Republican legislators in Georgia are following their counterparts’ lead in Arizona and proposing a law that would force President Obama and all other future presidential candidates to prove their citizenship before being registered to run in the state.
But in a strange twist, state Rep. Mark Hatfield, the lead sponsor of the bill, says he’s not a a believer in the “birther” theory even though he believes — contrary to available evidence — that the public has never been provided with proper documentation of the president’s place of birth.
Under Hatfield’s legislation, each presidential candidate running in Georgia to file an affidavit swearing that the candidate is a natural born citizen of the United States, reports Jim Galloway at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The move comes days after Arizona’s House passed a similar amendment which, according to the Arizona Republic, was inspired by the “birther” movement that believes President Obama is not entitled to hold the office of president because he wasn’t born in the United States.
That claim is widely believed to have been disproved by Obama’s home state of Hawaii, which has repeatedly asserted the legitimacy of Obama’s birth certificate.
“In view of all the uncertainty and all the disagreement about any proof of citizenship of the current president, I believe that no citizen should ever have any doubts about the citizenship of the highest elected official of the land,” Hatfield said, as quoted at NBC channel 11 in Atlanta. “I don’t think that the American people have been given any adequate documentation of the President’s citizenship.”
But when asked by channel 11 if he considered himself a birther, Hatfield said, “No, I wouldn’t say that at all. I’m simply a citizen who is concerned, to make sure that the Constitution is upheld and enforced.”
“So you don’t know one way or the other whether he is a citizen of the United States?” reporter John Shirek asked.
“Well, of course not,” Hatfield replied. “I have not been given any sort of proof, one way or the other.”
According to the AJC, the Georgia bill “is sponsored by some of the most conservative Republicans in the [state] House.”
But the bill is unlikely to become law this year, notes the Associated Press, because there are only two days left in the current Georgia legislative session. The bill will likely be reintroduced in January.
Hatfield’s legislation has come under criticism from some corners of the state capitol and the press.
“Obviously he’s taking a shot at the current President of the United States,” Democratic House Minority Leader DuBose Porter told channel 11.
And Cynthia Tucker at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes that the legislation comes “just when I thought ultra-conservative Republicans couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t do more to consign themselves to the incredible fringe.”
Tucker writes that moderate Republicans are growing increasingly worried about fringe ideas percolating into the GOP mainstream, noting that former Bush press secretary Dana Perino has come out strongly against the “birther” bills.
Besides Georgia and Arizona, a handful of other states have proposed similar proof-of-birth legislation, though only in Arizona has it passed a legislative body. A similar bill introduced in the US House and backed by 11 Republicans is not expected to succeed.
Despite the state of Hawaii’s assertion that the matter is closed, a recent poll finds that only 58 percent of Americans say Obama was born in the US. Twenty-three percent say they don’t know, and 20 percent say he was born in another country.