Georgia Gov. to Veto ‘Religious Freedom’ Bill

     (CN) – Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal announced Monday he will veto the state’s controversial Free Exercise Protection Act, which critics had attacked as state-mandated discrimination against the LGBT community.
     In a brief statement delivered before reporters Monday morning, Deal said “I do not think that we have to discriminate against anyone to protect the faith based community in Georgia of which I and my family have been a part of for all of our lives.
     “Our actions on House Bill 757 are not just about protecting the faith based community or providing business friendly climate for job growth in Georgia,” he continued, explaining the rationale behind his veto.
     “I believe it is about the character of our state. And the character of our people,” Deal said.
     House Bill 757 was widely seen as the state legislature’s attempt to skirt last year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges in which the court held that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples by both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
     This was because the Georgia bill included language that provided protections to clergy members who refuse to perform marriages for same-sex couples, and it allowed church, other religious groups and faith-based businesses to refuse employment or service to anyone whose lifestyle violated their beliefs.
     The Georgia legislature passed the bill on March 16 and sent it to the governor for his signature. Immediately afterwards, Disney and its Marvel Studios subsidiary said they planned to take their business elsewhere “should any legislation allowing discriminatory practices be signed into law.”
     The Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBT civil rights organization also rebuked the state, sending a letter to Deal signed by a long list of Hollywood actors, actress, filmmakers and writers who also said they’d decline to work in the state unless the bill was vetoed.
     On Monday, Deal said, “Georgia is a welcoming state” that’s full ‘of loving, kind and generous people.”

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