The US state of Georgia could lose out on hosting the Superbowl if its Governor signs an anti-gay ‘religious freedom’ bill.
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.
And now the NFL has weighed in, issuing a statement saying it may pass over the state to host the Superbowl, should Governor Nathan Deal sign the bill.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said: “NFL policies emphasise tolerance and inclusiveness, and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard. Whether the laws and regulations of a state and local community are consistent with these policies would be one of many factors NFL owners may use to evaluate potential Super Bowl host sites.”
That could be a blow for Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, who said last month: “The bid that we put together is a very, very competitive one… Not just because of the stadium, but because of where the stadium is located in downtown Atlanta.”
But Blank is the latest businessman to condemn HB 757, as he this week spoke out against it, joining $4 billion Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, and other business leaders who have also condemned it.
“I strongly believe a diverse, inclusive and welcoming Georgia is critical to our citizens and the millions of visitors coming to enjoy all that our great state has to offer,” Blank said in a statement Friday.
“House Bill 757 undermines these principles and would have long-lasting negative impact on our state and the people of Georgia.”
However, the situation may be more fraught than meets the eye.
The Governor earlier this month suggested he was against signing the bill.
Deal used bible verse to make his point, saying: “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.”
Despite his strong message, the revised version of the bill was still passed by both the House and Senate in the state on Wednesday.