As an expansive religious-liberty bill moved through Georgia’s Republican-dominated state legislature this winter, Governor Nathan Deal found himself caught in a pitched battle over gay rights, with conservative evangelicals on one side and major corporations on the other.
On Monday, he sided with big business by announcing he would veto legislation that he said could lead to state-sanctioned discrimination against gay people. “I do not think we have to discriminate against anyone to protect the faith based community in Georgia of which my family and I are a part of for all of our lives,” Deal, a Republican, said at a news conference declaring his decision. “Our actions on H.B. 757 are 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.”
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 governor’s rejection of the bill is the latest twist in a war over religious liberty and gay rights that has played out in conservative states during the nine months since the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. Public outcries followed similar efforts last year in Indiana and Arkansas to pass legislation that would allow pastors and vendors to cite religious objections in denying services to gay couples.