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Georgia Governor Vetoes ‘Religious Liberty’ Bill After Pressure from Businesses and Hollywood

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You may have noticed a Georgia peach during the end credits of several of your favorite TV shows. Over the years, the state has become a hot spot for shooting TV and film thanks to the tax breaks the state provides. Blockbuster shows like The Walking Dead and films like The Hunger Games franchise have all poured money into the state. So, when Hollywood companies threaten to take business out of Georgia if its state government passes an anti-LGBTQIA bill disguised as a “religious liberty” bill, it’s not a threat that can be taken lightly.

Georgia governor Nathan Deal, under pressure from all sides of House Bill 757, has vetoed it. The bill read, in part:

A BILL to be entitled an Act to protect religious freedoms; to amend Chapter 3 of Title 19 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to marriage generally, so as to provide that religious officials shall not be required to perform marriage ceremonies in violation of their legal right to free exercise of religion; to amend Chapter 1 of Title 10 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to selling and other trade practices, so as to change certain provisions relating to days of rest for employees of business and industry; to protect property owners which are religious institutions against infringement of religious freedom; to define a term; to provide an effective date; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes.

Um…did they not know that religious institutions already have the right to marry or not marry whomever they want? And I love how they snuck in “to repeal conflicting laws” trying to undo any progress made in other laws. Isn’t that cute?

Anyway, Governor Deal – a Republican, mind you! – vetoed the bill. It actually makes sense that a Republican vetoed the bill. Deal understands that actively discriminating against marginalized communities has nothing to do with protecting religious freedom. What’s more, he built his entire platform on supporting business in the state. He’d hardly be doing that if he allowed companies like Disney, Time Warner, Netflix, CBS, Fox, Sony Pictures, Amblin Partners, NBCUniversal, Discovery, Open Road Films, The Weinstein Company, Lionsgate, MGM, AMC, and Tyler Perry Studios (which is based in Atlanta) to leave, in addition to the NFL (who threatened not considering Georgia for future Super Bowls), and Coca-Cola.

However, Deal insists that his decision is not the product of threats from either side, nor does he “respond well” to threats or insults. According to Deadline Hollywood, here’s what Deal said in a speech earlier this morning:

HB 757 enumerates certain actions that religious leaders, faith-based organizations and people of faith shall not be required to take or perform. These include solemnizing a marriage, attending such marriages, hiring church personnel or renting church property when such acts would be contrary to their sincerely held religious beliefs. While most people would agree that government should not force such actions, there has not been a single instance of such taking place in Georgia.

[…]

In light of our history, I find it ironic that today some in the religious community feel it necessary to ask government to confer upon them certain rights and protections. If indeed our religious liberty is conferred by God and not by man-made government, we should need the “hands-off” admonition of the First Amendment to our Constitution. When legislative bodies attempt to do otherwise, the inclusions and omissions in their statues can lead to discrimination, even though it may be unintentional. That is too great a risk to take.

[…]

As I’ve said before, 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. Our actions on HB 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. Georgia is a welcoming state filled with warm, friendly and loving 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.

Now, if only North Carolina had a governor that saw things this clearly and reasonably.

(via AJC.com, image via Georgia.org)

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