Gov. Nathan Deal announced he will veto a controversial ‘religious liberty’ bill that was widely denounced as discriminatory by the business community and gay rights groups.
In a news release from Deal’s office:
“HB 757 appeared in several forms during the 2016 legislative session,” said Deal. “I had no objection to the ‘Pastor Protection Act’ that was passed by the House of Representatives. The other versions of the bill, however, contained language that could give rise to state-sanctioned discrimination. I did have problems with that and made my concerns known as did many other individuals and organizations, including some within the faith-based community.
“I appreciate the efforts of the General Assembly to address these concerns and my actions today in no way disparage their motivations on those who support this bill. Their efforts to purge this bill of any possibility that it will allow or encourage discrimination illustrates how difficult it is to legislate on something that is best left to the broad protections of the First Amendment to the United State Constitution. If indeed our religious liberty is conferred by God and not by the man-made government, we should heed the ‘hands-off’ admonition of the First Amendment to our Constitution. When legislative bodies attempt to do otherwise, the inclusions and omissions in their statutes can lead to discrimination, even though it may be unintentional. That is too great a risk to take.
“Some of those in the religious community who support this bill have resorted to insults that question my moral convictions and my character. Some within the business community who oppose this bill have resorted to threats of withdrawing jobs from our state. I do not respond well to insults or threats. The people of Georgia deserve a leader who will made sound judgments based on solid reasons that are not inflamed by emotion. That is what I intend to do. As I’ve said before, I do not think we have to discriminate against anyone to protect the faith-based community in Georgia, of which my family and I have been a part of for all of our lives. My decision regarding HB 757 is not just about protecting the faith-based community or providing a business friendly climate for job growth in Georgia.
“This is about the character of our state and the character of its people. Georgia is a welcoming state filled with warm, friendly and loving people. Our cities and countryside are populated with people who worship God in a myriad of ways and in very diverse settings. Our people work side by side without regard to the color of our skin or the religion we adhere to. We are working to make life better for our families and our communities. That is the character of Georgia. I intend to do my part to keep it that way.”
The veto followed the end of Georgia’s legislative session that wrapped up last week. Deal and his top business recruiter have been inundated with calls about the bill.
Top employers and other groups, such as Disney and Marvel Studios, have called on Deal to kill the bill.
The reaction on social media and elsewhere — both for and against Deal’s decision — was fast.
@benioff: Thank you to everyone who made today possible. A day of equality for all. Thank you
@craigzadan :GEORGIA GOVERNOR TO VETO ANTI-GAY BILL!. Thank you everyone who stood up & protested in support of LGBT citizens. Your voices were heard.
Other groups issued statements:
“We applaud Governor Deal for his courage in vetoing HB 757. In doing so, the Governor confirmed that there is no place in Georgia for legislation perceived as allowing for discrimination. His thoughtful deliberation and consideration on this issue has led to an outcome that preserves Georgia’s positive business climate, encourages job growth and sustains our quality of life, and is truly in the best interest of all Georgians. Governor Deal has made it clear that Georgians value both our rich faith traditions and our place as a global destination for businesses and visitors alike. We share his vision of Georgia as an inclusive, welcoming state and support his decision in this important debate.” – Metro Atlanta Chamber
“ACVB thanks Governor Deal for his deliberate and swift action on HB 757,” Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau President and CEO William Pate said in a statement. “His decision will sustain Georgia’s position as the No. 1 state in which to do business and will benefit all Georgians for years to come.”
“Salesforce applauds Governor Deal’s decision to veto HB 757. We look forward to growing both our team and investments in Georgia—including hosting thousands of customers, partners and employees at our Salesforce Connections event in Atlanta on May 10-12th.” — California-based Technology company Salesforce
“The Georgia Chamber agrees with Governor Deal’s thoughtful reasoning to veto HB757. While we thank members of the General Assembly for their efforts to find a balanced approach, we believe this action ensures that Georgia continues to be a welcoming state to live and do business.” — Georgia Chamber of Commerce Board Chairman Hank Linginfelter