— -- Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal said today he will veto the controversial “religious liberty” bill – legislation that critics argued would have prompted legal discrimination against the LGBT community.
If it becomes law, the bill, known as HB757, would allow clergy to refuse to perform marriage rites that violated their religious beliefs. It would also allow churches and religious groups to decline services to someone based on their faith.
Proponents of the bill say it would have protected the religious freedom of those in the faith-based community, including churches, private schools and adoption agencies.
"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," Deal said.
He continued: "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."
Hollywood and major U.S. companies have spoken out against the bill, including the NFL, which said the bill could jeopardize Atlanta's chance to host the Super Bowl.
Last week, Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBT civil rights advocacy group in the nation, submitted a letter to Deal with a long list of Hollywood A-players, including Anne Hathaway and Julianne Moore, that said they won't work in the state unless the bill is vetoed.
HRC President Chad Griffin applauded the governor on his decision to veto the bill.
"Our message to Governor Nathan Deal was loud and clear: this deplorable legislation was bad for his constituents, bad for business, and bad for Georgia’s future," Griffin said in a statement. "Governor Deal heard the voices of Georgians, civil rights organizations, as well as the many leaders in the entertainment industry and private sector who condemned this attack on the fundamental rights of LGBT people."
Griffin also said Deal's decision sets an example for elected officials in North Carolina, where a bill considered by critics to be anti-LGBT passed last week.
The law, approved last week by the state legislature and signed by Gov. Pat McCrory, bans people from using bathrooms that don't match the sex indicated on their birth certificate. It also prevents North Carolina cities and counties from establishing ordinances that extend protections covering sexual orientation and gender identity to restaurants, hotels and stores.
"We hope North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory and the North Carolina General Assembly are paying close attention to what has transpired in Georgia," said Griffin.
Deal explained that the people of Georgia "choose to worship God in the way they see fit ... I believe that is our best side. And our people every day work side by side without regard to the color of their skin of their fellow mate or the religion that their co-worker might adhere to. They are simply trying to make life better for themselves, their families and their communities."
"That is the character of Georgia," Deal noted. "I intend to do my part to keep it that way."