Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) announced Monday morning that he will veto the “religious liberty” bill passed by the state legislature, which critics said would legally sanction discrimination against gay couples and which set off a firestorm of disapproval from the business community.
Deal’s action also provides a strong contrast with the developments last week in North Carolina, where Gov. Patrick McCrory (R) signed a bill from his state legislature overruling all local government anti-discrimination ordinances for the LGBT community, and forbidding transgender people from using the public restrooms that match their identities. North Carolina’s new law is now being challenged in court.
At his announcement, Deal discussed the outcomes that the bill was meant by its supporters to protect against, such as forcing a clergyman to officiate a same-sex wedding, or a business to cater at it.
“While most people would agree that these are things that government should not interfere with, I am not aware of a single instance of any of those things occurring in the state of Georgia,” Deal said. “If they have, nobody has called them to my attention.”
Deal said that high-profile stories from other states, such as bakers being fined for refusing to take part in weddings, occurred in states that also had religious-liberty laws — but those states also had other human rights laws and commissions that Georgia does not, which made the difference.
Deal also spoke at some length on the difficulties of enumerating specific rights of religious practice, rather than relying on the simple and general protections of the First Amendment. Such specificity, he said, “can lead to discrimination — even though it may be completely unintentional.”
Many high-profile corporations had threatened to take business out of the state if the bill had passed — most notably a big list of Hollywood movie studios and performers, such as Disney and the filming of its Marvel superhero movies.
Deal said that he did not appreciate or respond well to threats — but he said, his decision was about a greater issue: “I believe it is about the character of our state, and the character of our people. Georgia is a welcoming state. It is full of loving, kind, and generous people.”