The Governor of Georgia has opted to veto a bill that would have permitted discrimination against LGBT people.
The state’s Republican-controlled legislature has greenlit HB 757, which would ban the government from taking action against anyone who discriminates against LGBT people – as long as they do so based on a sincerely held “religious or moral conviction”.
The law would apply even in adoption agencies or homeless shelters – which opponents say is a gross violation of human rights.
However, the law was met with resistance from LGBT rights groups in conjunction with major businesses – with Disney among those threatening to boycott the state if the law is enacted. Tyler Perry, whose lucrative film business is based in the state, had also slammed the bill.
After controversy, the state’s Republican Governor Nathan Deal has today confirmed that he will veto the law – blocking it from coming into effect.
Governor Deal said it was “a bill that has generated many feelings, many of them very intense” – but that ultimately he could not allow it to become law.
He said the bill “doesn’t reflect the character of our state or the character of its people” – adding that state legislators had stirred controversy when safeguarding religious freedom is already secured under “the broad protections of the First Amendment”.
The news has been met warmly by LGBT groups – amid a national backdrop of similar anti-LGBT laws that are making it onto the books. It has been alleged that Republicans are leading a concerted national effort to undermine LGBT rights with the laws – many of which also ban anti-discrimination protections.
Deal concluded: “Georgia is a welcoming state. It is full of loving, kind and generous people – and that is what we should want.”
Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin told PinkNews in a statement: “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.
“Today, 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, and he has set an example for other elected officials to follow.
“Discrimination and intolerance have no place in the United States of America, and we hope North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory and the North Carolina General Assembly are paying close attention to what has transpired in Georgia.
“They must undo their disgraceful attack on LGBT people in the state’s upcoming legislative session.”
A statement from Lambda Legal adds: “Today we feel very fortunate that LGBT people and people with living with HIV were spared the terrible consequences of HB 757.
“We applaud today’s veto by Governor Deal and thank him for his willingness to listen to the voices explaining the damage this bill could have caused.
“In the end, Governor Deal did not allow hate and fear-mongering to dictate state policy; instead he chose to act reasonably and with compassion and demonstrated that equality is a Georgia value.
“He listened to the business community, hundreds of ministers, and tens of thousands of Georgians who opposed the bill. Freedom of religion does not give any of us permission to discriminate against others.”
“HB 757 would have allowed anyone to use religion to treat LGBT people, and others, unfairly and to ignore anti-discrimination policies. As is always the case when discriminatory laws target LGBT people and people living with HIV Lambda Legal is poised to defend the rights of our community.
“But this is far from over. LGBT Georgians need strong and effective protections in both employment and public accommodations — 21 states provide such protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and 17 on the basis of gender identity, and we need to add Georgia to the list.”