of youthful individuals who are full of dreams and spirit. Los Angeles, though it has forever been a dream of mine, a longing thought I have held within myself practically since I was born, however, the city of Atlanta always seemed a bit more practical.

Being born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama, I was always only about two hours away from Atlanta. In a way, Georgia was always sort of a home away from home. Every time as I went through Georgia I was reminded of all the memories that this state held. Whether it be day trips to Six Flags, an adventure to the Atlanta Aquarium, or a venture into the Amazing World of Coca-Cola, it was evident to me that this state was a place I could see myself claiming as my own. The news that I read this past weekend was one that shocked me. It forever changed the way I view this state and the dreams I hold for myself in the future.

Recently, Georgia has passed legislation to discriminate against LGBT couples. The adoption process for same-sex couples can already be an exceedingly difficult one and the legislation passed by Georgia Senate has now made it a thousand times harder. Georgia was one of the few states who still did not have same-sex marriage legalized when marriage equality was granted nationwide under the Obama administration. Many of the states who refused to recognize these couples were located in the south.

Our very own Roy Moore made the announcement that even though we were a part of the fifty states in the US, Alabama would not be recognizing same-sex couples. I watched in horror as I expected him to be chosen as our next Senator. For me, the choice that we made as a state to put Doug Jones in our seat of Senate as opposed to Roy Moore who had been removed from his seat twice, not to mention his rape and pedophile allegations, was certainly a step in the right direction for the people of Alabama as well as the south as a whole.

The world was watching when Doug Jones was nominated. When this event occured, I can not describe the hope that was restored within me. I felt we might be taken seriously for once. Maybe the south would no longer be viewed as the gun toting, tobacco chewing, far right wing rednecks that we are so often labeled to me. I hate this label, this small corner we are often shoved into by the rest of the world.

However, as much as I hate it, legislature such as the one passed by Georgia only furthers such narratives. If we ever want to escape the labels of homophobia, racism, and misogyny that have been put upon us, we must fight with all we have against this sort of legislature. Queer people and the LGBTQ community are not going anywhere no matter how hard our government tries to plot against us.

All eyes are on Georgia now, seeing if they decide to take steps back in history. We have advanced so much in the past few years. Just in these past few weeks the world watched as our nation was represented by people like Adam Rippon and Gus Kenworthy who proudly represented more than just our country. They were skiing and skating for the LGBTQ community and every nation in the world saw that.

To come into a competition as grave as the Olympics preaching for love and tolerance then pass legislature that spits in the face in the face of equality, pins the label of hypocrisy on our nation. We claim to stand by our minorities on award shows, Olympic events, and a variety of public platforms, but then allow our country to pass discriminatory legislation against its weakest people. In this day and age, attacks are being made of LGBTQ individuals time after time after time. This legislature should be seen as nothing less than that, an attack on an American minority and a discriminatory legislation against loving couples who want to start a family and help foster a child. Children need families and one thing that can be stated as a fact is that family is not a one size fits all issue.

My own is perhaps untraditional, a loud fat Italian family who adopted a child of their own. My eldest brother, who was adopted at five years old held no care if he had a mother, father, and a traditional home. What he wanted was to be taken out of the orphanage and placed into a home that loved him. He got nothing short of that. Although my own family is what society deems “traditional” in some ways, we are a mostly right-wing Christian family who attended church every Sunday and often took great pride in living in the “Bible Belt,” I can say with great assurance that my older brother would have given no care either way. He wanted a place to live and people to love. That kind of comfort does not know any tradition, gender, or religion.

That kind of comfort simply comes from a unit of people who hold love within them.

My brother did not object to the loud, outrageous Italian family who he grew to call his own, nor would he have objected to two loving mothers or fathers who took him in either. Love is love. Family is family. These are both three words I can say as facts. It’s time for Georgia as well as many other states who seem to be stuck in the past to realize this. You’re better than this, Georgia, really and truly you are. The state I knew was full of love and laughter, not legislation of bigotry.

Do better.