By Jahnvi Upreti
On Monday, March 28, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal announced that he had vetoed the discriminatory bill that would have hindered the rights of Georgia’s LGTBQ community.
The Free Exercise Protection Act, formally known as House Bill (HB) 757, would have allowed religious and faith-based organizations to openly deny their services to people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning.
When questioned about his designs on Monday, Deal stated that he “(did) not think we have to discriminate anyone to protect the faith-based community of Georgia, of which (he) and (his) family have been a part of all of (their) lives.”
Deal received much praise from the LGTBQ community, as stated by Matt McTighe, the executive director for Freedom of All Americans, when he said, “The governor understands that while our freedom of religion is of critical importance, it doesn’t mean there’s a need for harmful exemptions that can lead to discrimination.”
Georgia faced much pressure from the business industry not to pass HB 757, for many of Georgia’s companies and organizations warned that jobs would be unnecessarily lost. AT&T, Bank of America, and hundreds of other companies had protested Georgia’s HB 757, even taking out full-page newspaper advertisements, as reported by the LA Times.
Disney Studios was particularly vocal about their stance on HB 757, NBC News reported. Threatening to cut Georgia as one of their major filming locations, Disney made it clear that they disapproved of the discriminatory act. Georgia would have taken a hit with the loss of Disney, for the state is the main filming site for two of Disney Marvel’s upcoming films: “Captain America: Civil War” and “Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2.”
On the other hand, Georgia Republican Sen. Mike Crane expressed his displeasure with Deal’s veto. As stated by CNN, Crane called for a special session in order to override the veto, believing it is an example of how “corporations and lobbyists buy influence with political class.” Crane is looked for a three-fifths majority in the House and Senate, which is the requirement to conduct a special session, and an override requires a two-thirds majority in both chambers. CNN reported that the bill lacked just one vote in the Senate and 16 in the House necessary to veto the bill.
According to a poll conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute, Georgians are almost evenly divided on the issue. The poll also notes that about two-thirds of Georgians desire laws that protect the LGBTQ community from discrimination in the workforce, according to the LA Times.
HB 757 follows the implementation of South Carolina’s bill, also noted to be discriminatory against the LGBTQ community. Though people are actively petitioning the government of South Carolina to call on a judge to view the bill as unconstitutional, many businesses in South Carolina have also expressed their displeasure with the new law.
CNN notes that a number of Christian and Evangelical organizations are vocally expressing their outrage. Timothy Head, executive director of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, issued a statement defending the bill, saying it “simply protects pastors, churches and faith-based organizations from being forced to violate their religious beliefs. … We are confident we will ultimately prevail in protecting the free speech and religious expression of all Georgians.”
Deal, however, stands firm in his decision, which he stated to CNN, was “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. … I intend to do my part to keep it that way. For that reason I (have vetoed) House Bill 757.”