'Anti-LGBT' Bill Vetoed By Georgia Governor, Large Businesses And Gay Rights Groups Claim Victory

Known by critics as an "anti-LGBT" bill, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal announced today the he will veto House Bill 757. Some say the potential Georgia law unfairly treats gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people.

Speaking at a press conference earlier today announcing his veto, Deal explained his reasons.

"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. I believe it is about the character of our state. And the character of our people."
As reported by ABC News, the Georgia General Assembly approved House Bill 757 less than two weeks ago, with the intention of offering certain protections to religious groups. According to the "religious freedom" bill, the government is prohibited from stepping on the religious rights of an organization or an individual unless it has a substantial reason.

The language of the bill allows clergy members to refuse to provide services, such as performing marriage rites, to anyone that goes against their religious beliefs. The bill goes even further by protecting religious groups and churches who refuse employment to anyone who violates their beliefs.

Opponents of the ant-LGBT bill contend the legislation is a clever way to allow discrimination and void many local ordinances that protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. Since the bill's passage, Deal has faced a groundswell of opposition from both religious conservatives, business interests, and gay rights groups. Both critics and supporters of the legislation used various tactics to persuade Deal to their side.

Numerous companies said if Deal signed the bill, Georgia's reputation as a business-friendly state would be severely damaged. Several businesses, including Atlanta-based Coca-Cola, and sports organizations fear that Georgia will miss out on significant economic opportunities, such as hosting a future Super Bowl.

"It is of great concern to us when something happens that could, in any way, shape or form, damage the brand that Georgia has built for itself, the brand that Atlanta has built for itself," Joseph S. Folz, the vice president and general counsel of Porsche Cars North America.

Many supporters say the measure was necessary since the U.S. Supreme Court recently recognized a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. According to them, the court purposely ignored businesses when the ruling was made last summer.

Both Indiana and North Carolina have managed to pass similar anti-LGBT bills recently. However, after considerable public outcry, Indiana removed some of the harsher provisions of their law.

The largest LGBT civil rights advocacy group, Human Rights Campaign, sent a letter to the Deal warning of a boycott of the state unless the bill was vetoed. Included in the letter were a long list of Hollywood actors who would not work in Georgia should the anti-LGBT bill remain unopposed.

"We pride ourselves on running inclusive companies, and while we have enjoyed a positive partnership on productions in Georgia, we will plan to take our business elsewhere if any legislation sanctioning discrimination is signed into state law," said the letter.

During his announcement, Deal indicated he would have supported the bill had it passed in its original form. Initially, the bill only protected clergy who refused to perform same-sex marriages.

Overriding Governor Deal's veto of the Georgia anti-LGBT bill would take a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate, and it is not likely either chamber has enough votes to undo the governor's decision. Georgia's General Assembly has already adjourned for the year, so lawmakers would have to ask the governor to call a special session, even if they did have enough.

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