The Governor of Georgia appears to have signalled that he is against signing a ‘religious freedom’ bill which would allow anti-LGBT discrimination.
HB 757 has been widely condemned, but last month passed unanimously in the House of Representatives 161-0.
Originally intended to protect pastors who refuse to perform same-sex weddings, the bill has now passed in the House again by 104-65, after extra “protections” were added, meaning businesses and employees could discriminate against LGBT people.
It has been pointed out by human rights groups, that the bill would even allow hospitals to refuse necessary treatment to people based on their race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity.
Now Republican Governor Nathan Deal has suggested he is against signing the bill.
Speaking to reporters, he said: “We do not have a belief, in my way of looking at religion, that says that we have to discriminate against anybody.”
“I think what the New Testament teaches us,” he continued “is that Jesus reached out to those who were considered outcasts.”
“I don’t think that we have to have anything that allows discrimination in our state in order to protect people of faith,” the governor went on.
The governor’s spokeswoman Jen Talaber Ryan tweeted that Deal “has been clear as to his position on this issue and will assess the legislation in April.”
Despite his strong message, the revised version of the bill was still passed by both the House and Senate in the state on Wednesday.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, the new provisions in HB 757 could “undermine local non-discrimination ordinances that protect LGBT people, permit hospitals to refuse to provide medically necessary care, or allow a taxpayer-funded service provider to discriminate by denying a job because of the applicant’s religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity.”
“Members of the Georgia House are so blindly devoted to discrimination against LGBT people that they’ve not only ignored weeks of warnings from some of Georgia’s largest employers and faith leaders, but tens of thousands of everyday Georgians who have spoken out against this bill,” said HRC President Chad Griffin.
“We all know how this story ends, even if members of the Georgia House do not. When Indiana Gov. Mike Pence went down this road in Indiana, the backlash was swift and severe from businesses who rightly understood that religious liberty is already protected by the First Amendment. If the Georgia Senate doesn’t immediately stop this reckless and irresponsible bill in its tracks, Gov. Deal should veto it.”
“Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen an unprecedented chorus of unexpected allies come together to speak out against HB 757, the License to Discriminate. Conservatives, legal experts, people of faith, businesses and more than 75,000 Georgians expressed their strong opposition to legislation which threatens our state’s economy and reputation, and which very clearly singles out LGBT people and others for harm,” said Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality.
“It’s shameful that lawmakers in the House ignored this feedback and, rather than taking steps to mitigate any potential fallout, actually made a bad bill worse.”
The bill has been compared to other ‘Religious Freedom Restoration Acts’ (RFRA), particularly one which passed in Indiana last year to huge controversy.